Most nursing home residents suffer from mobility issues, chronic illness, chronic pain, cognitive impairments, or a combination of all four. As a result, nursing home residents rely heavily on staff members to provide care and assist them with daily tasks. Unfortunately, it is common for nursing home employees to neglect their duties or perform their duties improperly, creating a risk of head or brain injury. In some instances, staff members even abuse residents on purpose, or knowingly permit patients to be abused by their fellow residents.
Regardless of whether an elderly person’s caregivers are neglectful or outright abusive, both create dangerous situations that can lead to serious head injuries and brain injuries in nursing home residents. For example, a careless staff member might fail to supervise a resident properly, allowing the resident to fall, strike their head, and suffer a brain injury.
If an elderly loved one sustained a head injury or brain injury at a nursing home in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, nursing home attorneys at the Wieand Law Firm, LLC can help your family fight for compensation and justice. To discuss a nursing home injury claim or nursing home injury lawsuit in a free legal consultation.
Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in the Elderly
The brain is the most important organ in the body. With help from nerve tissue and the spinal cord, the brain controls our every thought and action, ranging from involuntary functions like heartbeat and respiration, to complex mental processes like making decisions and solving problems. When brain tissue is physically damaged by an injury, there can be profound and permanent changes to the injury victim’s behavior, personality, physical abilities, and mental abilities. A brain injury that is caused by external forces, such as impact by an object, is called a “traumatic brain injury” (TBI) or “craniocerebral trauma.”
The effects of a traumatic brain injury depend on several factors, such as where the injury is located, how deeply the injury penetrates, the size of the injury, the severity of the injury, the buildup of fluid and pressure inside the skull, and whether the injury victim has any underlying or preexisting conditions. The effects of a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), such as a concussion, can persist for many weeks or months, while the effects of a moderate to severe TBI will likely remain with the victim for the rest of his or her life.
Depending on injury’s severity and other factors, a traumatic brain injury or bleeding on the brain (brain hemorrhage) may cause the following effects:
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic pain
- Decreased impulse control
- Difficulty balancing
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty regulating temperature
- Difficulty reading and writing
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Hearing loss or impaired hearing
- Increased aggression or irritability
- Loss of bowel or bladder control (incontinence)
- Memory loss and increased forgetfulness
- Personality changes
- Problems with facial recognition
- Vision loss or impaired vision
Seniors are at high risk for suffering severe or fatal complications when a head injury occurs. Studies have shown that seniors tend to have worse TBI outcomes than younger populations. For example, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “Mortality rates in adults with severe TBI aged 55 and older range from 30% to 80%, significantly higher than those reported in younger patients.” According to the same study, “Mortality rates for older people with mild TBI are also substantially higher than for their younger counterparts.”
Additionally, “there is evidence to suggest that older adult TBI survivors have greater dependence than younger survivors,” which can be a risk factor for depression, anxiety, and physical problems related to immobility, such as edema (fluid retention), joint stiffness, and bed sores (pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers).
Suing a Nursing Home for Abuse or Neglect
TBI is preventable, yet common in the elderly. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “TBI is responsible for more than 80,000 emergency department visits each year” among adults age 65 or older. According to the same study, “Adults aged 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and death.”
The study also revealed that falls are responsible for more than half of all traumatic brain injuries in seniors. Nursing home falls are known to be a widespread problem in long-term care facilities, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that roughly 100 to 200 falls occur annually in a typical nursing home with a 100-bed capacity.
This information is important for the family members of elderly TBI victims, because if the victim’s brain injury was caused by a nursing home fall, the nursing home may be liable depending on how and why the fall occurred. For instance, liability may exist if the victim fell because he or she was pushed, or because of unsafe conditions in a common area.
Though nursing home falls are responsible for numerous cases of TBI, they are not the only accidents that can lead to head and brain injuries. There are also many other ways in which nursing home abuse or nursing home negligence can cause residents to sustain severe head injuries, such as:
- Dropping or mishandling a resident who is being transported on a stretcher or gurney.
- Hitting, kicking, or otherwise abusing a resident.
- Failing to properly assist residents when walking or transferring from one place to another.
- Failing to implement proper fall prevention measures.
If the victim’s head injury or brain injury was caused by the abuse or negligence of nursing home staff, the resident may be able to recover compensation (“damages”). “Economic” damages compensate out-of-pocket expenses and financial losses, while “non-economic” damages try to provide reasonable compensation for emotional and physical pain. Following a fatal or nonfatal nursing home brain injury, damages may be available for:
- Burial and funeral costs, in cases of wrongful death
- Expenses related to physical therapy
- Hospital bills
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Medical expenses related to ongoing treatment and care
- Mental anguish and emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
Nursing Home Head Injury Attorneys Can Help
A brain injury is a devastating medical emergency that can cast a shadow of pain and depression over an elderly person’s golden years. Victims and their loved ones deserve to know the truth about how and why the injury happened.
If your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or other family member suffered a head injury at a nursing home located anywhere in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, a nursing home attorney can investigate the injury and work to hold the nursing home accountable while fighting for maximum compensation on your family’s behalf. To discuss a nursing home traumatic brain injury claim or nursing home TBI lawsuit in a free and completely confidential legal consultation, contact the Wieand Law Firm, LLC.