Back and Spinal Injuries in Nursing Home Patients

Nursing home residents have a greater risk for back and spinal injuries than the general population, given their advanced years and present health complications. These residents require extensive care and supervision to protect them from falls, staff member abuse, and other causes of back and spinal injuries.

Whether your injuries resulted in total paralysis or minor spinal damage, Nursing Home Justice will hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions. Contact our offices today at (303) 775-8128 to schedule a free consultation.

What are Back & Spinal Injuries?

Your spinal cord is one of the human body’s most vital and complex parts. It’s your body’s main support structure and primary communication pathway for your brain and muscles. When this pathway is damaged or cut off, victims could experience several life-changing symptoms.

Types of Spinal Damage

You could experience two types of spinal damage: complete or incomplete.

  • Complete Spinal Damage – Complete spinal damage involves total paralysis. Victims could experience paralysis from the neck down (quadriplegia) or in just two limbs (paraplegia)
  • Incomplete Spinal Damage – Incomplete spinal injuries mean you still have control over one or both sides of your body. The communication between your brain and your muscles isn’t completely cut off.

Common Causes of Back Injuries in Nursing Homes

Several factors contribute to back injuries in nursing homes, including the following:

  • Age ­– The average age of a nursing home resident is around 80 years old. As the body ages, residents might experience a decline in musculoskeletal function and bone flexibility. In other words, the body becomes more fragile and prone to back and spine injuries. Staff members should be mindful of at-risk residents and care for them according to their needs.
  • Slip and Falls – Falling is one of the leading causes of back injuries in nursing homes. Staff must ensure that rooms and hallways are clear of any obstructions that could cause a fall. Staff members must safely transport residents and avoid dropping them.
  • Abuse – Physical abuse — such as pushing, hitting, or kicking — could result in significant back and spinal injuries.
  • Neglect – Certain residents might require 24-hour assistance to use the bathroom and move around their rooms. An understaffed nursing home might neglect these residents and increase their risk for a back injury.

Back & Spinal Cord Injury Complications

Injuries to your back and spinal cord could be long-lasting and require significant rehabilitation. You or a loved one could suffer from one or more of the following complications:

  • Circulatory Issues – Spinal cord injuries could prevent your brain from controlling your cardiac nerves and result in blood clots and an abnormal heart rate
  • Paralysis – Your spinal injury could have resulted in total or partial paralysis. Victims who are quadriplegic or paraplegic could experience bedsores when they remain in the same position for too long.
  • Respiratory Issues – If the spinal cord injury occurs near the neck, residents might require temporary assistance with breathing. In severe cases, residents might need help breathing for the rest of their lives.
  • Bladder or Bowel Issues – Spinal injury victims might require a catheter to urinate and experience complications with emptying their bowels.
  • Constant Pain – A spinal injury could cause nerve damage, leaving victims in constant physical pain. If your back injury didn’t directly impact your spinal cord, you could still experience significant pain until it fully heals.

How Can Nursing Homes Prevent Spinal Cord Injuries?

To prevent spinal cord injuries, nursing homes must address their main cause: falling. Nursing homes often use physical restraints to keep residents from moving around their rooms unsupervised.

However, this tactic has been proven to be ineffective. Residents often fall while they’re trying to escape the restraints. Restraints have also been known to increase a resident’s risk for physical abuse. Rather than restraining residents to their beds, they could use the following methods to prevent back and spinal injuries:

Modifying the Living Space

The nursing home should ensure the facility has been modified to lower the fall risk. Nursing homes can prevent falling by lowering a resident’s bed, keeping walkways clear, and providing footwear that prevents slipping.

Providing Adequate Staffing

Nursing homes must hire enough personnel to care for the residents in the home. Many nursing homes cut costs by hiring very few nurses to care for the many residents at the facility. Without proper supervision, residents could fall as they try to go to the restroom or wander down the hallway.

Hiring Qualified Nurses

Nursing homes must hire qualified nurses to care for each resident. Inexperienced nurses might drop patients while being transferred or be unaware of the proper protocol for caring for patients with a high fall risk.

Treatment Options for Spinal Cord Injury Victims

As with any injury, rehabilitation depends on its severity. The rehab for an individual with total paralysis differs significantly from someone with minor spinal damage. In general, you could expect the following methods of rehabilitation:

  • Physical therapy to regain strength and communication skills
  • Vocational rehabilitation to gain an understanding of the type of work you’re able to perform if you intend on returning to work
  • Adaptive devices like a wheelchair or walker to aid in mobility while you regain your strength

What Compensation Could You Receive for Your Injuries?

When you suffer from a back or spinal cord injury, you could recover from the following damages:

  • Current and ongoing medical expenses
  • Caregiver expenses
  • Loss in quality of life
  • Physical pain and emotional suffering
  • Impairment
  • Costs associated with acquiring adaptive devices like wheelchairs and walkers

There’s a chance that your loved one has suffered an untimely death due to a nursing home spinal injury. In that case, you could recover the following damages:

  • Loss of financial support the decedent would have provided if they intended to go back to work
  • Funeral costs
  • Grief, sorrow, and loss of companionship