This headline came from The Telegraph on 2nd May 2019, where it stated that “More than 5,000 older people died due to a fall in 2017, marking a 70% increase on the numbers in 2010.”

That is a staggering statistic.  Deaths from falls in a care home environment should be entirely avoidable with adequate monitoring, risk assessment, supervision and care.

In addition to those elderly residents who tragically pass away, inevitably there will also be many thousands of elderly people who have fallen, but have been left with significantly debilitating or even permanent injuries; or else injuries from their fall which could trigger or aggravate other complex and serious secondary medical conditions.

A contributor to the article from Age UK, said that, “Falls are the leading cause of hospital admissions for older people” and went on to say, “The sad fact is that older people who live in poorer areas often have more complex health needs and poor access to health, care and also community services that can help people remain active and help resilience”.

Residents in care homes can be at high risk of falling due to lack of supervision and understaffing.  Some residents with intense nursing needs may require 24/7 monitoring and assistance by full-time carers.  But many care homes simply don’t have the funds or staff resources available to cope with such demands or needy patients, who by nature of their mental or physical conditions require closer attention.

Whilst staff/nursing attention is being diverted to one resident, it can mean other residents are being left on their own, unsupervised, for long periods of time.  This places vulnerable residents who need assistance with mobility, or who struggle to mobilise independently, at a higher risk of falling.  Some residents with dementia or other cognitive impairments, or behavioural, psychological or emotional needs, may be left to wander freely (sometimes outside on the street), unwatched, placing themselves and others at risk of harm, whilst staff are distracted (or simply not available).

This, too, can result in residents falling, sometimes out of bed or even down stairs – sustaining significant injuries (typically a head injury, fractured arm, wrist or leg) leading to emergency hospital admission.  Many falls tend to go ‘unsupervised’.

Tip:  It’s worth checking the care plans regularly to ensure that they accurately record your relative’s mobility needs, and any ongoing changes or measures required to assist them (eg hoisting, 2 carers for mobilisation etc).

If your relative is known to be at high risk of falling, then ensure there is a good risk assessment in place and that they are being properly monitored and supervised at all times.

A serious fall for an elderly person can have a dramatic effect and be a life-changing event for them, often leading to a loss of independence, and a rapid deterioration in their overall health.  Elderly or frail people with thin bones (and thin skin) who fall badly, don’t generally have a good prognosis.  Often it is too difficult or risky to operate on a fracture, whether due to their age, frailty or risk of anaesthetic, and they can be left in immense pain indefinitely with reduced mobility.  Bruises or open wounds can become infected and can take many months to heal. Worst still, if they cannot communicate the level of pain to you or their carers due to cognitive impairment.

Action:  If you feel your relative is not being adequately monitored and supervised, then act immediately and raise your concerns with the care home manager and ensure that a full written record is made on file.

Negligence? If your relative has fallen at a care home, or out of a hospital bed, then you need to enquire how and why this happened and whether it could reasonably have been prevented. Your relative may be able to claim compensation for their injuries. Visit our website for more information.

Call Farley Dwek on 0800 011 4136 or 0161 272 5222 for a FREE telephone consultation to see whether or not your relative may have a separate claim for negligence.

Read more on our Hospital Falls page