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April 17, 2024

How to prepare for the 'inevitable' lawsuit - BE DEFENSIBLE

All organizations must be prepared to defend against a liability claim. Claims come in many forms…allegations of abuse, the result of a significant adverse event, or a simple matter of an unhappy family member who has unrealistic expectations.  

Organizations need to look at several operational elements to ensure defensibility if a claim is filed.  The organization’s policies, procedures, and programs (Risk, Quality, and Safety Committees), employee relations (hiring process and training), elements of the admission process (expectations management, screening for high-risk areas, etc.), documentation in the medical record, and management of high-risk areas—skin integrity, falls, elopement, abuse, and medications are all key components that will play a part in defending the organization against allegations.  

A recent webinar provided by CG and Pendulum Risk Management discusses how to achieve a level of defensibility. 

The key takeaways on how to prepare senior living facilities for potential lawsuits are listed here: 

  • Lawsuits are common: Litigation is a major concern in senior care settings.
  • Be Prepared: Proactively prepare for potential lawsuits by having strong defensible practices in place.
  • Focus on Prevention: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Proper staffing, training, and resident assessments can help avoid incidents that might lead to lawsuits.
  • Key Areas for Attention: Falls, skin integrity, medication errors, elopement, and abuse are common reasons for lawsuits.
  • Defensible Action Plan (DAP): Create a checklist to guide your response after a major adverse event. This plan should include reviewing resident care plans, incident reports, and medication records.
  • Proactive Measures:
    • Conduct regular staff training.
    • Standardize incident report forms with checkboxes for better data collection and reduced risk of opinion-based entries.
    • Have a plan for media communication in case of an incident.
    • Consider using memorandums of care (MOCs) to manage resident expectations at the time of admission.
    • Conduct hazard vulnerability assessments to identify and mitigate potential risks in the facility environment.
  • Toolkit for Defense:
    • The Pendulum Portal offers free resources including sample holding statements, adverse event protocols, and incident management tools.
  • Additional Tips:
    • Avoid using the term "fall prevention" and instead focus on "fall management" or "fall mitigation" because falls are inevitable.
    • Consider having a defense attorney on retainer.

By following these recommendations, senior living facilities can improve their defensibility and be better prepared to manage legal challenges.

Watch the full webinar here.

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