Concussions and Brain Injuries in Colorado Nursing Homes

Elderly or disabled nursing home residents often require 24/7 care. When negligent nursing homes in Colorado fail to protect patients from suffering concussions and brain injuries, they must be held accountable for their negligence.

Attorney Mac Hester, leading Nursing Home Justice, is here to help your injured family member heal from concussions and brain injuries in Colorado nursing homes and to help you recover damages for their injuries.

We are prepared to advocate for your family’s right to justice. Contact a nursing home injury lawyer at (303) 775-8128 to get started on your case.

What Are Concussions & Brain Injuries?

A traumatic brain injury is any disruption in consciousness from a jolt to the brain (from a blow to the head or a sudden movement of the head).

A concussion is a momentary disruption in consciousness from a jolt to the brain; that is, it usually lasts seconds or minutes. However, the effects of a concussion may continue for a long time.

A traumatic brain injury beyond a concussion involves either visible physical injury (e.g., a skull fracture) or invisible injury (e.g., blood pooling between the brain and the skull, or even microscopic stretching and tearing of tissues inside the brain).

Concussion & Brain Injury Symptoms

When a nursing home resident suffers a concussion or brain injury, their life could be significantly and permanently affected.

Even if it’s “only” a concussion, the resident may continue to suffer from Post Concussion Syndrome: headaches, dizziness, sleep difficulties, cognitive problems, and psychological and emotions problems.

A more severe brain injury includes these symptoms as well as more debilitating, and potentially deadly, symptoms and problems. A nursing home resident who has suffered a concussion or a traumatic brain injury must be examined and treated by a physician immediately.

How Do Concussions & Brain Injuries Occur?

Most concussions and brain injuries in nursing homes happen as a result of falls when staff are not properly monitoring patients.

Most commonly, the patient slips and falls down and hits their head on the floor or on furniture – or the nursing staff drops a patient during a transfer in or out of bed or in or out of a wheelchair. Sometimes, the patient may have been pushed down by another resident.

Who’s At Risk for Concussions and Brain injuries?

Nursing home residents are elderly or physically incapable of caring for themselves; thus, all nursing home residents are at risk for falls, concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

However, certain residents are at a much higher risk for falls, and therefore for concussions and traumatic brain injuries. High fall risk factors include:

  • Prior history of falls or head injuries
  • Current limited mobility
  • Inability to transfer in and out of bed or in and out of wheelchair
  • Incontinence (need to get out of bed and go to the bathroom)
  • Difficulty with eating and drinking (leads to malnutrition and dehydration)
  • Speech difficulties (more difficult to request assistance)
  • Poor vision
  • Alzheimers or cognitive dysfunction

Prior history of wandering

What Are the Signs of a Concussion/Brain Injury?

You or your loved one might have suffered a concussion or other brain injury if you notice these symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Cognitive problems involving memory, thinking, focus and concentration
  • Psychological and emotional problems such as depression, irritability, and anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Slow thinking, speaking, or reading
  • Visual problems
  • Mood swings
  • Vomiting

In many cases, these symptoms may be misdiagnosed as being attributed to other types of medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Understanding the signs and obtaining a proper diagnosis is crucial in obtaining timely medical care for a concussion or brain injury.

What Causes Concussions & Brain Injuries?

Inadequate care plans and improper patient monitoring are usually the underlying causes of concussions and brain injuries in nursing homes.

This is reflected in the following examples of nursing home negligence:

  • Failure to perform an adequate fall risk assessmentFailure to provide adequate safety measures and fall risk protection
  • Failure to monitor the patient’s physical condition and vital signs
  • Failure to monitor the patient’s nutrition and hydration
  • Failure to timely respond to the patient’s calls for assistance
  • Failure to timely respond to alerts and alarms
  • Failure to recognize the symptoms of a head injury, leading to complications
  • Failure to notify a resident’s family members of a fall or head injury, preventing a request for treatment
  • Failure to notify physicians of the resident’s fall or head injury, preventing timely treatment and leading to complications

Other Causes of Concussions & Brain Injuries

Some of the other common causes of concussions and brain injuries in nursing homes include:

  • Patients being given high doses of medications that cause dizziness or drowsiness
  • The patient not being transferred properly
  • Physical abuse including shaking, hitting, punching, or kicking to the head
  • Patients sliding down in their chairs or beds resulting in oxygen deprivation to the brain

How Are Concussions & Brain Injuries Prevented?

