What Is a Nursing Home Injury?
A nursing home injury is any type of physical harm that an elderly person suffers while staying at a long-term care facility.
As seniors become older, their risk of certain injuries — like falls — increases. To reduce the risk of accidental injury, families may place their loved one in a nursing home so they have round-the-clock care.
However, seniors can still get injured in nursing homes. And when these injuries stem from nursing home abuse, they may leave seniors traumatized, permanently disabled, or worse.
Common nursing home injuries include:
- Bedrail injuries
- Broken bones
- Spinal injuries
Some of these injuries can be single, isolated accidents. However, nursing home staff members can ruin a resident’s health and well-being by neglecting their needs over time or by intentionally assaulting them.
Staff members who abuse or neglect residents do the exact opposite of what their job entrusts them to do: help seniors live out their lives comfortably and with dignity. And these malicious staff members should be held responsible for their actions.
Quick Facts About Nursing Home Injuries
- 2% to 28% of nursing home residents suffer from bedsores, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Falls are the main cause of injuries among seniors in the United States, according to the National Council on Aging. The CDC notes that falls account for 95% of hip breaks in seniors and can also cause traumatic brain injuries.
- Infections kill up to nearly 400,000 people who live in nursing homes every year, according to data from the CDC.
- Older people typically take longer to recover from concussions, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.
Types of Nursing Home Injuries
Nursing home injuries can vary greatly depending on several factors, including residents’ health care needs and how they are treated by staff members.
Common nursing home injuries include:
Nursing homes often use bedrails to keep residents from falling out of bed. Yet bedrails can actually put residents in great danger if they malfunction.
For example, residents can get stuck between the mattress and the bedrail, which can lead to breathing problems, suffocation, or cardiac arrest. In other cases, a resident may try to get out of bed and fall out.
Staff members need to properly supervise residents who need bedrails to make sure they do not get hurt.Learn More About Bedrail Injuries
Also known as pressure ulcers, bedsores may occur when a resident lies in the same spot for a long period of time, causing skin damage, necrosis (death of skin tissue and cells), and infections.
Bedsores can be a significant problem for bedridden nursing home patients, especially if nursing home staff members do not properly check for them or apply proper treatments.
Bedsores are classified in four stages, with a stage IV bedsore being the worse. As a bedsore worsens, it can cause the skin to blister and get cut open. By the time a bedsore reaches stage IV, the skin has died and turns dark brown or black. Nearby bone may also be exposed.Learn More About Bedsores
As nursing home residents age, their bones become weaker, putting them at an increased risk for broken bones — most notably, hip and neck fractures.
According to the CDC, over 300,000 seniors must go to the hospital each year due to broken hips. CNN reports that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 50 who suffer a hip fracture die within a year after the injury.
A broken neck can damage normal heart, lung, and breathing functions.Learn More About Broken Bones
A concussion is a brain injury caused by trauma to the head. While the CDC notes that concussions are not usually life-threatening, they are still a cause for concern and can leave nursing home residents with long-term health problems.
Among nursing home residents, concussions are often sustained after falls. For example, a resident fell 11 times in a Georgia nursing home over a span of two months. The resident suffered a concussion along with broken bones and later died of a cerebral hemorrhage.Learn More About Concussions
According to the CDC, 1-3 million infections occur every year at nursing homes or other long-term care facilities throughout the United States.
Common nursing home infections include:
- Respiratory infections
- Skin and soft tissue infections
- Urinary tract infections
When nursing home staff members fail to properly protect residents from these illnesses, they may be found responsible if the illness leads to other health problems or death.Learn More About Infections
According to Lee Memorial Health System, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among those over the age of 65. Falls can lead to broken bones, concussions, or spinal injuries.
In a high-quality nursing home, staff members carefully look after residents to prevent them from falling — but this is not always the case.
For example, one nursing home resident in Texas fell multiple times, including into a large mud hole after he wandered out of the home without supervision. His fall ultimately caused complications that led to his death. He had only been living in the nursing home for a month.
