IDPH has cited and fined Aperion of Mascoutah nursing home after a resident there slipped on ice that was on the floor.
One of the basic beliefs that I have as a nursing home lawyer is that nursing home fall cases are not slip-and-fall cases, and lawyers who look at nursing home falls like they are the same kind of slip-and-fall cases are doing their clients a real disservice by looking at fall accidents in nursing homes that way. A traditional slip-and-fall case looks to see if there is some defect in the property or some foreign substance or object on the floor which was the cause of the fall. A nursing home fall case views falls involving nursing home residents as being a breach of the basic commitment a nursing home makes to keep your parents safe when they accept them as a resident in their facility.
To keep residents safe from falls, nursing home use a process known as the care planning process to idenitfy which residents are at risk for falling and then sets forth a set of steps or interventions to prevent falls. This process is baked right into the federal regulations relating to nursing home falls. Most often, what we find are breakdowns in the care planning process where the steps necessary to prevent falls are either not put into place or not taken. Applying that set of lenses in viewing nursing home fall cases has served us and our clients very well.
Of course, there are some nursing home falls that are very much like traditional slip-and-fall, but even then that kind of nursing home fall is still different from a traditional slip-and-fall case. This situation is one of those instances.
This resident at issue was assessed as being a high fall risk because she was not steady while walking and would often try to walk without assistance. On the day of her injury, the resident was walking without assistance in the dining room when she slipped in water that was on the floor next to an ice chest that was placed in a cubby in the dining room that the staff would make use of. X-rays showed that she suffered a fractured ankle as a result of the fall. A fractured ankle is not as grim for seniors as a hip fracture, but is still as significant injury in that loss of mobility often sets the stage for the development of bed sores and further decline in the overall level of function.
The vast majority of falls in nursing homes don’t involve a substance or object being the cause of a fall, likely in part because federal regulations require the facility be kept as free of accident hazards as possible, and water or ice dropped from the ice chest onto the dining room floor is an obvious example of an accident hazard. One of the routine steps included in virtually every nursing home fall prevention care plan is to keep the resident environment free of slipping or tripping hazards. That obviously was not done in this case.
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