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Preventing deadly falls in nursing homes

As previously stated in this blog, falls are a serious problem among nursing home residents in West Virginia and across the country. Approximately 1,800 residents die every year as a result of a fall in a nursing home or the complications resulting from a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In one tragic case that illustrated the severity of nursing home falls, a Mason County woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home where her mother lived. According to the West Virginia Record, the woman claimed that the nursing home staff was neglectful and that her mother fell as a result, suffering nasal fractures and other injuries that led to her death.

What are some of the most common reasons that elderly nursing home residents fall? Usually difficulties in walking and muscle weakness cause senior citizens to trip or lose their balance and take a fall, according to the CDC. They may be unaccustomed to moving and fall while attempting to walk to the restroom on their own, or their medications may cause dizziness. Improperly fitted walkers or wheelchairs may also contribute to a fall. The nursing home environment may also present a hazard. For example, poor lighting or wet floors are dangerous, as well as beds that are set to an unsafe height.

Some of these falling risks occur normally in nursing homes, but it is the responsibility of staff to take measures to prevent them. For example, a caregiver should be there to assist residents who have difficulty standing and walking to get to a wheelchair or the restroom. Beds should be set at a height that makes it easier for residents to get in and out. Wheelchairs and walkers should be inspected and fitted correctly, and repaired or replaced when necessary. When preventive measures are neglected and a fatal injury results, family members may be eligible for compensation.

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