Inclement Weather and Nursing Homes

The winter weather has been particularly bad this year. The Chicago Tribune reports that this is the 8th snowiest winter Chicago has ever seen, and there is more snow on the way. Most people consider snow to be a major inconvenience, causing unsafe driving conditions, delaying classes and work, or shutting down entire communities completely. Severe winter weather can also impact nursing home residents and can cause unsafe conditions for the elderly living in those facilities. Ice on the ground could cause a resident to fall, or a loss of power could leave nursing home residents cold and in the dark.

When the Power Goes Out

Inclement weather conditions are the most common cause of power outages. Nursing homes are often equipped with emergency generators so that power can still be provided to life-maintaining medical equipment used by residents in the home. However, the generators are reserved for important life-sustaining functions, and less important things that require electricity may not be turned on until the electricity is restored. This could likely impact some of the technological safety features used at the nursing care facility to protect residents from harm, such as alarms, camera systems or boundary fence lasers. This means that nursing staff needs to increase its vigilance in supervising and monitoring residents in the home to make sure that they stay away from stairwells and exits.

Nursing homes are considered by power companies to be critical facilities. Critical facilities, such as hospitals, emergency services and mass public transportation, are facilities that many people rely upon and that require power to operate. Critical facilities often house people who depend on life-saving equipment that needs to be powered by electricity. Power companies work very hard to restore power to critical facilities first.

Slips, Trips and Falls

A “slip” happens to a person when there is insufficient friction or traction between the ground surface and the person’s shoe, cane, or even wheelchair. A slip usually results in an awkward fall, with the person usually falling to the side or backward. A “trip” happens if a person’s foot or walking aid comes into contact with an object or suddenly drops to a lower elevation, i.e., steps into a hole, or down a small drop. People who trip normally fall in a forward direction. A “fall” happens to a person who is so far off-balance that they cannot maintain their center of gravity.

Icy Ground Is Unsafe

Slippery ice is unsafe for anyone to walk on. It also does not matter how clean and free of snow a walkway may appear; walkers should still use extreme caution. Furthermore, atmospheric water vapor or fog can coat a walking surface in a very fine layer of ice. Nursing home residents need to use extra care, and staff should take precautions to keep residents away from snow- and ice-covered walkways. Nursing staff should shovel any outdoor walkways that residents need to use frequently and should salt these walkways vigorously. Since nursing home residents have a higher likelihood of suffering from severe injuries sustained during a fall, such as hip fractures and breaks or head injuries, nursing staff needs to demonstrate diligence in protecting residents from this type of harm.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a nursing home by an accidental fall, you need to contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to discussion your situation. Please contact the attorneys at The Rooth Law Firm online or by phone at (847) 869-9100.

Photo Credit: *Arielle* via Compfight cc


8th Snowiest Winter and Another Storm on the Way, Chicago Tribune News, January 5, 2014

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Accident Prevention: Slips, Trips and Falls, Health & Safety