Falls are a common occurrence in nursing homes. Those falls often result in some type of bodily injury, including head trauma. According to a study published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) in October 2013, more than one-third of all seniors who fall in long-term care facilities hit their head. These head injuries can result in immediate or delayed consequences, ranging from concussions to comas to wrongful death.
Severe Complications Result From Head Injuries Caused by Falls
According to the Mayo Clinic, traumatic brain injuries can result in severe and life-threatening complications, including:
- Altered states of consciousness, including comas or locked-in syndrome
- Fluid buildup
- Infections, including meningitis
- Blood vessel or nerve damage, including facial paralysis and vision loss
- Diminished cognitive abilities, including issues with memory loss and reasoning
- Communication problems, including difficulties speaking or writing
- Behavioral changes, including lack of self-control and increased risk-taking
- Emotional changes, including extreme mood swings, irritability and depression
- Sensory problems, including double vision and tinnitus
- Degenerative brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
Many of these health conditions lead to further issues, such as difficulties breathing or swallowing, the inability to communication, and more. The nursing home doctors, nurses and staff can take immediate steps to take care of residents who have fallen and to avoid more falls in the future.
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Steps Nursing Homes Should Take to Avoid Further Falls
Whether this is a first fall or one of many, the staff should take appropriate steps to care for the injured patient and remove the possibility for another fall:
- Provide proper medical attention: Immediate and appropriate medical attention is vital to taking proper care of the fallen resident. This care includes taking X-rays, CT scans and other tests to look for broken bones, internal bleeding, swelling and related issues. If the nursing home is not well equipped to handle head trauma cases, the staff should take action to transfer the injured patient to the nearest hospital.
- Review the resident’s care plan: After a resident has fallen, new risk factors are now present that require new fall prevention measures to keep the resident safe. If existing fall prevention measures were in place, the doctor should review whether the staff followed those measures. Neglected care plans are an impermissible cause of falls, and provide a strong case for nursing home abuse or neglect.
- Eliminate fall risks from the area: The nursing home administrator should evaluate the whole home for potential fall hazards, and should then take steps to immediately remove those hazards from the environment. The CMAJ article also suggested taking steps to make the area less dangerous should a fall occur, including adding a softer sub-floor that can help cushion an impact after a fall, as 67 percent of residents who fell hit their heads on the floor.
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