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Hook Law Center Sees Increase in Nursing Home Falls in Spite of Bed Alarms

Virginia Beach, Jan. 28, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Since 1975, Andrew Hook of the Hook Law Center (formerly Oast & Hook) has dedicated his practice to helping senior citizens, people with special needs, and their family members. He has seen technology improve the lives and safety of many of his clients but is concerned about devices like bed alarms that are putting vulnerable nursing home residence at risk.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of elderly nursing home residents fall every year, many suffering hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. Approximately 1,800 seniors have falls so severe that their injuries are fatal. Nursing home falls are one of the biggest health and safety threats affecting both elderly and infirm patients in care facilities.

Some falls happen even with the best safety measures in place; a large percentage of the falls occur when a resident attempts to get out of bed. Bed rails are standard in most hospital and nursing home beds, designed to prevent a patient from rolling out of bed accidentally or getting out of bed without proper supervision. But bed rails can also be dangerous; since 1995, more than 350 people have died after becoming trapped between the bed rail and the mattress.

Elder care advocates believe that the number of people injured by falls in nursing homes is dramatically underreported for a variety of reasons. The staff and administrators may avoid reporting because they hope to avoid legal liability, or they are afraid of bad press, or simply because some nursing home and hospital staff may not know that they are expected to report such injuries.

Due to the increased risk of injury, some nursing homes and hospitals have abandoned the use of bed handrails on beds and have made the switch to bed alarms, a pressure-sensitive pad which sounds when the patient attempts to get out of bed. The alarm can also be placed on wheelchair seats or chair pads, or any surface where there is a fall risk.

"Bed alarms only indicate that someone has changed position and do nothing to actually prevent the patient from falling," notes Virginia elder law attorney Andrew Hook. "A staff member has to respond to the alarm and provide additional preventive measures. If they do not respond in time, that patient may fall."

The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study which focused on bed alarms used on 349 beds in a Tennessee hospital. The study showed that medical staff quickly experienced "alarm fatigue," becoming so attenuated to the sound of bed alarms that their rate of response slowed significantly after a short period of time.

An elderly patient who has suffered a fall due to medical negligence in a nursing home or hospital may wish to explore their legal options with an experienced elder law attorney with the Hook Law Center.

Learn more at http://www.hooklawcenter.com/

CONTACT: Sandra Buhr Phone: 757-399-7506 Hook Law Center 295 Bendix Road, Suite 170 Virginia Beach, VA 23452 Source:Hook Law Center