In another incident, a nursing home resident fell out of his bed and died a few days later. The nursing home staff members did not immediately notify a doctor, even though the resident had previously suffered from bleeding in the brain. As a result of his death, the nursing home had to pay a $25,000 fine.Learn More About Falls and Fractures
Spinal cord damage prevents important signals from the brain from reaching other parts of the body, limiting a person’s mobility. Spinal injuries among nursing home residents often stem from a fall.
Common health issues associated with spinal cord injuries include:
Loss of bowel control
Paralysis of one or more limbs
Spinal cord injuries can vary depending on what part of the spine gets damaged. Since the brain sends signals down the spinal column, more body parts may be affected if the injury occurs higher up on the spine.Learn More About Spinal Injuries
Causes of Nursing Home Injuries
A nursing home injury can stem from many different causes, such as when a resident breaks a bone after falling. Yet while injuries like these can happen accidentally, they can also be the result of intentional abuse or inexcusable neglect.
Nursing home residents — or even the staff supposed to protect residents — may be directly responsible for nursing home injuries.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse occurs when a nursing home staff member intentionally harms a resident.
A notable case of nursing home abuse occurred in 2015 when a 90-year-old resident suffered from bruises and severe weight loss at the hands of nursing home staff members.
The nursing home claimed his injuries were from multiple falls, but a hidden camera revealed the resident had actually been hit, thrown around, and yelled at by the staff.
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is not a simple mistake or accident — it is a long-term failure to address the residents’ health issues, causing them long-term injury or death overtime.
In 2015, a 93-year-old woman died because nursing home staff members failed to treat her for scabies, an infestation where mites burrowed into her skin and ate her alive. An investigation claimed that her scabies went untreated for months, or possibly years, on end.
Preventing Nursing Home Injuries
While nursing homes should have protocols in place to protect residents, it may not be enough to keep every senior safe. Families can take action to ensure their loved one does not suffer injuries while in a nursing home.
Good ways to prevent nursing home injuries include:
- Choosing a nursing home that has a good track record for safety and professionalism
- Making sure the resident has the proper equipment, such as a wheelchair or walker, if they need it
- Noting any signs of nursing home abuse and reporting it
- Regularly visiting a nursing home resident to make sure their health needs are being met
- Updating staff members as the resident’s health care needs change over time
Through these actions, families can protect their loved ones who live in a nursing home.
Nursing Home Injury Laws
State and federal laws have been enacted to keep nursing home residents safe from injuries, abuse, and neglect.
For example, a state law in Minnesota requires nursing homes to employ a certain number of qualified caregivers. This includes licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and certified nursing assistants.
If a nursing facility fails to provide care in a compassionate and professional manner — and you believe your loved one is being harmed as a result — contact your local authorities, such as the police or Adult Protective Services, right away.
Sometimes, lawyers are required to help you navigate the law when it comes to injuries sustained while in a nursing home.
Nursing Home Injury Lawyers
Nursing home injury lawyers can be a very big help to families affected by a nursing home injury. By working with a lawyer, families may be able to receive financial compensation if the nursing home is found responsible for the injury.
While a family may have budgeted for the costs of a nursing home, they may not be able to account for the additional expenses that come with treating an unexpected (or preventable) injury — especially one that stemmed from nursing home abuse.
To that end, a nursing home abuse lawyer can help families afford the cost of medical and/or funeral expenses, while also holding the nursing home and its staff accountable for the harm done.
When Injuries are Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
While some nursing home injuries do happen accidentally, repeated mistakes or serious harm could be signs of abuse or neglect.
If your loved one has been injured, ensure they receive medical attention immediately. If you believe that their injuries were sustained due to abuse or neglect, contact local law enforcement.
To learn more about nursing home injuries, get a free case review from our team today. We can help you learn more about pursuing legal action if your loved one was harmed.