An Accidental Fall: Taking it Seriously

January 02, 2014 | Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

One of the most common sources of injury sustained by nursing home residents is an accidental fall.  Many factors can contribute to an increased risk of a fall.  Some factors are resident-related, such as the resident’s mental capacity (whether the resident has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or is on medications that could affect the resident’s sense of balance) or whether the resident has a gait disorder, muscle weakness or impaired mobility.  However, other contributing factors to a fall may be the result of negligence on the part of the nursing home.  For instance, inadequate supervision of the resident, exposure to environmental hazards such as untreated sidewalks in winter, wet floors, and poor lighting, the lack of an individualized fall-prevention plan for the resident, and understaffing can be contributing factors to a fall.

Not Enough Caregivers

Understaffing of nursing homes is a serious problem in Illinois.  This past August, Illinois received a failing grade from the nonprofit elder advocacy group Families for Better Care.  The report card graded 8 different sets of criteria including the number of hours per day each resident receives direct care from a registered nurse and a certified nursing assistant and also the percentage of nursing home facilities in the state operating with severe deficiencies, which is defined in the report as actual harm violations that caused neglect, abuse, injury, or even death.  One of the key findings of the report was that Illinois nursing homes, as a whole, are grossly understaffed and poorly trained.

Nursing homes owe a duty to each resident of the home to exercise reasonable care for their safety.  This includes providing adequate supervision of residents, employing preventative measures to promote resident safety, and providing the residents with assistance when it is needed.  The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act protects residents from abuse and neglect and requires mandatory reporting of known instances of such abuse or neglect.  Anyone who becomes aware of instances of nursing home abuse or neglect may report it to the Department of Public Health.

Demanding Accountability

Those who have loved ones in a nursing home should make careful observations during visits to the nursing home facility.  Any complaints concerning safety conditions at the nursing home, or reports of neglect or abuse, should first be brought to the attention of staff or nursing home administrators.  However, if a particular issue is not resolved in a timely manner, a formal complaint supported by documentation of the issue can be filed with the Department of Public Health.  Any allegation of abuse or neglect will be investigated within 7 days of receiving the complaint.  Complaints alleging situations that pose a risk of imminent harm or death will be investigated with more expediency, i.e., within 24 hours of receipt of the complaint.  Any other complaint will be investigated within 30 days.

If your loved one resides in a nursing home and is the victim of a fall caused by negligence, please call The Rooth Law Firm at (847) 869-9100 for more information.