Preventable Falls Often Result in Subdural Hematomas at Nursing Homes

Falls are a leading cause of injury at nursing homes in South Carolina and across the nation. Not only are seniors at greater risk of falls, they are also more susceptible to injuries from them – including concussions and subdural hematomas. The term “subdural hematoma” simply means a collection or pooling of blood on the brain’s surface. Elderly patients often sustain this type of injury due to a loss of balance and the resulting head trauma.  

Why Fall Injuries Continue to Happen in Senior Care Facilities

Nursing home and assisted living facilities are suppose to perform fall risk assessments and create detailed plans to prevent harm to the elderly, especially to seniors with medical conditions or a history of losing their balance. Regrettably, most nursing homes are understaffed. Likewise, a number of caregivers are unqualified and inadequately trained. Thus, patients are put at risk, and otherwise preventable injuries become commonplace. There is no excuse for putting profits ahead of safety, yet it happens every day at South Carolina’s senior care facilities. If nursing homes would spend the time and money necessary to provide quality patient care, there would be far less falls and life-threatening injuries. 

What Nursing Homes & Doctors Can Do To Check for a Subdural Hematoma

When a fall occurs, the patient should almost always be checked for head injury. This is especially true if no one witnessed the incident. In medicine, the rule is “rule out the worst first.” In the case of falls, that means checking for brain trauma and broken hips. In addition to visible bruising, the nursing home staff should pay special attention to whether the patient is showing any signs of disorientation, slurred speech, or headaches. All of these changes are symptoms of a subdural hemorrhage.  

Doctors check for subdural hematomas by performing CT scans and/or MRIs. The problem is that an initial CT scan may come back negative even though the patient is in fact suffering from a brain bleed. The reason is that there are two types of subdural hematomas: acute and chronic. An acute subdural hematoma may be associated with a skull fracture and is visible on a CT scan almost immediately after the injury. In contrast, a chronic subdural hematoma is slower to develop and may not show up on a CT scan the day of the fall. That is why it is critical for ongoing assessment of the patient – possibly including a repeat scan – to take place. Sadly, I am currently reviewing two cases in which elderly patients died from subdural hematomas in the weeks following the fall because doctors and nurses chose not to perform repeat scans or assessments that could have identified chronic bleeds.

Options for Your Family

I am not the type of attorney who believes every nursing home injury is cause for litigation, but I will reiterate that most falls could be prevented. It is when businesses choose to improperly staff facilities and care for seniors that many incidents occur, and it is in those instances that the only way to restore your loved one’s right to safety and dignity may be through consultation with a lawyer. Other options include contacting DHEC, meeting with the facility’s management team, and potentially moving your loved one to a different center.

South Carolina’s nursing homes receive money in return for their promise to provide a safe, nurturing, healthy environment to our seniors. If they have broken that promise, and you have questions, I am here to help. Contact my office today at 803-790-2800 to schedule a free consultation. 

Kenneth Berger
Columbia South Carolina attorney dedicated to securing justice by helping the truly injured