As The Bangor Daily News recently reported, many local social service agencies actively promote awareness of the risk and prevention of elderly falls.
The National Council on Aging estimates that one in every three Americans over the age of 65 fall every single year, and a substantial number of those suffer serious injury, hospitalization and death. This is not only a problem for those in nursing homes, of course, but when it does occur in nursing homes, it can be a potential sign of neglect or abuse.
Falls in nursing homes are not supposed to happen and they can be a sign of neglect caused by under-staffing, poor training or failure to implement and follow proper patient safety guidelines. Nursing homes can and should be held liable when this happens.
Bangor’s Eastern Area Agency on Aging hosts a series of strength and balance exercises to help older adults stay strong and limber for as long as possible. The organization also works to help older adults keep their environments safer, which decreases the overall risk of a serious fall.
In nursing homes, these safety systems should already be in place.
Highlighting this issue was an employment lawsuit filed last year by a former nursing home staffer at a nursing home in Scarborough, where it was alleged staffers were fired in retaliation for complaining about systemic risks to patient safety – including the risk of falls. As the Portland Press Herald noted, the lawsuit alleged the company slashed the number of certified nursing assistants available on any given shift at the 58-resident facility – from five per shift to three per shift. That made it infinitely more difficult to attend to basic patient needs, including quickly responding to a call button when patients requested assistance. That meant patients lost their patience and often tried to simply attend to the task themselves, resulting in repeated falls.
Although falling down to the floor may not seem like much of a big deal, it can be catastrophic for elderly or frail nursing home residents. That’s why it’s deemed a sign of nursing home neglect – precisely because it is so dangerous and yet so preventable.
Nationally, it’s estimated some 1.4 million people over the age of 65 live in U.S. nursing homes, and that figure is expected to rise to about 3 million – more than double – by 2030.
While falling is a problem for all people over the age of 65, it’s of particular concern to those in nursing homes because 20 percent of those who die as a result of falls are nursing home residents, even though they only account for 5 percent of this population cohort.
In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that on average, a 100-bed facility will report between 100 and 200 falls a year. Bear in mind: A huge percentage of falls are never even reported, so we are talking minimum one to two falls per resident every year. We do know, however, that of the patients who do fall, most fall more than once – 2.6 times on average.
Approximately 1,800 people residing in nursing homes die of falls every single year.
If your loved one has been seriously injured or died as a result of a nursing home fall, contact a Bangor injury lawyer to learn more about whether you may have a viable case for compensation.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
How to keep failing eyesight from causing falls in older Mainers, July 15, 2016, By Meg Haskell, Bangor Daily News
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