Patient Permitted To Fall, Nursing Home Fails To Assess Injuries Until Day After Fall, Nursing Home Settles

A patient 79-year-old female patient was admitted to a nursing home on October 12, 2012. At all times relevant, the nursing home knew the patient was a high fall risk based on a medical history that included hypertension, the use of narcotic pain medications, disorientation, impaired vision and hearing, unsafe behavior, weakness, confusion, agitation, unsteady gait, wandering, exit-seeking behavior, and dizziness, among other conditions and limitations. The nursing home prepared a care plan that identified the patient as a high fall risk and required strict fall precautions, including without limitation assistance with toileting and the use of bed and chair fall alarms.

On October 16, 2012, the patient was agitated and reportedly tried to exit the nursing home. The nursing home staff administered Haldol to the patient and put her to bed, where she was left unattended. The nursing home thereafter permitted the patient to rise from the bed, ambulate, and fall. The nursing home did not attempt to respond or intervene to prevent the fall before it occurred. Following the fall, the patient complained of pain in her left hip, knee, and ankle.

On November 4, 2012 at 10:00 a.m., the nursing home permitted the patient to dismantle her fall alarm, rise from the bed, and ambulate to the restroom without any supervision, assistance, or even a glimmer of recognition from the nursing home staff. The patient fell in the restroom. The patient’s staff picked her up off of the floor and put her in a wheelchair. That afternoon and night, the patient repeatedly complained of severe right hip pain. Her right hip was observed to be bruised, yet the nursing home did not obtain an x-ray of the patient’s leg until the following day.

On November 5, 2012, the patient was “crying out in pain,” “scream[ed] louder,” and grimaced during ADL care and when moved.  The nursing home staff continued to administer pain medications, which were ineffective to control her pain. The patient “continue[d] to cry in pain upon movement.” Her right leg was rotated outward, and her right hip and back were swollen and bruised.

Also on November 5, 2012, nursing home staff documented that in connection with a fall that resulted in injury to the patient, two CNAs at the nursing home took the patient to the restroom. Despite the reported supervision of the CNAs, the patient was allowed to fall. Following the fall, the nursing home staff picked the patient up off of the floor, transferred her to a wheelchair, and then transferred her to bed.

The patient received x-rays that revealed she sustained a right intertrochanteric femur fracture. The patient was transferred to the hospital, where the fracture was confirmed. The patient received right hip surgery on November 6, 2012.

As a result of fall-related injuries, the patient became less mobile and more dependent with activities of daily living, and she required physical therapy and narcotic pain medications, including Tramodol, Lortab, and Ultram. In addition, the patient required additional care in a nursing facility. She died on July 19, 2013. 

The family contacted us to pursue claims against the nursing home for failing to provide proper fall prevention and treatment for injuries suffered from the fall. We were able to obtain a settlement award for the patient’s family.