Back Injury in Nursing Homes

When considering back injuries, the first thought that pops into most peoples’ minds is heavy lifting. While heavy or improper lifting is responsible for many cases of back injuries, this simply doesn’t apply in some cases. If your loved one is in a nursing home and suffered a back injury, there is very little likelihood that he or she was lifting something heavy – after all, patients are supposed to be monitored to prevent them from doing things that might injure them.

Potential Causes of Back Injuries

As we age, back pain and injury become more frequent. In elderly patients, arthritis, degenerative disk disease, herniated disks and spinal stenosis are all relatively common causes of back pain. If your loved one is suffering from back pain in a nursing home, the first step should be to determine if any of these issues could be causing the pain. If so, the senior will be able to receive the treatment needed to help alleviate the pain.

Slips and falls are also major contributors to back injuries and pain in nursing home patients. Twisting, landing on the back, or hitting something during the fall can all cause injury – especially in those suffering from osteoporosis or other diseases that make the bones brittle and weak.

Each of these causes are understandable, as they are common among the elderly. However, if you have ruled out other potential causes of your loved one’s back injuries, you might need to take a closer look at the care he or she is receiving.

Neglect

In nursing home settings, according to the CDC, over half of all patients fall at some point in a given year, and each patient falls around 2.6 times. In up to 27% of these falls, environmental hazards are to blame. These can include:

  • Lighting that is inadequate or poor, and light bulbs failing to be replaced
  • Wet floors due to mopping or spills
  • Bed heights that are too high
  • Wheelchairs that are not maintained properly
  • Wheelchairs that are not fitted properly to the patient

If your senior falls and is injured due to one of these hazards, it may be considered neglect. It is the nursing home staff’s duty to prevent your loved one from entering into areas that have the potential to cause harm. They are also responsible for ensuring that the bed, wheelchair and other items that the seniors in their care use are in good working condition, and fitted to them to prevent accidental falls.

Abuse

If your elder has suffered a back injury that was not the result of negligence or natural causes, you will need to consider whether the issue was caused by abuse. Nursing home abuse is becoming much more frequent, and it can have horrible consequences for your loved one. There are several things that may indicate that abuse is taking place:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or wounds
  • The senior suddenly withdrawing from friends, family and social activities
  • Refusing to speak when staff members are in the room
  • Behavioral changes
  • Frequent trips to the emergency room
  • Unexplained back injuries
  • Your loved one saying that someone is hurting him or her

In many cases, elders who are subjected to abuse in nursing homes fail to report it out of fear. If you believe the senior’s back injuries, or any other injuries could be related to nursing home abuse or neglect, you need to report the institution. If you fear for your loved one’s safety, you should also remove him or her from the facility until the problem is addressed, or until you find a new location to provide care.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/nursing.html

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