I have recently successfully settled a damages claim against a residential care home where an elderly, vulnerable resident suffered serious injuries following a fall at night.
When he was admitted to the home six months prior to the fall, the man was assessed and classed as being at high risk’ of falling if walking without a frame.
Staff were fully aware that he had poor eye sight, memory impairment, was hard of hearing and had a tendency to wake and walk around the home in the early hours of the morning.
Therefore, they were made aware of the need to ensure the home was ‘safe and free from obstacles’ at all times.
Crucially, just weeks before the fall which caused him serious injuries, managers were also told by local authority assessors that, due to his increasing level of confusion as he had the early stages of dementia, assessments with regard to his risk of falls needed updating, and a new care plan needed to be devised.
That was because the resident now required the support of one to two people at all times, and as he was unable to use the call buzzer in his room due to his confusion, needed to be subject to more regular checks.
After the fall some weeks later, the home was unable to provide any documents to demonstrate that such new assessments and care plans had been put place prior to him wandering from his room and falling.
Falls should not be accepted or expected in care homes – providers have a duty to prevent
This was a perfect example of a residential home failing to provide proper care, as, although it has to be accepted that some falls will happen in care and residential homes, they are certainly not something which should be accepted or expected.
All precautions and procedures should be put in place to minimise the risk and prevent them from happening, from alarm systems on beds and rooms to regular checks and, of course, ensuring the environment around the home is completely safe. A failure to consider such things is a breach of duty of care.
Given the assessment of this particular resident just weeks before his fall, he quite simply should not have been able to get out of bed without assistance. There should have at least been an alarm in place given his high-risk of falling, and a suitable, updated plan had not been put in place for his care as it should have been.
An independent medical expert, consulted as part of our legal case against the home, concluded that the injuries impacted significantly on the man’s quality of life afterwards, accelerating his deterioration in health by one to two years.
He sadly passed away before the case was finally settled, having lost his ability to communicate with his family in his final years.
Insurers for the home agreed a damages settlement with the man’s family following legal action, but of course, no amount of money can take away the hurt and loss for the man and his family.
However, the man’s family, and our team at Hudgell Solicitors, hope that by taking legal action, highlighting failings and holding people in the care industry to account, improvements in service and care can result.
Check independent assessments of care homes by Care Quality Commission (CQC)
An important thing to seek out before choosing any care home is the findings of independent assessors.
The man’s daughter quite rightly questioned the home’s commitment and care, and interestingly, spoke about how she was unware when selecting the home involved that the findings of independent assessments are available via the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website.
These reports assess care providers on how caring they are, whether they are effective, safe and responsive, and whether they are well led by the management.
When inspected by the CQC shortly after this resident fell, all areas of service at the residential home were deemed to be requiring improvement, with inspectors saying it was ‘not caring’, ‘not effective’, ‘not safe’, ‘not responsive’ and ‘not well led’.
However, an inspection of the same home last year recognised big improvements, rating the overall service as good, with inspectors deeming it effective, caring, responsive and well led.
That is certainly a positive to come from what was a very traumatic period for this resident and his family.
Many people don’t know to look at the CQC inspection reports when choosing a care home for their loved ones, and this is something we’d certainly recommend. Care homes should not be chosen on what they say on their websites, or for location and convenience for family members to visit alone.
We always advise that families study these independent inspections and their findings.
Holding people to account and challenging them to change the way they provide care, helps to drive up standards. We are certainly glad to see an improvement in ratings at this home for its current residents, and for those in the future.