Nursing homes and disabled care facilities can prevent concussions and brain injuries through detailed and proper assessment of fall risks, the creation and implementation of adequate care plans, and the implementation of adequate safety and fall risk prevention measures such as:

  • Accessible call buttons
  • Monitoring of calls for assistance
  • Alerts and alarms
  • Fitted sheets
  • Wider beds
  • Side rails on beds
  • Lowering the bed
  • Mats on the floor beside the bed
  • Training to recognize head injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injury symptoms
  • Policies and procedures for the recognition and reporting of falls, concussions, and brain injuries to families and physicians
  • Ensuring that residents receive proper nutrition and hydration.

How to Take Action to Prevent Concussions & Brain Injuries

Some of the best ways to take action to prevent yourself or your loved one from suffering a concussion or brain injury in a nursing home include:

  • Discuss any past incidents of falls with nursing home staff
  • Ask that a detailed fall risk assessment be done
  • Participate in the writing of the care plan
  • Advocate for adequate fall prevention measures
  • Monitor your family member’s health, nutrition and hydration
  • Monitor the nursing home’s response to your family member’s incontinence
  • Ask your family member about nursing home response to calls for assistance
  • Keep a close eye on your family member’s cognitive, psychological and emotional states

What Are the Consequences of a Concussion/Brain Injury?

Although concussions are temporary, symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, sleep difficulties, cognitive problems and psychological and emotional problems may persist (Post-Concussion Syndrome).

A mild or moderate traumatic brain injury often leads to a deterioration in general health and a worsening of pre-existing medical problems.

A severe traumatic brain injury can present a medical emergency such as a subdural hematoma in which the brain bleeds and swells, requiring emergency surgery – or result in a coma or even death, as various body systems (e.g., respiratory, cardiovascular) shut down.

Increased Risks for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Concussions and brain injuries can also increase the risk of a patient developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, approximately 8.4% of patients developed dementia after a concussion, while 5.9% of patients developed dementia if they experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Prompt medical attention is key to assessing the severity of a concussion or brain injury. However, nursing home staff may be hesitant to call emergency responders to the nursing home facility or file injury reports. This lack of urgency could result in debilitating or permanent brain damage.

If a family member has had a fall and hit their head, it is important that you have them examined by a physician right away.

Who’s Liable for Concussions & Brain Injuries?

Nursing home facilities will often have countless reasons for why concussions and brain injuries were unavoidable.

However, concussions and brain injuries in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are entirely avoidable and preventable with the right fall risk assessments, care plan, fall prevention measures, and vigilant monitoring and care.

Experienced and well-trained nursing home staff should take the steps necessary to prevent concussions and brain injuries at all costs. Failure to uphold their medical duty of care to their patients constitutes negligence.

Inexperienced Nursing Home Staff

Nursing home staff members handling patients should be trained properly and have the experience needed to do their jobs without putting patients at risk.

If nursing home staff are not trained properly or are negligent in their care of nursing home residents, they could be held accountable for a victim’s concussion or traumatic brain injury.

Parent Nursing Home Companies

Nursing homes are often a part of larger corporations owned by parent companies. These parent companies are profit-motivated, causing nursing home staff to cut corners, hire inexperienced staff, understaff the facility, and otherwise engage in negligent patient care.

They, accordingly, should be held accountable for putting their profits ahead of patient safety.

Understaffed Nursing Homes

If a nursing home is understaffed, patients can suffer concussions and traumatic brain injuries when they are forced to attempt to be mobile on their own.

Concussions and brain injuries may also occur when nursing home staff members attempt to move a patient without adequate staff for the transfer.

Nursing home facilities themselves can be held accountable when understaffing is the ultimate cause of a patient’s concussion or brain injury.

What Compensation Can You Recover?

Nursing home residents who have suffered concussions or traumatic brain injuries may have the right to be compensated for economic and non-economic damages.

Some economic and non-economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Medical equipment fees
  • Costs of relocating
  • Cost of mental health counseling
  • Caregiver expenses
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

In the event your family member suffered a fatal brain injury  in their nursing home, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party and recover certain types of damages, including:

  • Loss of financial support that the decedent would have provided to the surviving spouse, heirs, or designated beneficiary (if the decedent was a rehab patient who was going to return to work)
  • Funeral expenses
  • Non-economic damages for pain and suffering, grief, and loss of companionship