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Falls in Nursing Homes

As the American population ages, more people are entering nursing homes than ever before. In most cases, nursing homes are staffed by well-trained professionals who are dedicated to proving the best care for their patients. Unfortunately, due to staffing shortages and financial hardships, not all nursing homes are able to provide the care their patients need at all times. These issues can lead to neglect or even outright abuse, which often result in falls.

The attorneys at Slappey & Sadd have represented many victims of nursing home abuse, including those who have become injured as a result of falls they suffered. If one of your family members has experienced from a fall that seems suspicious, it might be a good idea to have an attorney look into your situation and go over all of your options with you. This is especially the case with nursing home patients, as many of them either do not know that they are being abused or are reluctant to reveal abuse.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is a major and widespread problem. It generally occurs when employees of nursing facilities or other elder care staff purposefully take advantage of their patients' vulnerable physical and mental conditions. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that approximately one out of 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, with estimates that approximate there are up to 5 million cases every year. However, experts believe that most incidences of nursing home abuse go unreported, meaning that it is very likely that the true figure is much higher.

Nursing home abuse involves a wide range of behaviors and can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Physical abuse is any kind of contact that causes physical harm to the patient. This can involve intentional conduct like hitting, pinching, or another offensive contact, or through neglect, such as overuse of restraints and lack of bathing or other physical care.
  • Psychological abuse: Psychological abuse includes any behavior that alarms or distresses the patient, and can include yelling, criticizing, humiliating, berating, or otherwise shaming the patient.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse occurs when a nursing home employee makes unwanted sexual advances on the patient or otherwise gives them sexual attention when the patient is unable to resist.
  • Neglect: Unlike intentional abuse, neglect occurs when a patient's needs are not taken care of adequately. This can include the patient not being provided with adequate food, clothing, water, or proper personal hygiene.
  • Resident to resident abuse: Not all nursing home abuse is at the hands of the staff. Often, nursing home staff will either allow one resident to abuse another or fail to take proper measures to prevent or stop it.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

If your loved one is experiencing nursing abuse, you may have to investigate it yourself, as nursing home patients don't always come forth and reveal that they have suffered abuse. Even worse, some nursing home patients may not even know that they are being abused or neglected due to diminished mental capacity. Often, abusive nursing home staff members threaten or otherwise intimidate the patient in order to keep them from revealing that they have experienced abuse.

Several signs that a nursing home patient is experiencing abuse include:

  • Falls, fractures, or head injuries
  • Unsanitary and unclean conditions
  • Wanting to be isolated from others
  • Unexplained injuries including cuts, bruises, or sores
  • Strange and sudden changes in behavior (including fear of being touched, sucking, biting, and rocking)
  • Bed sores
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Heavy medication or sedation
  • Hesitation to speak in front of nursing home staff members
  • Frequent illness or illnesses that are not promptly reported to physicians and family members
Falls in Nursing Homes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 1,800 older adults living in nursing homes die every year due to fall-related injuries. Those who survive them frequently sustain hip fractures, head injuries, or other injuries that result in permanent disability and reduced quality of life. Falls occur most often in nursing homes simply due to the advanced age and the weakened physical and mental capacity of the population that lives in them. While most falls are accidental, some are also caused either directly or indirectly by nursing home staff.

For example, one way that a nursing home employee might abuse a patient is to physically push them to the ground. Or maybe the abuse is more subtle, such as failing to clean up spills in the patient's room or neglecting to supervise them when they are walking around the premises. If the patient falls because the nursing home staff failed to take proper safety precautions, then the fall might be due to nursing home abuse or neglect.

Liability for Falls in Nursing Homes

Nursing home employees and staff owe their patients a very high duty of care, which includes taking all reasonable measures to prevent them from falling. If the staff fail to take reasonable measures to prevent falls, then they might be legally liable for the fall due to negligence. There is a slew of negligence actions that a plaintiff might bring against a nursing home for neglecting the needs of a resident. Some of these include:

  • Negligence in the hiring of staff
  • Negligent training of staff
  • Failure to monitor staff properly
  • Failure to protect nursing home residents from health and safety hazards
  • Failing to address medical needs or provide medication

This list is certainly not exhaustive, however, and the grounds for a cause of action against a nursing home will vary widely according to the facts of each case.

Contact an Atlanta Nursing Home Fall Attorney

If you think that a loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse that has resulted in a fall, you might be able to bring a personal injury suit against the nursing home. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Whitfield County, Gwinnett County, and Richmond County.