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Study: Traumatic Facial Injuries Prevalent Among Elderly Due to Nursing Home Falls

A new study by researchers at Wayne State University reveals a “substantial amount of costs” to the U.S. healthcare system due to fall-related injuries in nursing homes. hand

Specifically, the study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, focused on facial injuries. Looking at emergency room data from 2011 to 2015, they found approximately 110,000 nursing home residents in their 60s who were treated for facial injuries. The risk of facial injury increased with age and for female residents.

Facial trauma among the elderly is reportedly “largely neglected” in previous studies, and researchers asserted additional focus on this problem will be imperative as our population ages and more people reside in nursing homes. 

Our Fort Myers injury lawyers understand that nursing home falls resulting in facial trauma are often completely preventable. Nursing homes have a responsibility to identify patients who may be a fall risk, and to take appropriate precautions.

Among nursing home residents, the most common facial injury were lacerations and soft tissue wounds, including bruises. Facial fractures were also a major problem, resulting in 3,000 hospitalizations a year. Most of these were for broken noses, though orbital (eye bone) fractures were also prevalent.

Although we tend to think of facial injury as primarily being problematic from a cosmetic standpoint, such injuries are often much more serious, especially for an elderly nursing home resident. A significant facial injury can affect one’s ability to chew, swallow, see, hear, speak and even breathe. That in turn can result in additional complications or exacerbation of other existing conditions.

When a nursing home fall occurs that causes injury to a resident, the possibility of negligence cannot be overlooked. In fact, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) consider falls “never events” in hospitals. The same is true for nursing homes, where most commonly these events involve the resident getting in or out of bed and falling onto a hard floor, cabinet, door, counter top or some other fixed object.

This is even more upsetting when we consider the whole purpose of moving a family member into a nursing home is to keep them safe and help prevent this very thing.

Also, these figures are likely low estimates when you consider researchers only weighed those incidents wherein a patient was treated in an emergency room. Cases where patients weren’t taken to the emergency room were not weighed in this data.

Even for a person who is already in a nursing home, a fall can result in an increased level of impairment and disability that cause depression and hasten one’s physical decline. Particularly in cases where emergency room treatment is required, these injuries are serious and should not be overlooked. They can also often be accompanied by other serious conditions that aren’t always immediately apparent, like a concussion or traumatic brain injury.

Relatives of nursing home patients injured in falls should consult with an experienced injury lawyer to weigh possible legal options. This may include action against the nursing home. In some situations, it may also involve a product liability claim (if a mechanic lift fails to perform as expected).

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Study: Facial injuries in SNFs ‘underappreciated,’ contribute significantly to healthcare costs, March 23, 2017, By Emily Mongan, McKnights

More Blog Entries:

Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Still Unsettled, March 27, 2017, Nursing Home Injury Lawyer Blog