Should Stairwell Doors Be Secured in a Senior Living Facility?

Many senior assisted living facilities are multi-level, meaning residents must grapple with the added risk of injury from falling in stairwells if such areas are not properly secured. However, nursing homes, assisted-living communities, and other senior living facilities have a duty to ensure a safe environment for all residents. As part of this duty, stairwells should never be readily accessible by residents, as falls are likely to result if these areas are unsecured.

Due to the fragile nature of many elderly individuals, such as those with osteoporosis or brittle bone disease, a single fall can result in devastating, life-threatening injuries. If a senior assisted living facility fails to appropriately secure a stairwell and a resident is injured in a fall, it can be liable for damages, including medical bills, pain and suffering, punitive damages (in the case of intentional or egregious neglect), and other costly damages.

As experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys, we have decades of experience zealously advocating for the rights of elderly residents and holding negligent nursing homes accountable. If your parent or loved one fell in a nursing home stairwell, we urge you to call our office immediately to learn more about your legal options for seeking justice and maximum compensation. When you schedule a free consultation, we can listen to the facts of your case and explain your legal options for pursuing accountability.

Why Are Stairwells So Hazardous in Nursing Homes?

When an elderly individual is able to access an unsecured nursing home stairwell, a fall is likely to result, and significant injuries (or even death) can result. Compounding the seriousness of such falls is the fact that stairwells are often unmonitored; thus, it is relatively easy for an injured resident to be undiscovered for some time. In the case of significant injuries, this can lead to wrongful death, especially if the individual suffers a traumatic brain injury or sustains internal bleeding.

Accessible stairwells can also be problematic for residents with mental impairments, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, who are likely to wander without having the capacity to appreciate inherent environmental dangers.

How Should Stairwells Be Secured in Michigan Senior Living Facilities?

Falls account for more than half of all serious nursing home injuries, making these incidents the leading cause of injury and death among elderly residents. In accordance with the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101),[1] door locking arrangements are encouraged where the clinical needs of patients require specialized security measures or where patients pose a security threat (provided that staff can readily unlock doors).

Locking arrangements typically include magnetic locks that are released upon entry of a code. This locking provision is intended to assist in preventing falls and also to avert wandering, elopement, or psychiatric concerns. The NFPA 101 also permits delayed egress locks, which are often used in both public and resident areas to secure stairwells and egress doors.[2]

The Duties of Michigan Nursing Homes to Protect Residents from Avoidable Falls.

In appropriately run senior living facilities, stairwells should never be accessible by residents, meaning that such areas should be secured with:

  • An automatic door closing device that allows only one person at a time to enter; or
  • A lock that can only be opened with a key, card, or access code.

Unfortunately, many negligent nursing homes fail to properly secure stairwells and other hazards, leading to approximately 1,800 fall-related deaths each year. Moreover, countless other residents suffer permanent, irreparable harm, as those who survive falls frequently suffer hip fractures and head injuries that result in permanent disability and a reduction in quality of life.[3]

Nursing homes, senior living facilities, and assisted living communities have a duty to provide a safe environment for residents, which includes ensuring stairwells are properly secured. When a facility fails to uphold this duty and a resident is injured, the nursing home can be liable for any damages resulting from injuries or wrongful death.

How Can An Experienced Michigan Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Help

At Olsman MacKenzie Peacock and Wallace, we specialize in assisting elders who suffer from abuse or neglect while residing in senior living care facilities. As experienced Michigan nursing home abuse lawyers, we can tenaciously fight for accountability and justice, as well as maximum compensation for injuries and wrongful deaths. We represent victims and their families on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that we are only entitled to a fee if we secure compensation.

Our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers can:

  • Gather detailed documentation and evidence to build a strong and compelling case;
  • Take action against negligent caregivers and facilities to hold abusers accountable and prevent future harm to residents; and,
  • Tenaciously fight in seeking to secure compensation for damages, such as medical bills, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and other expenses.

As nursing home abuse lawyers, we can help your family access monetary compensation to pay for medical treatment, zealously advocate for the rights of your loved one, and work to hold the facility and staff legally accountable. If your parent or loved one suffered an injury in a nursing home, we invite you to call our office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your options for pursuing justice.

[1] Life Safety Code, CMS,

[2] Door Locking Arrangements for Nursing Homes, AHCA NCAL,

[3] Falls in Nursing Homes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,