Nursing Home Waits Five Days Before Sending Resident to Hospital after Resident Falls, Breaks Hip

An 83-year-old suffered a hip fracture at a nursing home, leaving her permanently immobile. A lawsuit alleges that the nursing home failed to institute proper fall precautions.

The victim's daughters admitted her to the nursing home because of dementia. The lawsuit alleges that she fell five times from February through August 2007. On Aug. 7 she suffered a fall and later complained of severe hip pain to nursing-home staff, according to the lawsuit. The nursing home did not address the pain or transfer her to the hospital for X-rays for five days, according to the court document. An X-ray revealed that her left hip was shattered, according to the lawsuit.

"[The resident's] family trusted [the nursing home] to care for her, but the home was negligent on a number of levels," the family's attorney said in a statement. "The nursing home failed to properly assess Edna's risk for falls or protect her from falling."

"After allowing her to fall, the home did not respond to her complaints of pain or transfer her to the hospital in a timely fashion."For more, read the story.

This case is disturbing for more than one reason. First, it illustrates an all-too-familiar pattern of nursing home conduct. Patients are not protected from falls adequately, even when they are noted to be high fall risks. Equipment such as personal fall alarms can help monitor a patient’s activities, but does not eliminate the need for adequate supervision. Adequate supervision must be based on the individual patient’s needs and the hazards of the patient’s environment. A nursing home or assisted living facility has the responsibility to ensure the safest environment possible for its patient. Specifically, a nursing home or assisted living facility must provide an environment free from accidents and hazards over which the nursing home or assisted living facility has control and provide proper supervision and assistive devices to prevent avoidable accidents, including falls. Second, proper medical care often is not rendered immediately following a fall. It is terrible that this elderly woman had to suffer the obvious pain she must have had from a shattered hip left untreated for five days. Nursing homes have an obligation to their residents to properly evaluate all injuries and obtain immediate medical treatment.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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