Patients fall in the nursing home and hospital frequently. According to published statistics, 2% of all hospital admissions are complicated by injuries from falls. The risk of falls is higher in nursing homes and hospital due to patients being weak, elderly or infirm or due to the use of medications. Nursing care plans should include a fall assessment that evaluates a patient’s individual fall risk, so that measures can be taken to protect the patient against injury. A recent study shows that one such measure — the bed alarm — is not as effective in preventing falls as once thought.
According to University of Florida researchers, bed alarms do not decrease the risk of falls. The chief researcher clarified these findings by stating: “Does that mean bed alarms should never be used in hospitals? No — I think that alarms may have a use within the context of a well-developed fall prevention program.” The University of Florida study, which was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), reported that 25% of the falls resulted in injury.
I have handled a number of fall cases. It seems as though these falls occur most often when an elderly patient tries to get out of bed without assistance, but the circumstances surrounding falls are usually uncertain. In order to get the story, I interview family members, carefully review the medical records and depose all caregivers who witnessed the fall or its aftermath. Every one of these cases has resulted in settlement.
I have proved negligence in several ways: (1) Failure to assess: If the nursing staff fails to assess the patient’s fall risk, this is clear evidence of nursing home negligence. (2) Improper transfer: Patients will sometimes fall when a single caregivers tries to do the job of two caregivers, and loses control of the patient during a bed to wheelchair transfer. (3) Slip and fall: When water or debris is left unattended in a nursing home or hospital, patients can slip and become injured. (4) Failure to implement proper fall measures: If a fall risk assessment is completed, but the recommendations for risk reduction are not followed, that is negligence. Clearly, a comprehensive fall prevention program is the standard of care in preventing falls. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that these programs in fact work.