Collectively, we are living longer. That’s the good news. When it comes to living arrangements, however, with increased age, often comes the need for more formal medical care. There many be health concerns that prohibit our elderly family members from continuing to live at home or with family. As potential caregivers, we wish to make parents and grandparents as comfortable as possible but if there are medical or housing issues, our desires are secondary to necessary daily healthcare and well-being management. Often, families and seniors look to assisted living facilities (ALF) for elder residential and medical care. The hope is to find a caring and attentive senior living facility but that is all too often not the case. Generally through negligence rather than malevolence, elderly people in these type of institutions are getting hurt- too often, from preventable injuries such as hip fractures.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that there are around 300,000 people in this age group who suffer from a broken hip each year. Of those, 20 to 30% will be dead within 12 months of the injury, and many others show a significant decrease in their functional abilities.
Main Causes of Broken Hips in the Elderly
The primary cause of broken hips in the elderly are slip and fall incidents. In an ALF, these type of falls are fairly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the average 100-bed ALF reports 100 to 200 falls each year and that around 1,800 patients who fall die from their injuries.
There are many reasons that seniors in these facilities may fall. Their muscles are weaker, their balance may be off, vertigo, poor eyesight and the physical limitations of moving from one place to another. However, these problems are often exacerbated by negligence within the facility.
Of the reported falls each year, approximately 27% are due to environmental hazards. Some of the most common hazards include:
- Wet floors
- Inadequate lighting
- Wheelchairs and beds that are not properly equipped for the patient (i.e., chairs are not locked into place or the beds do not have high rails or restraints to prevent falling)
- Improper monitoring and lack of physical assistance
Each of these hazards is preventable, and may be considered negligent acts by the facility when a patient is injured.
A thorough ALF injury investigation should include a comprehensive review of the resident’s medical records, daily activity reports, maintenance records, incident reports, personnel files, prior litigation involving the facility, visitor logs, surveillance camera footage and any and all other records maintained by the ALF. Canvassing for witnesses should also be conducted.
Broken hips in the elderly are serious, and when they occur in an assisted living facility, one should consider whether the injury (or worse) was due to institution’s abuse or negligence,
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.