We reached a settlement on behalf of a nursing home resident who suffered a hip fracture in a fall at a nursing home when the staff failed to adjust a fall prevention care plan which they recognized was ineffective at addressing the resident’s fall risks.
Our client was living independently in an apartment when she slipped in spilled milk in her kitchen and suffered a fractured right hip which required surgical repair. The surgery was accomplished without incident and she was admitted to the nursing home for rehabilitation.
Once she was admitted to the nursing home, she was appropriately assessed as being a fall risk. This was due to her gait abnormalities related to the hip fracture, intermittent confusion, and the use of medications which contribute to fall risk. Due to her intermittent confusion, the staff could not rely upon the resident to follow instructions to not get up without assistance. Therefore, they used a mobility alarm to alert them that the resident was getting up and to serve as a reminder to the resident that she should not be up unassisted. A mobility alarm is a clip that hooks to the back of the resident’s clothing. There is a cord attached to the clip which attaches to an alarm box which sounds when the cord is pulled away from the alarm box when the resident starts to stand. All of the staff agreed that a mobility alarm was a necessary fall prevention measure for the resident.
The resident was injured when she fell while getting out of bed in the middle of the night. She testified that she walked to the foot of her bed before losing her balance and falling, breaking her left (uninjured) hip. Incident reports prepared by the staff inidcated that the residemt had unhooked her mobility alarm.
After the mobility alarm was in place, the resident would unhook the alarm by unclipping it from her clothing. Her actions in doing this meant that the fall prevention care plan that they had in place was not effective in addressing the resident’s fall risk. When a care plan is ineffective in addressing the resident’s fall risk, the care plan must be revised to put different interventions in place to address the safety risk to the resdient. The fall prevention care was never revised by the nursing staff even though they knew that the mobility alarm was not an effective means of addressing the resident’s fall risk because she would unhook it. One intervention which would have been taken was to use a bed alarm instead of a mobility alarm. A bed alarm is a pressure sensitive device which slides underneath the sheets and sounds when the pressure on the sensor changes due to a resdient starting to get out of bed. Bed alarms were available to the staff and had the advantage of not bering ableto be disarmed by the resident, but the staff chose not to use one.
Liability was denied throughout the case with the defendant nursing home blaming the resident for getting out of bed when she knew that she not have. During the deposition of the defendant’s own nursing expert, she agreed that the fall prevention care plan that the staff had in place was not effective, that the care plan should have been revised to incorprorate the use of a bed alarm, and that a bed alarm would have alerted the staff that resident was out of bed in time for them to respond and prevent the fall. The case settled shortly thereafter.
Awarded: $160,000 settlement