What is head trauma?
Head trauma refers to any injury that affects the skull, scalp, or brain. This injury may be anything from a small bump to a serious fracture that causes internal bleeding. The most common type of head trauma is a concussion. Common causes of head trauma include falls, car accidents, physical assault, and sports injuries.
Head injuries may be either open or closed. An open head injury occurs when the victim collides with an object that penetrates through the skull and into the brain. For example, open head trauma often occurs in a car accident or when a gunshot pierces the skull. By contrast, a closed head injury is one that fails to break through the skull – like the type of head trauma usually sustained in a fall.
How is head trauma caused by nursing home neglect or abuse?
In nursing homes, residents may sustain head trauma because of hazardous conditions, a lack of assistance, or abuse. Because of conditions like advanced age, impaired sight, and weakened muscles, many nursing home residents are more susceptible to falls. This is especially true if the nursing home floor is slippery or wet, if the lighting is poor, or if walkways are obstructed by furniture, medical equipment, or tripping hazards like loose rugs.
Many nursing home residents need help walking, getting to the bathroom, and getting in and out of bed. If a nursing home fails to provide enough help, either because it employs too few staff or because staff are inadequately trained, then residents may try to perform these actions on their own. However, this often leads to serious head trauma when the resident falls or hits his or her head.
While it occurs less commonly, head trauma may also be a sign of nursing home abuse, particularly of physical assault.
What should a nursing home do to prevent head trauma?
To prevent head trauma, nursing homes should eliminate hazardous conditions as much as possible. This means drying wet floors and replacing burnt out lightbulbs immediately. In some cases, nursing homes may also need to add more light to a room or clear objects out of a hallway in order to reduce the risk of resident falls.
Nursing home should employ enough staff members to assist residents on an individual basis, and should make sure residents always have the option to call for help and receive it promptly. Furniture and assistive devices like bedrails should be used in accordance with nursing home regulations and in the safest manner possible.
To prevent residents from suffering physical abuse, nursing home managers should carefully screen all prospective employees and perform background checks before hiring. After hiring, managers should supervise caregivers and step in immediately if they recognize signs of abuse.
Can the nursing home be held responsible for head trauma?
If head trauma occurs through nursing home neglect or abuse, then the nursing home may be responsible for the injury. For example, if nursing home staff fail to clean up a spill or dry a floor that has been mopped, leaving it wet for an extended period of time, and a resident slips and sustains a concussion, then the nursing home is guilty of neglect and will likely be held responsible for the resident’s head trauma. As such, the nursing home will be required by law to pay for any medical bills, pain, and suffering related to the head trauma. If a head injury requires emergency care or surgery, the nursing home may be required to cover that cost as well.