While most nursing homes provide excellent care for their residents, sadly it remains the case that negligence, and even abuse occurs in some cases. This can result in personal injury and emotional trauma.
Nursing homes have a duty of care to reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring and to ensure the safety and well-being of their residents. If they fail to uphold this duty, the nursing home or residential care facility could be held liable for any harm caused.
Common types of nursing home injuries
Accidents can happen at nursing homes despite the level of trust placed in them while they look after a family member. These may occur from a drop in standards of care during daily activities, or result from neglectful conduct or abuse. Preventative measures should be in place to minimise the risk of incidents occurring.
Some common types of nursing home injuries include:
- Broken bones, spinal injuries and fractures
The risk of falling increases with age, with one in three older people experiencing a fall every year and two-thirds falling again within six months.
Falls in older people can have life changing consequences. Those over 65 are most likely to suffer serious injuries, disability, psychological consequences following a fall. In some cases a fall can be fatal.
However falls can be predicted and prevented. Nursing home residents must be appropriately supervised and aided when necessary to prevent slips or falls. A resident could fall if they have poor vision or balance, medication side effects, or if they don’t have the equipment they need to help them stand or walk.
Attention should always be paid to trip and fall hazards, such as wet floors, poor lighting, or incorrectly placed equipment in hallways.
The purpose of bedrails is to prevent patients from falling from their beds, however they can also been the cause of injuries in nursing homes and hospitals.
Poorly-fitted bed rails can lead to a person’s neck, chest or limbs becoming trapped in gaps between the bed rails, or between the bedrails and the bed, headboard or mattress.
Nursing homes must ensure the risk of bed rail injuries is minimised for their residents’ safety.
Malnutrition is a serious condition where a person’s diet does not contain enough nutrients to meet the demands of their body. This can affect growth, physical health, mood, behaviour and many of the functions of the body.
Malnutrition and dehydration in residents of nursing homes can happen if staffing is insufficient, if there is high staff turnover, or if there is a general lack of personalised care in the facility.
Concussions generally result in dizziness, headaches, nausea, slurred speech and confusion. They can also lead to significant health problems such as hemorrages or dementia. Older people typically take a long time to recover from head injuries, and they can even be fatal if proper medical attention is not provided.
Some nursing home residents are at risk of falls from attempting to get out of bed without the required support. A slippery surface on a bathroom floor could lead a resident to fall and hit their head off a sink, wall or toilet.
Nursing homes must provide safe and hazard free environments to prevent the possibility of a resident sustaining a head or brain injury.
Elderly residents of nursing homes tend to have weaker immune systems or underlying health conditions making them more susceptible to certain infections and diseases.
It’s vital that nursing homes maintain disease control and prevention measures to ensure the health and well-being of residents.
Nursing home abuse
In Ireland, almost 16,000 cases of elder abuse were reported between 2017 to 2022 within Health Service Executive-funded services for older people. A total of 4,379 cases of physical abuse and 665 cases of sexual abuse were reported.1
Abuse in nursing homes can be emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, discriminatory, or simply involve a neglectful level of care. The risk of abuse may increase when staff members become overworked or frustrated.
When nursing homes are understaffed, patients may not receive adequate medical care and attention for their needs, which may have knock-on effects. For example, a drop in the level of care for personal hygiene could lead to infections.
Patients may also experience verbal abuse by care staff. This behaviour may arise from stressed and overworked staff, or if there is inadequate supervision.
Emotional stress for an elderly person can be a traumatising event and can lead to depression, anxiety, or even changes in personality and behaviour. Residents may also refuse care, suffer from sleep deprivation, experience sudden weight loss and be more susceptible to injury and infections.
If you suspect abuse in nursing home facilities, reach out to the HSE at 1850 24 1850, or locate your local safeguarding and protection teams for direct contact.
Additionally, you can communicate with the nurse manager at the nursing home. Each nursing home is expected to have an appointed and trained individual specifically for addressing elder abuse cases.
We also recommend you contact a member of our legal team if your family member has suffered any injuries or harm while in a nursing home.
If you or a family member have experienced any form of injury or negligence while under the care of a nursing home, you should speak to a solicitor as soon as possible after the event.
At Tracey’s we specialise in medical negligence claims. We can provide legal advice and guide you through the legal journey if you wish to pursue a claim against the responsible party.
1 Source: The Irish Times (2022)