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Falls and Injuries At Atlanta, Georgia Area Nursing Homes

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As a Georgia lawyer who has represented numerous seriously injured elderly people in the Atlanta area, there is one cause of injury that continues to bother me–falls in nursing homes. There are some injuries and illnesses which are difficult to prevent; however, nursing home falls are not among them. The sad truth is that most skilled nursing facilities (a/k/a nursing homes and long-term care facilities) fail to use to proper methods to prevent–or at least minimize the risk–that elderly and infirm residents will suffer falls.

First, why do nursing home residents fall? Many reasons. Most nursing home residents are elderly and, unfortunately, with age often come physical infirmities like loss of vision, hip problems, confusion, dementia, muscle atrophy, etc. All of these conditions can, and usually do, play a role in causing a nursing home resident to fall. Consider the risk when two or more of these conditions are present….the risk of falling goes up substantially. What many nursing home corporate types want you to believe is that a nursing home resident has “a right to fall.” What does that mean? In order to save costs by cutting down on staff, nursing homes have recently developed this notion of “restraint-free” care. Well, that sounds nice. After all, who likes to be restrained? Unfortunately for the nursing homes, the situation is a bit more complicated. While it is true that most people prefer not to be restrained, studies show that most people also like to be alive….this bit of levity is intended to prove a point. If a nursing home resident is at risk for falling, there are many interventions which can be taken that are far less invasive than strapping granddad down to his bed.

Velcro self-release straps are now widely available and widely used. These are essentially seat belts for wheelchairs. These devices prevent, or at least significantly reduce the risk, that a resident will fall out of her wheelchair. There are also cushions or “wedges” that can be placed under the resident while he is seated in a wheelchair, thus providing some traction and reducing his ability to wiggle out of the chair. These seem like reasonable measures. After all, did you wear a seatbelt the last time you were in a car? Was that a horrible restraint? Nursing homes which are more focused upon profit than patient care often bemoan these safety devices, yet studies show that they work well.

Finally, what about good old fashion supervision? I have handled a number of cases where a resident fell from his or her wheelchair or bed and was left languishing on the floor for quite a while, despite suffering serious injuries. How? The resident wasn’t being watched. There is no surprise that the widespread use of smart phones has seen a seemingly rapid and widespread decline in nursing home resident supervision. After all, it is more fun to play Angry Birds than watch over a needy patient.

Nursing home falls result in serious injuries and death. Minimum restraints and adequate supervision can serve to reduce or even eliminate falls at Atlanta, Georgia nursing homes.

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