Head Injuries in Nursing Home Falls

In the general population of older adults, a recent study showed that 60% of all head injuries occur due to falling. With these falls, traumatic brain injury is a major factor in overall health. In fact, these brain injuries are responsible for 50% of the deaths that occur due to falling, and 32% of admissions into a hospital after a fall. Of these head injuries, 25% occur in elderly adults who are in a nursing home facility.

Head Injuries Resulting from Falls

Head injuries are one of the most severe results of a fall in elderly patients. During the previously mentioned study, which included video evidence of falls in 227 different nursing homes, 67% of the recorded falls resulted in the elder patients hitting their heads on tile or linoleum flooring. This is compared to only 16% hitting furniture. Another interesting finding was that in 97% of the cases wherein the seniors fell forward, they put out their hands and arms to stop themselves. This shows that weakness in the upper limbs is a major concern, as in most cases, this is the only protection an elderly person has in trying to protect his or her head.

Nursing Home Fall Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average facility with 100 beds reports between 100 and 200 falls every year, with many patients reporting more than one fall – on average, each senior falls around 2.6 times in a given year. Of these falls that result in injuries, around 35% occur in patients who are unable to walk. The CDC also reports that falls in nursing homes are responsible for around 1,800 deaths per year.

These statistics are alarming, but another serious problem is also involved in these cases – up to 27% of the residents who fall do so as a result of environmental hazards. These hazards, which include poor lighting, bed heights that are not correct for the patient, wheelchairs that are either not maintained or of the wrong height, and wet floors.

Other Head Injuries in Nursing Homes

While fall-related head injuries are common in nursing homes, a senior can suffer from these devastating injuries in other ways:

  • Patients who are not transferred properly can suffer from a brain injury if they slip or are dropped
  • If a patient slides down in a bed or chair, they can suffer from oxygen deprivation that results in brain injury.
  • Receiving high doses of medications that cause drowsiness and dizziness can also result in the patient failing to wake up if blankets or clothing impairs breathing.
  • Physical abuse, such as hitting or shaking can result in head injuries

What You Can Do

While these injuries may be difficult to discover on your own in some cases, if you believe your loved one has suffered a head injury due to neglect or abuse, you and the senior have rights. The underlying theme in a majority of head injuries in nursing homes is that proper attention, such as making sure bed and wheelchair heights were appropriate, and keeping seniors away from areas with wet floors or tripping hazards, could have prevented the problem.

Another issue that can occur with head injuries is a lack of proper care and attention after a head injury has occurred. In these situations, the damage caused by the head injury often results in death that could have been prevented if emergency medical treatment was provided in a timely manner.

If you believe your loved one’s injuries occurred due to abuse or neglect, reporting the situation is the first step in addressing the problem, and potentially saving another family from going through the same devastating head injuries and their consequences.

Sources:

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/17/E803.full.pdf+html

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

http://www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/tbi/tbi-homes.php

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