With the winter season in full swing, many Erie residents may have slipped on an icy sidewalk or a snow-covered walkway in the past few months. For elderly residents, falls can be a particular threat year-round, because falls can occur anywhere and at any time. Those with loved ones in a nursing home may wonder how these facilities, which are tasked with caring for the elderly, can help prevent falls among their residents.

Each year, approximately 1,800 seniors living in nursing homes die from falls. It is important to know that many falls are preventable; an incident of a nursing home injury stemming from a fall may actually be a sign of

medical negligence

at the facility. Effective fall prevention includes precautions taken at multiple levels, from structural changes to the proper training of staff members.

Fall interventions take many different forms, but some of the most common include making changes to a patient’s environment. For instance, raising the heights of toilet seats and lowering the heights of beds make mobility easier for many patients, while grab bars in bathrooms and handrails in hallways allow a patient a continuous aid as they move around the facility. Interestingly, about 35 percent of fall injuries occur in patients who cannot walk, so nursing homes must focus on all patients as they proactively conduct fall interventions.

Additional fall interventions include making sure medications have been reviewed and their potential benefits outweigh certain side effects, such as drowsiness which may cause a resident to fall. Moreover, proper supervision of patients is essential, especially after patients have already fallen and may thus be at risk for another incident. Some patients can benefit from certain tangible protections, such as hip pads, which can lessen the chance of personal injury should another fall occur.

Some might assume that physical restraints might lessen fall risk, but their practice has not been without controversy. The use of physical restraints has actually dropped notably — about 30 percent — since the 1980s, but most facilities have actually seen a decrease in falls during that time.

Those with a loved one who has fallen in a nursing home may wish to speak to an Erie personal injury attorney. An experienced lawyer can review the incident and help a family understand if a nursing home or assisted living facility was negligent in caring for their family member.

Source: CDC.org, ”

Falls in nursing homes

,” accessed on Feb. 28, 2015