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Despite Fall Prevention Orders, Two Residents of Same Nursing Home Suffer Fatal Falls Within 1.5 Months

A nursing home in Westborough, Massachusetts is facing two separate lawsuits for falls that ended the lives of two its residents within a 7 week span in 2015.  The lawsuit alleges that staff at for-profit Beaumont Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center ignored and purposely defied physicians’ orders that mandated the use of fall prevention devices, resulting in the tragic falls that caused blunt force head trauma and the death of two elderly residents.

Properly Used Safety Devices Can Aid in Fall Prevention
Per doctors’ orders, both fall victims, 89 year old Betsy Crane and 85 year old Vincent Walsh, were to wear wrist or ankle bracelets that function as tracking devices, referred to as a wander management system.  Devices such as these alert staff to the whereabouts of each resident, including leaving protected areas (such as the resident’s room or designated safe zone) or even making the smallest of movements. When combined with adequate supervision, wander management systems can be a valuable tool in ensuring the safety of nursing home residents who are at risk for wandering, as well as those at risk for falls.

Mrs. Crane also was given a safety pad that sounded an alarm when pressure was drastically reduced on the armchair in her room, indicating she had slipped or been otherwise moved from her chair.

So if a WanderGuard bracelet was to be used for both Mrs. Crane and Mr. Walsh and Mrs. Crane was also given an alarm-enabled chair pad, how did both manage to suffer such devastating falls, especially within such a short period of time?

One Victim Found on the Floor of her Room, Another At the Bottom of a Stairwell
According to an investigative report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) left Betsy Crane in her armchair and returned an hour later to find her on the floor. The CNA had also forgotten to turn on the alarm on her chair pad. Mrs. Crane spent two days complaining of head pain and was unable to eat, drink, or swallow medications before staff at Beaumont finally transferred her to a local emergency room. She passed away a week later from a brain bleed induced by blunt force trauma.  It is unknown if her WanderGuard device was also inactivated or even being worn at the time of her fall.

Vincent Walsh was suffering from dementia and psychosis and required a wheelchair. Less than 5 weeks after Mrs. Crane’s death, he managed to leave his room unnoticed and enter a stairwell that was protected with a WanderGuard alarm. Mr. Walsh was later found by a member of Beaumont’s housekeeping staff, lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs. He, too, suffered blunt force trauma to the head and lived 4 days before succumbing to injuries that also included a lacerated kidney. In the MA Department of Public Health investigation, a nurse caring for Mr. Walsh admitted that she had cut off his WanderGuard ankle bracelet 2 days prior because it seemed ill-fitting. The device was never refitted and replaced, but nurses on subsequent shifts charted that the device was in place and properly functioning.

Nursing Home Falls Do Happen, But Many Shouldn’t
There are many contributing factors that increase the risk of nursing home falls by elderly residents. Muscle weakness, changes in bone density and bone deterioration, lessened visual acuity, and other physical conditions can make walking more difficult. For those residents that are a known fall risk, facilities should develop and follow a care plan that includes fall prevention strategies, the most critical of which is consistent and attentive care. Simply put, frequent checks by staff members can easily prevent many residents from attempting to move around unaided and unsupervised.

We have become one of the most widely-known and respected nursing home abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million dollar verdicts and settlements for falls resulting from nursing home neglect. If a loved one has sustained serious injuries resulting from a fall at a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation. There is a time limit to file a case in Illinois, so please contact us now for a free consultation with one of our skilled nursing home attorneys.