Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorney
Birmingham & Throughout Alabama

Head and Brain Injuries Due to Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

Experienced Alabama nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys protect residents with TBIs

Nursing homes have a responsibility to protect residents’ health and safety. Unfortunately, that responsibility is not always met. Two of the most severe possible consequences of nursing home abuse and neglect are traumatic brain injury (TBI) and acquired brain injury (ABI).

Severe head and brain injuries can result in debilitating conditions like cognitive impairment, memory loss, motor function limitations, permanent disability, and paralysis. Tragically, for nursing home residents, head and brain injuries are often fatal.

Alabama nursing home and long-term care facility residents have a legal right to medical care dignity. When care centers fail to meet legally mandated standards, the facility and its owners should be held accountable. Understanding how head and brain injuries are caused by nursing home abuse and neglect as well as signs and symptoms of this type of injury can help protect elderly residents’ health and rights.

How can nursing home abuse and neglect cause head and brain injuries?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of brain injury caused by direct trauma to the brain, such as hitting an object. A concussion is a type of mild TBI, but no brain injury is truly minor, especially if the victim is elderly and in frail health, to begin with.

Falls are the leading cause of TBI among nursing home residents. One of a nursing facility’s most important responsibilities is to prevent residents from falling. However, that responsibility too often goes unmet. Falls in nursing homes can occur due to:

  • Poor lighting
  • Failing to promptly clean up spills (slip hazards)
  • Leaving walkways cluttered with debris (trip hazards)
  • Failure to assist residents in getting into and out of bed
  • Inadequate handrails and railings
  • Poorly fitted and maintained wheelchairs
  • Uneven floors
  • Unstable furniture
  • Poorly fitted shoes

TBI can also be caused by physical abuse, whether committed by staff, other residents, or even visitors. Shaking, shoving, and rough handling can easily cause brain injuries if there is a blow to the head or if a resident stumbles and hits their head.

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is brain damage that occurs due to internal factors such as a lack of oxygen to the brain.

One of the most common causes of ABI in nursing homes is choking. If a resident can’t breathe, then no oxygen is getting to their brain, which can cause catastrophic brain damage. Nursing homes need to prevent choking incidents by assessing residents’ ability to chew and swallow, putting residents on a soft diet if necessary, properly angling beds to reduce the risk of choking, and monitoring residents during mealtimes. They also need to promptly intervene when a choking incident does occur – there is a very short window of time to perform choking rescue interventions to prevent brain damage.

Other potential causes of ABI in nursing home residents include strokes, tumors, infections that spread to the lining of the brain, seizures, and medication overdoses. Nursing homes are responsible for monitoring residents’ health and providing timely and appropriate treatment to prevent complications that can cause permanent brain damage.

Unfortunately, it is often the most vulnerable nursing home and assisted living facility residents who are at the highest risk for abuse and neglect. Factors that increase the risk of brain injury include advanced age, underlying health conditions, certain medications, and reduced mobility and balance.

Types of head and brain injuries in nursing homes

Some serious types of head and brain injuries that can be suffered by nursing home residents include:

  • Intracranial bleeding. This category encompasses various types of bleeding within the skull, such as subdural hematomas, intraparenchymal hemorrhages, and subarachnoid hemorrhages. They may be caused by physical abuse, untreated or mismanaged medical conditions, or failure to provide timely medical intervention. Symptoms may include headache, confusion, loss of consciousness, or focal neurological deficits.
  • Subdural Hemorrhage (SDH). SDH involves bleeding between the layers of tissue surrounding the brain. It is a common finding in cases of fatal physical abuse and other severe, life-threatening brain injuries.
  • Ischemic strokes. These occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked, leading to damage to the brain tissue. Ischemic stroke may be caused by untreated medical conditions, medication mismanagement, failure to prevent or treat infections, dehydration and malnutrition, and delayed response to medical emergencies. Symptoms include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and sudden severe headaches.

Warning signs of brain injuries in nursing home residents

In nursing home residents, symptoms of these injuries can vary and may sometimes be subtle or mistaken for other medical conditions. Common warning signs include:

  • Irritability/lethargy. Sudden changes in mood or behavior, increased agitation, or unexplained fatigue may indicate a head or brain injury.
  • Altered mental status. Confusion, disorientation, memory problems, or difficulty concentrating.
  • Respiratory impairment. Breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, or abnormal respiratory patterns may indicate an underlying head or brain injury.
  • Multiple fractures. The presence of multiple fractures, especially when in different stages of healing, can be a red flag for physical abuse.
  • Unusual bruising or abrasions. Varying degrees of bruises or abrasions in unusual locations, especially if observed in non-mobile individuals, can be indicative of abuse or neglect.
  • Vomiting and poor nutrition. Persistent vomiting or a decline in nutritional intake may suggest a head or brain injury that requires urgent medical attention.

Failure to promptly treat head and brain injuries can result in significant long-term health effects and is often fatal for people over 80. Nursing homes need to take these warning signs seriously, and when they don’t, families need to know their rights.

How a nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer can help

If you or your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse and suffering from head or brain injuries, take immediate action. Contact Shuttlesworth Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Our experienced Alabama nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers know how to investigate elder abuse claims and have a proven track record of success. We understand the warning signs of nursing home neglect and abuse and can guide you through the process of protecting your loved one's health and rights.

By retaining our firm, we will work with your family to build a strong case, reviewing medical records, consulting with experts, and directly dealing with the nursing home. If necessary, we will file a lawsuit and take all necessary legal action on your family's behalf. If you suspect abuse or neglect of a loved one at an Alabama nursing home, extended care center, or assisted living facility, contact Shuttlesworth Law Firm, P.C. today for a free case evaluation.

Click here to download a printable PDF version of this article, "Head and Brain Injuries Due to Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect."

American Association for Justice American Bar Association Peer Review Rated Martindale-Hubbell