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Broken Bones in Nursing Homes

Posted on December 20, 2021 in Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes should be safe and secure places for the elderly. They should not put residents at risk of suffering serious injuries. Yet, each year, nursing home residents in California are sent to emergency rooms with broken bones. Bone fractures are a serious type of injury for the elderly. They can cause major complications and permanent disabilities. If a nursing home or one of its staff members could have prevented a resident’s broken bone injury, the facility could be held responsible for the fracture.

Statistics on Broken Bones in Nursing Homes

Broken bones are common injuries reported at nursing homes, especially due to fall accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports approximately 34,000 deaths from falls among senior citizens in 2019 alone. Many of these deaths took place in long-term living facilities. The odds of suffering a bone fracture in a fall accident increase as a resident gets older.

Falls are often associated with dangerous living conditions, such as cluttered or dirty nursing homes. According to one study, 20 to 30 percent of falls in long-term care facilities are preventable. The same study found that approximately 175,000 residential care community residents in the U.S. had fallen in the past 90 days (22 percent of all current residents). Broken bones are the most common type of injury caused by falls in nursing homes.
Causes of Fractures in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have a legal and ethical responsibility to prevent serious injuries to residents. They must take reasonable steps to protect their residents from harm, such as maintaining clean and safe premises and properly supervising residents. When a nursing home or an employee falls short of this responsibility, accidents, injuries and deaths occur. Some of the most common causes of broken bones in nursing homes are:

  • Slip, trip and fall accidents
  • Falls from beds and wheelchairs
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Fainting or seizure episodes
  • Dementia or mental health conditions
  • Missing toes or the use of prosthetic devices
  • Vision problems that cause a victim to trip

Nursing homes and other long-term living facilities can help prevent bone fractures among residents by keeping rooms and hallways free of clutter, offering proper footwear and adequate lighting, preventing residents from wandering, installing bed rails, helping residents get up and sit down, using the proper techniques to transfer patients, planning safe activities, and supervising residents who are on certain medications.

Common Types of Broken Bones in Nursing Homes

An elderly nursing home resident could suffer a bone fracture to virtually any part of the body in an accident. The location of the broken bone depends on the part of the body that suffered the impact or trauma. In a fall accident, for example, a victim could break a wrist trying to break the fall. Broken bones among elderly nursing home residents are reported most often in the following places:

  • Hip
  • Pelvis
  • Back/spine
  • Arm
  • Hand
  • Leg
  • Ankle
  • Foot

The location of the broken bone can often help doctors and investigators determine the cause of the injury. A hip fracture, for example, is most commonly associated with falls. A skull fracture, on the other hand, could point to acts of violence or physical abuse. If the nursing home’s explanation for what happened does not match the location or severity of the injury, this is a red flag for nursing home abuse or neglect.

Risk Factors Involved With Broken Bones

Nursing home residents are at a higher risk of broken bones than younger populations. Senior citizens’ bones are more fragile and susceptible to fractures due to a decreased bone density. Medical conditions, pre-existing injuries and medications can add to the risk of bone fractures in the elderly, as well. Risk factors include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Physical limitations
  • Medical conditions, such as vertigo or Parkinson’s disease
  • Weakness, arthritis or osteoporosis
  • Trouble with balance
  • Isolation

If someone over the age of 65 does suffer a broken bone, he or she is at an increased risk of health complications connected to the injury. For example, a hip fracture often requires bed rest for recovery. This can have potential complications, such as bedsores, infections and blood clots. Complications related to broken bones can be fatal for elderly nursing home residents.

How Are Nursing Home Fractures Treated?

When a nursing home resident is diagnosed with a broken bone, he or she may require surgery. Surgery may be needed to reset severe bone fractures, such as to install metal pins or screws to repair the break. Then, the patient may receive a cast, sling or boot to limit mobility while the broken bone heals. If a cast is not suitable for the type of bone fracture, a doctor may recommend long periods of immobility or adaptive equipment instead.

Recovering from a broken bone can make mobility and personal hygiene difficult for a senior citizen in a nursing home. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to give a patient everything that he or she needs to heal. This may include movement exercises or physical therapy to reduce the risk of blood clots and bedsores. If a nursing home fails to provide adequate care, medical treatment or attention to a resident with a broken bone, this can increase the risk of serious and fatal health complications.

Compensation for Broken Bones in Nursing Homes

If an investigation finds that a nursing home or its staff member caused or contributed to a resident’s broken bone injury – such as through inadequate fall-prevention measures, a dangerous premises, physical abuse or neglect – the resident may be entitled to financial compensation from the facility for losses such as:

  • Medical costs
  • Ongoing health care needs
  • Medications and medical devices
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy
  • Diminished enjoyment or quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages, if applicable

Filing a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit in California can deliver justice and the financial compensation that an injured victim needs to move forward. The value of a claim is calculated based on factors such as the severity of the bone fracture, the victim’s prognosis, the actions of the defendant and the insurance coverage available.

Speak to a Lawyer if Your Loved One Suffered a Fracture in a Nursing Home

Broken bones in nursing homes are often preventable. If you or a loved one suffered a bone fracture in a nursing home or long-term care facility in Los Angeles, California, don’t hesitate to contact a Los Angeles nursing home abuse lawyer from Rose, Klein & Marias LLP to discuss your legal rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation. Call (213) 626-0571 when you are ready to speak to an attorney about your rights. We offer initial consultations at no cost or obligation.