Nursing home falls are extremely dangerous. Not only can they cause immediate harm, but the ramifications of a fall often have a snowball effect. A twisted ankle can lead to a loss of balance and additional nursing home falls. Additional falls can lead to bed-rest. Bed rest can lead to infections, bed sores, and pneumonia.
A recent study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics showed that 14% of elderly people who suffer from a nursing home fall die within 24 months.
And yet, staff at Prairie Manor Nursing and Rehab Center in Chicago Heights, Illinois repeatedly failed to take proper precautions with nursing home residents who were either assessed as high risk for nursing home falls, or who had already experienced a nursing home fall.
Most disturbingly, in many cases the proper interventions to help prevent nursing home falls were in the very rooms with the residents, but ignored and unused.
In June of this year, a resident with a history of falls and dementia was observed standing and moving from his wheelchair on two separate occasions on the same day. The wheelchair alarm that was supposed to be in use wasn’t functioning.
Another resident with a similar history had a wheelchair with an alarm set to the “off” position. Keeping the wheelchair alarm in the “off” position was observed several more times during the June inspection at Prairie Manor. The nursing home administrator was unable to provide any kind of reason for why the alarms would ever be in the “off” position.
A resident who was able to engage in physical therapy was given shoes without shoe strings. She told an investigator she “did not feel safe. the therapists tell me I need shoe strings but I don’t know how to get them.” A follow up with the physical therapist revealed that shoe strings had been requested days before, but had never been produced.
So far, the residents of Prairie Manor mentioned in the report have avoided major injury, but it’s only a matter of time before the carelessness of the staff results in a tragedy.