What is subdural hematoma?
Subdural hematoma, or SDH, occurs when a person develops bleeding between the soft outside covering of the brain and the brain itself. Subdural hematoma may be caused by a fall or concussion, but it can occur in other circumstances as well. Especially in elderly adults, SDH may occur when the brain is jostled by indirect head trauma. This means you could sustain subdural hematoma without directly hitting your head.
Because of the shrinking the brain undergoes with age, older people have a greater space outside the brain in which blood can collect, and more fragile veins that tear easily, leaking blood into this space and trapping it there. Not all victims of SDH need treatment, but the condition can turn life-threatening quickly, which is why people suffering from SDH should be examined via a CT scan and closely monitored.
How is subdural hematoma caused by nursing home neglect or abuse?
Subdural hematoma sometimes follows a fall or head trauma, which can occur through nursing home neglect. Nursing home residents may fall due to a hazardous environment, or due to a lack of assistance from caregivers. By leaving obstructions in a resident’s walkway or leaving nursing home floors wet, staff members increase the risk of resident falls. In other cases, nursing homes neglect to help physically weak residents get in and out of bed or to the bathroom and other areas. Or they may fail to provide residents with devices like hand rails and walkers, which help to prevent falls.
Many of the symptoms of subdural hematoma are similar to other conditions common in the elderly: such as dementia, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease. For this reason, nursing home caregivers may mistake subdural hematoma for another condition, especially if they fail to consult with the resident’s physician in making a diagnosis.
What should a nursing home do to prevent subdural hematoma?
The first way nursing homes should prevent subdural hematoma is by protecting their residents from falls. They can do this by minimizing hazardous conditions, supervising residents who are at greater risk for falls, and providing help through caregivers, walkers, hand rails, and other assistive devices.
Nursing homes should also be aware of subdural hematoma, its symptoms, and risk factors. Residents with a history of epilepsy or alcoholism, an unhealthy body weight, and a sedentary lifestyle may be more at risk. With this last point in mind, nursing homes should provide opportunities for movement and exercise, when possible, for all nursing home residents.
If a resident exhibits signs of head trauma or subdural hematoma, the nursing home should bring in the resident’s doctor to make a diagnosis and suggest a course of treatment as necessary. Nursing homes are required to evaluate residents upon their entry to the nursing home, and at regular intervals afterward, in order to be aware of their condition and catch things like subdural hematoma.
Can the nursing home be held responsible for subdural hematoma?
Since elderly people often develop subdural hematoma without sustaining a fall, a nursing home may not be at fault in every case of SDH. However, if the resident sustained SDH in a fall or other unavoidable accident, and if the nursing home should have recognized the presence of subdural hematoma and provided treatment – but failed to – then that nursing home will likely be held responsible for the resident’s injury.
If this injury resulted in the death of the resident, then the nursing home may be required to compensate the resident’s family for the death of their loved one, for any medical bills related to the resident’s subdural hematoma, funeral expenses, and money for the pain and suffering of the deceased loved one. Even if the resident did not die as a result of the nursing home’s neglect, the nursing home may be required to pay money to the resident for any medical bills incurred and for any pain and suffering resulting from the injury.