Accidental Falls and Brain Injuries

All too frequently, residents suffer from accidental falls while residing in a nursing home. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of residents who fall each year is somewhere between 50-75%. According to a recent study, 37% of those falls result in some form of injury to the head. The most common causes for falls that result in head injury in older adults often involve falling out of bed or down stairs, or slipping in the bath. With statistics like that, it is no wonder that accidental falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in adults aged 65 years and older.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur when an external force impacts the head, and that force is transferred to the brain, causing the brain to dysfunction. While usually occurring from a sudden jolt or impact to the head, TBIs can also result if the brain is penetrated in some way; for example, by a foreign object or by a fragment of bone from a skull fracture. The degree of trauma often determines the severity and duration of the damage, and is often classified as either “mild,” “moderate” or “severe.”

Mild TBI Symptoms

Temporary dysfunction resulting from an impact to the head is normally classified as a mild TBI.  If a resident falls and strikes his or her head, but does not lose consciousness, or only loses consciousness for a short time, the resident may have sustained a mild TBI. A resident with a mild TBI usually exhibits symptoms commonly expected from a strike to the head. The resident may have a mild headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, mild confusion, or slight disorientation. However, more serious signs of a mild TBI include problems with memory, concentration, sensory abilities, regulation of sleep, and/or mood. Also, vomiting, nausea, and an inability to walk due to a loss of balance are some physical manifestations of a mild TBI.

Moderate to Severe TBI Symptoms

A severe TBI usually causes physical damage to brain tissue, has a long-term impact on brain functionality, and can even be fatal. Loss of consciousness for several minutes or longer is usually indicative of a moderate or severe TBI. These classes of TBIs share many of the same symptoms as a mild TBI, except the severity of the symptoms is more pronounced and dangerous to the health of the affected individual. Unusual behavior and serious confusion after a blow to the head may indicate the presence of a moderate or severe TBI, and the physical manifestations of symptoms can include seizures or convulsions, persistent vomiting, slurred speech, drainage of clear fluid from the ears and/or nose and pupil dilation.

Regardless of classification, even a mild TBI is still an injury that requires immediate medical attention and evaluation. If someone you love has suffered from a traumatic brain injury after a fall in a nursing home, please reach out to the Rooth Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Law Firm online or by calling (847) 869-9100.

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Center for Disease Control, Falls in Nursing Homes Statistics

Rebecca Schonnop et al., Prevalence of and Factors Associated with Head Impact During Falls in Older Adults in Long-Term Care, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Vol. 185, No. 17, October 7, 2013