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Traumatic Facial Injuries Common in Nursing Home Residents, Study Finds

We ask nursing homes to care for our elderly loved ones specifically to keep them safe from injuries. Due to their age and the possibility of other ailments, nursing home injuries can severely impact an elderly person's health, wellbeing, and future care.

And while it would seem obvious for nursing homes to take special precautions to keep residents and patients from falling, a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests nursing homes aren't doing enough to prevent falls and that those falls can lead to a significant amount of traumatic facial injuries.

Nursing Home Injury Numbers

The study examined data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to get a total number of facial trauma incidents involving individuals older than 60. The number was then culled to nursing home residents, and partitioned by diagnosis, anatomical site, demographic data, and mechanism of the injury.

In total, researchers found 109,795 nursing home residents "who required emergency department care for facial trauma." Older women were especially vulnerable, sustaining a greater proportion of injuries as they got older. The two most common injuries listed in the study were lacerations (44.3 percent) and other soft-tissue injuries (41.8 percent). Fractures occurred in over 12 percent of the examined cases, with nasal and orbital bone fractures leading an ignominious list. Most common, nursing home patients were injured after coming into direct contact with structural housing elements or fixed furniture in the homes, and almost a quarter occurred while getting in and of bed.

Next Steps

Slip-and-fall injuries, while common, are referred to as a preventable "never event," meaning an obviously adverse medical even that can result in death or significant disability. There are 29 such events defined by the National Quality Forum, and among them is "Patient death or serious injury associated with a fall while being cared for in a health care setting." It is partly due to that preventability that the JAMA initiated the study, and in the end concluded:

Despite falls being considered a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services preventable never event in hospitals, our analysis in the nursing home setting found more than 100,000 facial injuries during 5 years, suggesting these underappreciated injuries contribute substantially to health care expenditures. Although structural elements facilitated the greatest number of falls, transfer to and from bed remains a significant mechanism, suggesting an area for intervention.

If a loved one has suffered facial injuries in a nursing home, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.

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