Broken Bones in Nursing Homes

By Attorney Richard F. Hitz

Most people remember the experiencing of suffering a broken bone. It may have happened on a playground, falling off a bike, or playing sports. Most of us can remember the cast and the recovery. Millions of people suffer broken bones every year, but when an elderly patient suffers a broken bone, it can be far more dangerous than falling off a swing as a young child.

According to CDC research, every year, millions of older people (age 65 and over) will experience a fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people fall. Statistics also show that falling once doubles their chances of falling again. Furthermore, 1,800 elderly Americans die in nursing homes because of falls or fall-related injuries.

While broken bones in nursing homes are sometimes true accidents that cannot be prevented, there are other times when nursing home staff inexperience or negligence may lead to serious injury or death to a resident.

Nursing homes charge the government, through Medicare, or bill families $5,000-$10,000 a month to receive expensive 24-hour skilled nursing care. Nursing homes have a responsibility to advocate for their patients and to exercise due diligence in making sure their patients’ needs are being met. That responsibility increases when the patients cannot speak on their own behalf, e.g. when the resident has dementia or is physically disabled.

For many nursing home residents, treating doctors will order the nursing home to implement a detailed patient transferring plan. Many of these plans require the nursing home to use a mechanical lift and/or to have two staff members to transfer the resident in and out of a wheelchair or bed. Typically, transferring or care plans like this are put into place to help reduce the risk of falls and injuries. The nursing homes are also allowed to charge the government more money for a resident that has these higher needs like a two-person transfer.

However, in some tragic cases, nursing home staff will choose not to follow a doctor’s transferring plan. Instead, just one staff member will attempt to move a resident without help or the use of the ordered assisting lift. In many of these cases, the negligent staff member will drop the resident causing a serious injury like a hip or leg fracture. To make matters worse, some staff members will fear losing their job and simply put the fallen resident back into bed or a wheelchair, tell no one, and hope they won’t get in trouble. Because many residents have limited ability to communicate, a fall with a fracture will go undiagnosed and untreated. This delay can be for hours or in the worst cases, many days.

An elderly resident who doesn’t receive an immediate medical evaluation after a fall can suffer from severe pain and develop complications if the condition goes undiagnosed and untreated. This may lead to unnecessary pain and suffering, permanent injuries, or even death.

If someone close to you has suffered a broken bone in a nursing home and the nursing home’s explanation of the injury makes no sense, it is important to take action. Our attorneys have specific experience representing victims and families who have suffered losses caused by negligent nursing homes. If you would like to discuss your case or want more information, please contact our offices for a confidential consultation.

Email Attorney Rich Hitz at rich@carlsonburnett.com to set up a free consultation.

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