Falls are a common occurrence in nursing facilities, unfortunately. In addition to putting effective fall mitigation protocols in place, nursing homes also have a responsibility to ensure quick and adequate medical care is provided when a fall occurs.
An injury from a fall going undetected or not properly treated happens all too often. According to a 2014 Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Inspector General (IG) Report examining skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), over one in 5 Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events and over 1 in 10 experienced “temporary harm” events during their stay. Of those, 59% were determined to be preventable. The report cited substandard treatment and failure or delay of necessary care as two reasons for this. Over half the impacted residents needed to return to a hospital for treatment. In a 2019 investigation, the DHHS IG found that, in addition to the high injury rates, facilities often failed to report those injuries in accordance with Federal requirements.
The reasons for failure to properly identify, treat, and report injuries are many. Perhaps the incident did not seem serious at the time and the staff failed to call a doctor, or there was reluctance to draw attention to the incident for fear of disciplinary action. When a fall is the cause, injuries are often internal in nature and not apparent. Especially when an elderly person is involved, extreme care should be taken to rule out injuries such as a brain bleed or a broken bone.
Families should be alert to any sign or resident report of a fall and follow up with the nursing facility to ensure appropriate care and reporting has been done. If you have a loved one who has suffered as a result of a facility’s failure to quickly identify and treat any injuries resulting from a fall, call us.