Nursing home falls: A practical guide

Nursing home falls: A practical guide

Nursing home falls have been found to be one of the prominent causes of death in the elderly, according to a recently published study.

If not death, serious injuries can also be the result of elderly falls in nursing homes.

Due to their reduced health and mobility, the elderly have a higher risk of falls. Various measures can be put in place by nursing homes to reduce this risk. Some are:

  • Mobility assessments
  • Use of FRAT (Falls Risk Assessment Tool)
  • Low rise beds
  • Alarm mats
  • Padded'crash mats' beside the bed
  • Cognitive assessments
  • ?Princess' chairs and other aids
  • Increased monitoring and medication reviews
  • Close proximity of mobility aids
  • Close proximity to nursing staff.

If a fall does occur that concerns family members, the first option is to speak to the designated complaints officer at the facility.

The name and contact details of this person should be readily available at the nursing home - often it is the facility manager who fulfills this role. Of course, you can always raise your concerns prior to any incidents occurring. You could discuss having increased measures put in place to protect your loved one.

If this does not allay your concerns, the next option is to contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner (1800 550 552). This is a government body that aims to resolve complaints about aged care services, educate people and aged care providers about the best ways to handle complaints and the issues they raise, and provides information to the Minister in relation to any of the Complaints Commissioner's functions. The Commissioner can investigate your compliant and if necessary, provide sanctions to the nursing home.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome from the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner you can also make a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman who investigates decisions made by government departments.

Another option available to you is to consult a personal injury lawyer about the possibility of suing the nursing home for its negligence. However, to sue a nursing home for the damages suffered you must be able to establish:

  1. that someone has suffered a significant injury (to the required threshold under the Wrongs Act 1958 Vic):
    • physical injury greater than 5% whole person impairment (WPI), spine 5% (WPI) or psychiatric condition 10% WPI; and
  2. that the injury occurred as a result of someone's negligence.

When considering negligence, there may be weaknesses in terms of the level of care provided, the preventative aids in place (as described above), or environmental factors such as the design layout, floor surface or even the footwear being worn at the time of the event.

There are legislated time limits which apply to making a negligence claim, so it is important you consult a lawyer as soon as you realise that a significant injury has been suffered.

Adviceline Injury Lawyers are specialised personal injury lawyers who can readily advise you about your rights and prospects regarding any potential claims.

If we can be of assistance, please call one of our expert injury lawyers on (03) 9321 9988 to arrange an appointment.

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