Nursing Home Falls -- Resulting Traumatic Head and Brain Injuries Require Immediate Medical Attention

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Nursing homes patients are typically at risk for falling as a result of numerous factors including physical and/or cognitive disabilities, muscle weakness, or side effects of medications.  In our nursing home neglect and abuse cases, we have encountered many situations where nursing home residents have experienced falls during transfers from or to beds, wheelchairs or Geri-chairs, and during physical therapy or occupational therapy treatments.  These falls may be the result of improper and/or inadequate supervision or staffing by the nursing home.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"), the average nursing home resident experienced 2.6 falls per year.   The CDC reports further that approximately 10% to 20% of nursing home falls result in serious injuries, and approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die each year as a result of falls.

In our practice, we have seen many situations where a nursing home resident's fall results in significant disability, functional decline, reduced quality of life and even death.  Of particular concern, are traumatic head and brain injuries resulting from nursing home falls that too often do not receive immediate medical attention and treatment. 

Traumatic brain injury (also called intracranial injury) occurs when an outside force traumatically injures the brain and may result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object following a fall.  The severity of traumatic brain injury ranges from mild (a brief change in consciousness or mental status) to severe (extended period of unconsciousness or loss of memory) based upon a scale called Glasgow coma scale.  According to the CDC, approximately 1.4 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries each year resulting in 50,000 deaths and 235,000 hospitalizations.  

The United States National Institute of Health ("NIH") has reported that approximately half of severely injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue).  Even if the fall victim has no visible signs of brain injury, brain bleeding or swelling may begin slowly and result in pressure on the brain as the blood has nowhere to escape.  As the pressure increases, brain cells begin to die with devastating results.   In our experience, nursing home fall victims may not receive the necessary CT scan testing and other medical attention following head trauma with tragic and potentially fatal results. 

A CT scan of the head will quickly reveal blood clots, bleeding or skull fractures that may require immediate medical care and surgical intervention.  As alluded to above, a complicating factor is that head trauma victims may appear awake with no visible symptoms as swelling and bleeding can start slowly giving the nursing home staff a false sense of security regarding the fall victim's condition.  The recent tragic death of actress Natasha Richardson as a result of a blunt impact to her head secondary to a minor skiing accident on a beginner's slope attracted substantial media attention and can be instructive.  Immediately following her fall, Ms. Richardson seemed fine and was reportedly even joking about her fall.  Approximately one hour later she developed a headache and didn't feel well resulting in a significant delay before she was finally transported to the hospital.  Unfortunately, by the time she arrived at the hospital it was too late and she died.        

It is therefore critical to prevent falls in nursing home residents through the use of proper preventative measures and precautions, and carefully monitoring of nursing home residents by the nursing home staff.  In the event that head trauma results from a fall, the nursing home staff must take immediate steps to ensure that the injury is immediately evaluated by the patient's doctor or an outside hospital.  Traumatic brain injury may be a very treatable condition if the nursing home staff merely takes proper actions to quickly transfer the resident to a hospital.  In this regard, it is better to be safe than sorry, and good practice requires nursing home fall victims with head trauma to be seen by a doctor immediately.  

Please feel free to contact the nursing home neglect lawyers at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of a nursing home fall, bedsores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), medication error/prescription mistake, dehydration, malnutrition, elder abuse or elder neglect. 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Feldstein published on August 13, 2009 7:20 AM.

Nursing Home Bed Sores / Pressure Ulcers / Decubitus Ulcers -- Important Findings of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the previous entry in this blog.

Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Prevention -- Family Members Should Make Regular Nursing Home Visits at Unpredictable Times is the next entry in this blog.

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