Nursing home falls are some of the most damaging injuries that occur at long-term care facilities, because a single incident often leads to death or permanently disability for the victim. Most seniors in skilled nursing facilities already have significant health problems that have serious effects on their quality of life. However, after they experience a fall, if they survive, they rarely can return to their former quality of life.
Of course, the risk of a senior falling in one of these facilities is high and well-known. That is why every single new resident who enters a long-term care facility must be evaluated for their fall risk, with a personalized plan created in conjunction with the resident and their family to help prevent falls from occurring. When a facility fails to properly plan for a potential fall or is negligent in allowing a fall to occur, then the civil justice system provides an avenue by which the family can hold the facility accountable for their conduct.
That appears to be exactly what happened according to a new story in the Lexington Herald-Leader following a jury verdict in a nursing home fall lawsuit. The victim in the case was a female resident in her 80s who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. The woman was walking down the facility’s hallways using a “Merry Walker”-a walking aid that includes a seat. While walking she suffered a fall, which caused serious injury. By the time she was found she had broken bones in her face, had a 4 centimeter cut on her foreheads, a split lip, a swollen eye, and significant bleeding on the brain.
The family of the victim filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit, claiming that the facility did not provide the close care that the resident deserved which would have prevented the injury. The jury agreed with the plaintiff that the fall could and should have been prevented. They therefore returned a verdict in their favor, awarding $1 million for the medical costs, physical pain, suffering, and mental anguish. The incident had previously spurred a state Health and Family Services investigation which found that the facility was negligent in its caregiving, unnecessarily exposing the senior to an extreme safety risk.
The main problem in this case was a lack of supervision. Many senior patients, particularly those with mental issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, need constant observation, because they often do not understand their own actions. The need for this close supervision is often the very reason that these seniors enter these homes to begin with. Therefore, when that supervision is not provided, it is often a clear case of neglect.
Failure to provide proper supervision is a common mistake made in long-term facilities in our area. However, our Illinois personal injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti know that this is not necessarily an attack on the nurses, aides, and other care workers who provide the day-to-day care to these residents. Often, the problem is at an administrative level when executives fail to commit the resources necessary to ensure that there are enough employees at a facility to properly watch the residents who need close observation.
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