The majority of nursing home residents deal with mobility issues, chronic pain, chronic illness, and cognitive impairments, or a combination of all of these. As a result, nursing home residents depend extensively on dedicated staff to provide care and help with daily tasks. Unfortunately, it is too common for nursing home employees to neglect their duties and provide substandard care which results in residents suffering head or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). In some cases, the problem is actual abuse in which staff members knowingly inflict abuse or allow the abuse of residents by others.
Regardless of whether the problem is neglect or outright abuse, either situation can lead to dangerous results for nursing home residents, including brain injuries. For example, failure to supervise a resident properly can result in the resident falling on the ground with an impact to the head that causes a TBI.
Traumatic brain injury is common in the elderly
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that more than 80,000 emergency department visits each year are the result of TBI among adults aged 65 or older. The highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and death are among adults aged 75 and older. According to the study, falls account for more than 50% of all TBIs in seniors.
TBI effects on the elderly
The brain is the most complex and important organ in the human body. It controls and manages every action and thought with assistance from the spinal cord and nerve tissue. This includes involuntary functions of the body such as respiration, heartbeat, and mental processes. Physical damage to the brain tissue can induce long-lasting and even permanent changes to the injury victim’s physical and mental abilities, behavior, and personality. When the brain is injured by external forces, the resulting injury is referred to as a traumatic brain injury.
Several factors determine the effects of traumatic brain injury, such as the depth of its penetration, its location, its severity, and its size, in addition to whether fluid and pressure build up inside the skull and if the injury victim has pre-existing conditions. A mild TBI such as a concussion can produce effects for weeks and even months. Often a moderate or severe TBI produce effects on the victim for years or the remainder of his or her life.
The following effects can result from TBI, depending on the severity of the injury and whether brain hemorrhage has occurred:
- Chronic pain
- Balance difficulties
- Reduced impulse control
- Problems speaking clearly
- Problems reading and writing
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Increased forgetfulness and memory loss
- Difficulty with decision-making
- Chronic headaches
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
- Impaired vision or vision loss
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Impaired hearing her hearing loss
- Personality changes
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Increased irritability or aggression
Blood infection leading to brain damage
Residents in nursing homes may develop sepsis as a result of bedsores that form due to neglectful care of the resident. The sores can become very serious, penetrating deep tissue and opening a pathway for bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
When the bloodstream is infected, sepsis can occur, leading to a rapid rise in the body’s inflammatory response. With a quick intervention, the body’s organs will quickly fail, with the brain among the first to stop functioning properly. Even some patients who survive the ultimate conclusion of sepsis suffer brain damage from the condition.
Nursing home residents who have a chronic illness, compromised immune system, or severe burns or wounds are more vulnerable to sepsis. Nursing home healthcare settings that are poorly sanitized can increase the risk of this severe infection. Sepsis which can lead to brain injury in a hospital or nursing home setting is often caused by:
- Urinary catheter infections (occurring more often in nursing homes)
- Central line infections (bacteria enter the body via an intravenous catheter)
- Surgical site infections
Other causes of TBI in nursing home residents
Nursing home residents can sustain traumatic brain injuries in other ways due to abuse or negligence as well, including:
- Failing to assist residents properly when transferring them from one place to another or helping them walk
- Mishandling or dropping a resident who is being moved on a gurney or stretcher
- Failing to establish and implement proper fall prevention measures for residents
- Striking or in any way abusing a resident
If your loved one has suffered a head or brain injury in a nursing home setting, he or she may be able to recover considerable compensation, including both economic and non-economic damages. The Chattanooga nursing home abuse attorneys at Wagner & Wagner can investigate the case of your loved one fully and help ensure they are moved to safety as necessary. We can also fight vigorously for the compensation your loved one deserves. To set up a free consultation, please call us today at 423.799.3532 or complete our contact form. We offer our services to clients in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and throughout North Georgia.