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Traumatic brain injuries among nursing home residents

If you are one of the many Louisiana residents forced to make the painful decision to place your aging parent in a nursing home, it probably was one of the most difficult decisions you have ever made. You likely worry that even though (s)he seems to be doing all right, (s)he may not be receiving the care (s)he needs. And given the horror stories about nursing home abuse and neglect that often fill the airwaves and the internet, you fear that your parent could be subjected to such treatment without your knowing about it.

Nursing home residents do suffer accidents, even in the best and most well-staffed facilities, and falls are the most common accident among the elderly. Not only does the first fall make it more likely the patient will fall again, but it puts him or her at high risk for sustaining a traumatic brain injury if and when (s)he falls.

Elderly patient TBI statistics

Emergency rooms across the country saw over 142,000 elderly TBI victims in a recent five-year period. The TBI was serious enough for 81,500 of them; i.e., 57 percent, that they had to be admitted to the hospital where 14,300 of them subsequently died. For those who survived, their symptoms were more severe, lasted longer and resulted in a poorer prognosis than those of younger people who had received similar traumatic brain injuries.

TBI symptoms

A traumatic brain injury is a brain dysfunction caused by a blow to the head and/or neck. Falls are the most common TBI causes and the results can be catastrophic. Since each victim’s TBI is unique to him or her, symptoms vary widely from patient to patient. In addition, symptoms often do not appear for hours, days, or even weeks after the fall that caused the TBI.

If you know or suspect that your parent fell, be on the lookout for the following symptoms

  • Unusual difficulties speaking
  • Unusual difficulties understanding what you say to him or her
  • Inappropriate responses to the questions you ask and/or the comments you make
  • Unusual difficulties remembering, reasoning or thinking in general
  • Onset of cranky, aggressive and/or combative behavior
  • Onset of anxiety or depression

Why nursing home patients fall

The most common reason why nursing home patients fall is that they do not receive the care they need when they need it. For instance, if your parent needs to go to the bathroom, but no one answers the buzzer or call light to help him or her, (s)he soon will decide to walk to the bathroom without assistance. This very reasonable decision can result in a fall during which (s)he hits his or head on the floor or on a piece of furniture or equipment in the room. If (s)he is over 75 years of age, his or her chances of sustaining a TBI are much higher than if (s)he were younger.

Obviously you cannot be with your parent at all times and must trust that his or her nursing home caregivers actually are giving the care (s)he needs when (s}he needs it. If you discover, however, that your parent has sustained a fall, you may wish to consider speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney. (S)he can assess the situation and help you determine whether or not you have a valid claim against the nursing home for abuse and/or neglect. 

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Lundy Lundy Soileau & South, LLP

Main Office: 501 Broad Street Lake Charles, LA 70601 | Phone: 337-439-0707

Mailing Address: PO Box 3010 Lake Charles, LA 70602 | Fax: 337.439.1029