Nursing Home Falls Covered in Series on Nursing Home Abuse

Readers of the nursing home abuse blogs at our Tennessee Injury Law Blog may be interested in an ongoing series by the Star Tribune entitled “Deadly Falls”. The Minnesota newspaper article details the dangers of these forms of nursing home neglect, which include permanent injury and life-threatening injuries, as well as the profit-based logic that defines many nursing homes’ decisions to have plans to prevent falls that do not include increasing staffing.

Each year, over 100 nursing home residents die in Minnesota after suffering a fall in the nursing home. According to the Star Tribune’s investigation of death certificates of MN nursing home residents from 2002-2008, the state averages a nursing home resident death every two days from nursing home falls, for a total of over 1,000 nursing home deaths in Minnesota alone in this period.

Some of these nursing home deaths from falls are quick, such as when severe internal bleeding occurs or fragile bones break in a resident’s neck. More often, the fall causes long-term, deleterious injury, leaving the resident bedridden in extreme pain, if conscious. Too often, the fall sets off what the reporters call, poetically and accurately, “a deadly systemic chain reaction, hastening the end of life.”

These falls, the paper reports and we TN nursing home abuse/neglect attorneys unfortunately know all too well, are frequently caused by staff misjudgments, or, more common, staffing misjudgments. Understaffed nursing homes cannot provide adequate supervision of nursing home residents. In some cases, this means aides will leave a fall-prone resident alone on toilet while tending to other residents or try to transfer a resident, such as from a wheelchair to a bed, alone when two or more staff is required.

You will hear the nursing home industry suggest that not all falls can be prevented. These nursing home companies, often left to internally investigate and report the cause of fatal falls on their premises, present a slippery argument that allows for the decrease in family members reporting their loved ones’ nursing home injuries and an increase in preventable nursing home falls.

Too often, the writers report and is all too evident from my experience as a nursing home lawyer in Tennessee, loved ones are afraid to ask questions of the nursing home that might disturb them or shake their trust in the assisted care facility where their loved one needs to live. A nursing home attorney’s role is to ask these delicate questions whose answers can often be upsetting and to hold the nursing home industry accountable when their cost-cutting costs lives.

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