What Are Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Injuries?
Nursing home abuse and neglect injuries are any type of physical harm that could have been prevented by staff members. Federal law requires nursing homes to keep residents safe. This is especially important because people become more susceptible to injury as they age.
Nursing home injuries can arise from any of the following forms of elder abuse:
- Emotional abuse
- Financial exploitation
- Physical abuse
- Sexual assault
Not all nursing home injuries are cause for immediate concern, as they are sometimes accidental. However, recurring or excessive injuries in any form must be taken seriously. Knowing the cause of your loved one’s nursing home injury is the best way to prevent them from becoming a victim of abuse or neglect.
What Causes Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Injuries?
Nursing home abuse injuries are caused by the failure to properly care for residents. Common causes of nursing home abuse and neglect have been studied more closely in recent years, although data is still scarce.
Some common causes of nursing home abuse injuries include:
- COVID-19 impact of loved ones being unable to visit
- Lack of staff training and experience
- Poor supervision, management, and accountability
- Safety violations
- Staffing shortages
- Underpaid staff
In addition to knowing the causes, it is important to learn common nursing home injury types to ensure your loved one stays safe and free from harm.
Nursing Home Injury Types
While some types of nursing home injuries cannot be prevented, others are warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect. Knowing the common types of nursing home injuries can help you monitor your loved one’s safety.
Bed Rail Injuries
Nursing homes frequently use bed rails to keep residents from falling out of bed. However, bed rails can often cause injury or death. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have received many injury and death reports related to the use of bed rails.
“Based on the reports, the most commonly injured body parts were the neck and head, and most of these events (143 out of 145) resulted in fatalities.”
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The two most common causes of nursing home injuries caused by bed rails are getting trapped in the rails or falling over them.
Bed rail entrapment can happen by getting caught between:
- Bed rail bars
- Bedside commode and rail
- Floor and rail
- Headboard and rail
- Mattress and rail
Although commonly associated with neglect, bedsores can also be a sign of physical abuse. This is true if a caregiver knowingly allows them to occur and does not take adequate steps to prevent or heal the sores.
A bedsore — also known as a pressure ulcer — is a wound on the body, often occurring in bony areas such as the elder’s back, ankles, hips, or buttocks. Stage 4 bedsores should be taken very seriously, as they can be deadly for vulnerable elders, especially if the sores become infected.
The bones of elderly adults are more porous, making fractures or breaks a more common occurrence. While some broken bones and fractures can result from accidents, it is also possible to see these injuries in physical abuse victims.
Broken bones can be a sign of mistreatment by nursing home staff who are putting the well-being of residents at risk. Elderly residents who suffer from these medical conditions should be monitored closely for all forms of abuse.
Dehydration & Malnutrition
A lack of proper nutrition and hydration can occur when elders are not adequately cared for or lose their appetite due to trauma. Each of these scenarios could be due to nursing home neglect.
If you believe your loved one is suffering from dehydration or malnutrition, it is urgent to get medical assistance. Complications from severe malnutrition or dehydration can cause life-threatening conditions and even death.
Falls & Fractures
Falls in nursing homes are a sad reality, as frail seniors are at increased risk due to muscle weakness, health conditions, and certain medications. However, nursing homes are responsible for preventing falls and fractures through adequate staffing and proper supervision.
If your loved one is at risk for falls and fractures, speak with nursing home staff members about your concerns.
Head Injuries & Concussions
Injuries to the head resulting in mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) or worse can be a sign of physical abuse. However, there may be other causes as well. Concussions are caused by trauma to the brain and can also be a sign of nursing home abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1-3 million infections occur annually in long-term care facilities, killing up to 400,000 residents per year. Nursing homes may be held liable if they fail to prevent or treat resident infections.
Common nursing home infections include:
If infections are not treated properly and promptly, they can quickly lead to sepsis, which can be especially deadly for frail seniors.
Neglected nursing home residents may not know they have to take their medications or may be given improper doses by staff members. They also may be given medications for the wrong reasons.
A 2017 study conducted by the Washington Post estimated that nearly 180,000 nursing home residents are unnecessarily given antipsychotics each week. The Post noted that the drugs are prescribed to sedate patients rather than treat actual mental health issues.
Spinal injuries can occur if a nursing home resident suffers from a fall. They could also be nursing home abuse injuries. Spinal cord damage prevents signals from the brain from reaching other parts of the body.
Health issues linked to spinal cord injuries include difficulty breathing, loss of bowel control, and paralysis.
Recurring or excessive physical injuries in any form must be taken seriously. Because older adults are already frail, nursing home abuse injuries can tragically lead to the wrongful death of a nursing home resident.
Take action without delay if you notice any of these nursing home abuse injuries.
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse Injuries
The goal of any nursing home is to prevent injuries to residents before they happen. The best way to keep your loved one safe is to visit them regularly and watch for any signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Some additional tips to prevent nursing home abuse injuries include:
- Getting friends and family to check in on your loved one
- Learning the difference between signs of normal aging and elder abuse
- Reporting suspected abuse to the nursing home
- Taking any reports of abuse or neglect seriously
If your loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse injuries, you may have legal options under the law.
Nursing Home Abuse Injury Laws
State and federal laws can help protect residents from nursing home abuse injuries. These laws are designed to keep nursing home residents safe from abuse and neglect.
Federal laws that help prevent nursing home abuse injury include:
- Elder Justice Act
- No FEAR Act
- Older Americans Act
- Violence Against Women Act
There are also state laws and statutes that help protect seniors, such as:
- Adult Protective Services (APS)
- Criminal laws
- Elder Protective Services (EPS)
- Mandatory reporting laws
- Ombudsman programs
- Other jurisdictional laws
If a nursing home violates these laws and statutes, it could mean you have legal options for addressing your loved one’s injuries.
Nursing Home Abuse Injury Legal Options
Nursing home abuse injury legal options vary based on each situation. If a nursing home caused serious injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Nursing home abuse lawsuits almost always settle outside of court.
Nursing home abuse claims usually involve the following steps:
- A lawsuit is filed.
- Evidence is gathered.
- A settlement amount is proposed.
- Negotiations begin with the opposing attorneys.
- A settlement agreement is reached.
In the unlikely event of a settlement not being reached, the lawsuit will go to trial for a verdict by a judge or jury. A skilled nursing home abuse lawyer has the experience to resolve your case as quickly and successfully as possible.
Nursing Home Abuse Injury Lawyers
The Nursing Home Abuse Justice team can connect you with some of the top nursing home abuse attorneys in the country. Our national network of personal injury law firms has experienced nursing home abuse lawyers in each state.
If you or a loved one suffered from nursing home abuse injuries, connect with us now. Our patient advocates are available day and night to speak with you about your potential case.
When you work with our network, you will receive a free consultation and will never be charged an upfront fee. See if you can take legal action with a free case review.