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Study: Nursing Home Patients Suffer High Rates of Facial Injuries

Nursing home residents suffer high rates of facial injuries, according to a recent study published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. In all, approximately 20,000 individuals residing in nursing homes throughout the U.S. have suffered what could be considered “serious facial injuries” at some point in the last 12 months. 

Most of these injuries are incurred by falling and hitting hard surfaces. A substantial number also occur due to patients falling while getting in and out of bed.

Given that we already have 1.4 million people living in long-term nursing homes in the U.S. and that the population is aging, programs that focus on preventing fall-related injuries in nursing homes are going to be all the more important. This is especially true considering the severity these types of nursing home injuries can cause – including immense pain, long-term disability and hastened health decline leading to premature death.

Our nursing home injury lawyers understand that while families move their loved ones into these facilities hoping to keep them safe, these kinds of preventable injuries happen all too often.

Face injuries especially can be concerning for those who are elderly due to the fact they can impair vital functions, such as swallowing, speech, sight and sometimes even proper breathing, the study authors say.

Researchers reached this estimated number of injuries by closely looking at the count and causes of facial injuries collected from hospital emergency departments across the country. Analysts scoured data from 2011 to 2015, and discovered there were nearly 110,000 people over the age of 60 living in long-term nursing homes who required emergency care as a result of facial injuries. More than half the patients who suffered these injuries were over the age of 84 and the majority were women.

This first of all tells us that the 20,000 figure is actually probably a lower estimate than the actual number of facial injuries incurred annually. Those are only the incidents for which patients must receive emergency care. There could be many other cases in which nursing home nurses and doctors provide care on site.

For this study, the team of researchers looked at where on the patient’s face the injury occurred and how the injury happened.

Based on this, researchers determined the most common kinds of injuries were:

  • Deep cuts – skin tears (accounting for 44 percent of all facial injuries);
  • Soft tissue injuries/ bruising (accounting for about 40 percent of all facial injuries);
  • Bone fractures (accounting for about 13 percent of all facial injuries).

In cases where patient suffered a broke bone, approximately two-thirds suffered a broken nose. The second most commonly-cited fracture was a fractured eye socket.

Many of these cases happened when patients fell on floors, counter tops doors or cabinets, and getting in and out of bed accounted for nearly a quarter of all incidents.

But despite the ways in which nursing homes characterize these incidents as “accidental,” it does not mean they can’t be prevented. In fact, nursing homes have a responsibility to identify patients who might be a fall risk and to take appropriate measures to protect them. This means providing timely and appropriate assistance to patients who require help getting in and out of bed, using the restroom and carrying out other daily functions.

Although the study authors focused on ways in which patients can reduce their risk of a fall (regularly exercising, having their vision checked, attending physical therapy, etc.), it does not negate the nursing home’s responsibility – and potential liability – for failing to protect patients from falls.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Facial injuries are common in U.S. nursing home residents, March 23, 2017, By Madeline Kennedy, Reuters

More Blog Entries:

New Sepsis Treatment Promising for Nursing Home Neglect Victims, April 3, 2017, Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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