Fractures in Nursing Homes
Nursing home residents are at a greater risk of falling due to illness, disability, and disorientation. Often, falls in nursing homes result in fractures or injuries that greatly reduce quality of life and ability to function. While fractures in nursing homes are sometimes the direct result of unavoidable accidents, mistakes by nursing home staff or cases of neglect may contribute to the likelihood of a fall, as well as to the severity of the injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 1,800 nursing home residents die from fall-related injuries each year, with one out of five older adults who suffer a hip fracture dying within a year of their injury. With such tragic results, it is important for nursing homes to take the necessary steps towards monitoring and caring for residents who have a greater risk of falling.
Types of Fractures in Nursing Homes
Fractures from nursing home injuries vary in type and treatment. Different types of bone fractures include:
- Stress fractures: A stress fracture is a crack within the bone that is a partial fracture. Stress fractures most often arise from repetitive stress on the bone or a rapid increase in the amount or intensity of activity.
- Compression fractures: A compression fracture is a complete breaking of the bone. The most common site of a compression fracture is the spinal vertebral area due to osteoporosis.
- Traumatic fractures: A traumatic fracture is typically the direct result of injury, such as a fall in older adults.
- Spontaneous fractures: A spontaneous fracture can occur when there is no apparent blunt-force injury. In elderly patients, causes of spontaneous fractures may include malignancy, overexposure to vitamin A, brucellosis, cerebral palsy, and periprosthetic weakening.
Most commonly, older adults may suffer from a fractured pelvis, hip, thigh, vertebrae, arm, or hand either from unavoidable accidents or from nursing home neglect.
Causes of Fractures
When nursing home staff fails to follow procedures and properly care for residents, it can result in negligent injury. Common negligent causes of fractures in nursing homes include:
- Walkway hazards like wet floors and debris
- Failure to respond to calls for help
- Improper use of safety equipment like bed rails
- Mishandling or dropping of residents
- Failure to properly monitor patients
- Physical abuse of patients
Nursing Home Liability
Despite older adults having a greater risk for falls, nursing homes have a responsibility to properly care for and monitor their residents to prevent falls and fractures. Federal law requires nursing homes to assess residents upon entry to the facility, and frequently re-assess their condition to adjust care as necessary.
Failure to properly assess residents, update reports and written care plans, and closely monitor their health can result in liability after an injury like a fracture. Consulting an injury lawyer is the first step to determining if there is cause for a legal claim. If a loved one suffers a broken bone due to abuse, neglect, or malpractice, taking legal action is important for peace of mind and preventing future incidences of injury.