Falls among older Americans are very hazardous and potentially deadly. For this reason, businesses and facilities serving to older adults must take extra precautions to prevent slips and trips.
Deaths and injuries from falls among older adults are a common occurrence and affect about 30% of persons over the age of 65 each year. The injuries received from such a fall may result in death, disability, nursing-home admission, and medical costs. Though medical costs are typically covered by Medicare, if the slip or trip causing the fall was related to the negligence of a third party, such as a business property owner, then Medicare has a right to be reimbursed for those medical expenses.
In 2003, a total of 13,700 persons over the age of 65 died from falls. 1,800,000 such persons were treated in emergency rooms at hospitals for for nonfatal injuries from falls. Falls also cause the majority of hip fractures, which often result in long-term functional impairments that might require admission to a nursing home for a year or more. Though nursing home costs may also be covered in part by Medicare or Medicaid, if the slip or trip causing the fall was related to the negligence of a third party, such as a business, then Medicare or Medicaid may have a right to be reimbursed for the medical expenses that were paid.
Preventing falls should be a priority for businesses, especially for those companies whose clients are largely over the age of 65. For example, businesses should thoroughly review the following:
FLOORS: Inspect the floors. Have a regular inspection program to make sure all flooring is clear. Avoid placing obstacles in aisles and use matting and carpeting in areas where moisture may accumulate. Remove items that may pose a slipping hazard or a tripping hazard to customers. Pick up things that are on the floor. Regularly sweep floors. Mop floors, but be certain to use warning signs in the vicinity of mopping and be certain not to use too much water when mopping. Avoid having wires or cords in any area where customers may be expected.
STAIRS AND STEPS: Inspect stairs used inside and outside the business. Steps must be in excellent condition. Have a regular inspection program to be certain that all stairs and steps are clear and avoid placing any obstacle in the area near stairways. Do not have steps or stairs in any area where moisture may accumulate. Fix loose or uneven steps. Be certain stairways are well lit with overhead lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs. Carpeting on steps must not be loose or torn and the carpet needs to be firmly attached to every step. Ideally too, steps will have non-slip treads on each stair. Further, handrails should be affixed on both sides of a stairway and be secure and go the full length of the stairway.
RAMPS: Ramps should be non-slip. Ramps must be inspected regularly and made of non-slip materials. Outdoor ramps should be shoveled and salted regularly during inclement weather.
The costs to patients for the treatment of fall-related injuries and deaths are very high. These costs include expenses for hospital and nursing home care, doctors and other professional services, rehabilitation, use of medical equipment, prescription drugs, and changes made to the home. Moreover, the long-term health effects of these injuries, such as disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household duties, or reduced quality of life are all recoverable where the negligence of a third party caused the fall.
Hazardous property & premises liability
Inadequate security & criminal assaults
Nursing home neglect
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