The Link between Understaffing and Nursing Home Falls:

As most nursing home falls are preventable through proper precaution and supervision, it is not a stretch to understand how insufficient staffing at Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes can result in nursing home falls.

Reducing staffing is a common means for many Philadelphia, PA and New Jersey nursing homes to cut costs and augment their profits. While this may be an effective means of lining owners’ pockets, understaffing overburdens remaining staff members and ultimately impacts the well-being of vulnerable residents, particularly those at risk of falling.

Many nursing home residents are elderly and have certain physical or cognitive limitations that put them at risk for nursing home falls. Beyond the muscular weakness or cognitive impairments that can lead a resident to fall, medication levels and access to correct walking aids can impact an elderly resident’s potential for falling. When a nursing home is fully staffed with qualified employees who are well versed in risk factors for nursing home falls and are familiar with which residents in the home need special supervision, adequate precautions can be put into place in order to reduce the occurrence of falls.

By contrast, understaffed homes lack the bandwidth to give every nursing home resident the full attention he or she needs. Nursing home workers overloaded with tasks must reduce the amount of time and attention given to residents; their availability to assist their elderly patients in and out of  beds or wheelchairs, in and out of the bath, or on and off the toilet, becomes very limited. Residents left stranded in these situations are more likely to fall. Insufficiently staffed homes can also lead to overworked employees who, either due to fatigue or desperation to complete their workload, cut corners and/or make mistakes. Errors—in medication, for example, or in leaving behind certain environmental hazards for residents to unwittingly encounter—can make for dangerous circumstances that can lead to nursing home falls. Cutting corners for any reason reduces the quantity and quality of attention given to residents, which amounts to the kind of nursing home neglect that can result in nursing home falls.

Every nursing home fall is serious. For vulnerable elderly residents, a fall can lead to injuries that range in intensity; some can be fatal. Among the injuries a nursing home resident can sustain by falling include:

  • Appendage or hip fractures
  • Shoulder damage
  • Facial fractures
  • Severe bruising, sprains, or strains
  • Brain bleeds
  • Death

The impact of nursing home falls on residents goes beyond the pain of physical injuries. Impairment reduces not only mobility but also independence, limiting residents’ ability to engage in social activities. Feelings of loneliness and helplessness may result, which can lead to depression, In the case of falls as a result of understaffing, injured residents become even more dependent on staff members who have no more time to give them. In addition to the trauma of the fall and the fear of a reoccurrence, residents can develop anxiety about being left to fend for themselves by harried and absent workers impacted by understaffing.

The link between understaffing and nursing home falls is clear, and it is all too common. In the aftermath of nursing home falls, for Philadelphia/PA and NJ homes to want to downplay, or even conceal, their role in the event. Incomplete medical records add to the frustration for family members looking for explanations as to why their loved ones have fallen. The advice and help of an experienced nursing home attorney is invaluable for getting to the bottom of why a fall occurred, for determining whether insufficient staffing was the cause, and for holding accountable the Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home responsible.

Fighting for Your Loved One

The Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives is required by law to inform you if he or she has fallen. Knowing what to do next can be difficult. Thorough knowledge of the nursing home industry and the related standards and regulations is necessary to purse a nursing home negligence claim or otherwise investigate the reasons behind your loved one’s fall. If your loved one is a resident at a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home and has sustained a fall, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.