Even Slight Changes in Elevation Can Pose a Trip Hazard
There are many situations that can cause a nursing home resident to trip and fall accidentally. In particular, changes in the elevation level of the floor can pose as a trip hazard. Even a slight change in elevation, merely 0.25-0.5 inches, is enough of a change to cause an individual to trip. A trip occurs when a person either missteps due to a change in ground elevation, i.e., a person steps forward, but the ground is lower or higher than anticipated; or the person steps forward and only partially lands his or her footing and then topples and falls, i.e., a person steps forward and part of his or her foot makes contact with level ground as expected, and the remainder is suspended over a hole or drop in the ground level, which ultimately causes the person to trip or stumble due to imbalance.
Changes in Elevation Affect Walking Aids
Sometimes a trip occurs because a person missteps with his or her feet, and sometimes a trip happens because a resident’s walking aid lands in a lower elevation than anticipated. For example, a resident who uses a walking cane to assist with ambulation (walking) may suffer a fall if his or her cane suddenly drops four inches. Since people usually use walking aids to support some of their weight while walking, a sudden drop in elevation can cause the resident to lose his or her balance, and thus fall. Similarly, a bump or dip in the floor could jostle a resident in a wheelchair as he or she moves over the elevation change. While normally a small irregularity in the ground will not cause a person in a wheelchair to become unseated, a large drop could flip a resident out of his or her chair.
Stairways Can Be Dangerous Fall Zones
Stairs are the most dangerous fall zone because they are completely comprised of a series of elevation changes. While nursing homes typically try to discourage the use of stairwells by residents, and promote instead the use of elevators and ramps, sometimes there are very short sets of stairs, maybe just two or three steps within the facility that simply cannot be avoided. Small sets of stairs such as these are almost always coupled with a wheelchair ramp. Nursing home staff should take precautions to clearly mark short sets of stairs and line each step with gritty lining or rubber coating to improve traction on the steps. Staff should further encourage nursing home residents to use the ramp rather than using the stairs, as the ramp is generally safer and there is a lower likelihood of tripping while ascending or descending the ramp. Stairs should always have a handrail, even if the stairs only consist of a few steps.
Contact an Accidental Fall Attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured in a nursing home by an accidental trip or fall, you should to contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to discussion your specific situation. Please contact the attorneys at The Rooth Law Firm online or by phone at 877-356-3007.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Accident Prevention: Slips, Trips and Falls, Health & Safety