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When are falls accidents versus negligence or abuse?

When you first receive a call from the nursing home to tell you that your mother had fallen, you were surprised. You knew that she had become weaker and less stable recently, but you never expected that she'd fall and get hurt.

Of course, a single fall doesn't mean that the staff did anything wrong, so you simply met your mother at the hospital to talk to her about what happened. She had hit her head and broken her wrist in the fall.

You would have thought it was just an unfortunate accident, but then she told you that the nurses never came when she called. She waited 20 minutes with her call light on, but no one responded. She decided to get up on her own, and that's when she fell.

When is a fall an accident? When is it negligence or abuse?

This situation is one that is seen often in nursing homes because many don't have the level of staff that is needed to keep the nursing home running smoothly. A patient may be on orders not to get up without support, but if no one comes to help them, they may think they have no choice but to get up on their own.

Poor staffing rates are the fault of a nursing home, and they're not an excuse. If your mother fell because a nurse neglected to get to her in a reasonable amount of time, then you may have a claim against the nursing home. On the other hand, if the situation was different and she had not called for help or was not known to be a fall risk, then a first-time fall may simply be accidental and unforeseen.

What do you need to do after a serious accident in a nursing home?

It's a good idea to follow up with the nursing home director at the very least. You need to know that your mother is going to receive care in an appropriate time frame every time she needs assistance. If that kind of assistance can't be available for any reason, then it may be time to look into a new nursing home or assisted-living facility. You may also want to look into making a claim against the facility if you have reason to believe that your mother was left unattended or neglected by the nurses despite seeking their assistance.

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