With elderly persons being defined in most contexts legally and medically as those persons sixty-five (65) years and older, legal protections are afforded to those persons over this age under numerous state and federal laws. In a broad lens, all these laws tacitly acknowledge the vulnerability of the nation’s elderly population, which on purely medical grounds is accurate. While only a small example, there is substantial medical research documenting increased risks of fractures of any form in elderly patients.
In practice, decades of research in gerontology and orthopedic surgery has shown that elderly persons carry significantly less bone density by the age of 65, with the density decreasing exponentially each year thereafter. Moreover, many elderly individuals also lack significant muscle development or strength, increasing the traumatic impact to bones in incidents, causing additional higher rates and higher intensity of fractures in the elderly. Finally, due to the frailty and limited mobility of large portions of the elderly population, shielding falls through defensive maneuvers does not occur autonomically as it does in younger patient populations who may be more accustomed to making these relatively strenuous acrobatic movements to protect oneself from the fall.
Probable Causes of Nursing Home Broken Arm Injuries, Per Medical Experts
While the causes of any given fractures to the arm will vary, the most common cause of fractures even in the elderly remains car accidents in most statistical samples, with medical researchers noting that dangerous premises type slips and falls in conjunction with attempts to break the fall by elderly patients also leads to a disproportionate number of fractures in persons over the age of sixty-five (65).
If place in the context of nursing homes, where fractures are as prevalent if not more so than in independent living elderly populations, residents endure fractures due the following reasons:
- Self-injury, typically by accident or overextension can cause minor fractures in certain patients with significant bone density loss or certain osteoporosis conditions.
- Due to the increased use of wheelchairs featuring heavy metals, certain nursing home accidents involve rough transfers to mobility equipment causing the fractures in the resident’s arm. In other cases of less negligence by staff members, accidental strikes of the elbow to the wall or passing wheelchairs account of a number of fractured elbows in the elderly annually.
- The relative immobility of most nursing home patients lends itself towards muscle atrophy and further bone density losses, which if involved in a fall from a bed, in bathing area, or from a mobility device, can relatively easily cause fractures in the elderly
Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Frequently a Direct Cause of Broken Arms in the Elderly
In practice, thousands of patients each year experience broken arm as the result of direct negligence perpetrated by nursing home employees, including up to the point of criminal battery causing fractures. However, other instances of broken bones in nursing home facilities stem from actions such as rough transfers from a wheelchair to another location or from bed to another bed or wheelchair. Given the age, medical history, and frailty of most patients, nursing home employees are notoriously unaware and untrained to conduct such transfers safely. Patients may also be over medicated, under-medicated, or receive medication in error causing drowsiness leading to a fall incident causing a broken arm. Finally, neglect or allowing conditions likely to cause of risk of an incident leading to serious injury, such as a fracture, would expose the nursing home and its employees to liability in instances of a fractured arm under these and large number of potential causes of action to file a lawsuit in a broken case involving a nursing home resident.
Problematic Risks with Elderly Patients Exhibiting Fracture Injuries
From a medical perspective, coping with the fallout from a fracture in an elderly person proves more complicated than usual, with concerns over exacerbating damages being relevant in any attempt at orthopedic reconstruction. Moreover, patient recovery periods for the elderly post-surgery for a fracture to the humerus, radius or ulna is frequently twice as long as other patient populations. Finally, any patient may present infinitely more complicated issues in light of a fracture due to pre-existing, co-morbidities complicating the fracture setting and recovery process. Finally, serious legal and medical considerations must be made, in the event of suspected nursing home abuse, as to the likely origin of the external trauma causing the fractures in the resident’s arm, and documenting this evidence as part of a potential future criminal or civil claims cases.