What Happens When You Have Brain Damage?
When the brain gets injured, it fills with fluid and swells like other body tissue. However, because the skull surrounding it is hard, the brain has nowhere to expand as it swells. The pressure inside the head increases, which can prevent blood passage to tissue and cause further injury to the brain.
Brain damage can happen from natural causes or it can happen through being injured by someone else. If you or a loved one suffered brain damage that was caused by abuse or neglect in a nursing facility, you should get advice from a lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, therapy, rehabilitation costs, and for pain resulting from the injury.
Severe or traumatic brain injury is often caused by a sudden, violent blow to the head. Any force that penetrates or fractures the skull may cause severe injury. Tissue damage may occur from destructive shock waves, from bone being pushed into the brain, or when forces cause the brain to collide against the inside of the hard skull. Bruising of the brain and bleeding cause injury in parts of the brain closest to the point of impact.
The brain is made up of delicate soft tissue floating in fluid within the skull and is protected by three layers of membrane. Since brain tissue is soft, it can be compressed, pulled, and stretched, and it can move around inside the skull, resulting in injury.
Causes of Brain Damage in Nursing Homes
In a nursing home situation, brain damage can happen to patients from slip and fall injuries, bath injuries leading to near-drowning, obstruction of the airway through choking on food, toxic exposure to chemicals, heart attack or stroke, aneurysm, and electrical shock. Brain damage can also happen when patients are neglected and not watched or cared for properly, or through errors made by healthcare personnel, or from patients being deliberately abused.
Symptoms of Brain Damage
Symptoms from brain injuries vary depending on the area and severity of the damage. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the injury occurs, while others may appear until days or weeks later.
Many people with significant brain injury will experience changes in their thinking skills, or difficulty focusing and processing thoughts. Language and communication problems, and changes in behavior and emotions can cause frustration, conflict, and misunderstanding for the individual, family members, and care providers.
Symptoms may include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Blurred vision.
- Slurred speech.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Weakness or numbness in the extremities.
- Loss of coordination.
- Emotional or behavioral problems.
- Ringing in the ear.
- Bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell.
- Sensitivity to light or sound.
If injuries are on the left side of the brain, there may be:
- Difficulties understanding language and speaking.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Impaired logic and sequencing difficulties.
- Decreased control over right-sided body movements.
If injuries are on the right side of the brain there may be:
- Visual-spatial impairment.
- Visual memory deficits.
- Inattention to the left side of the body.
- Decreased awareness of deficits.
- Decreased control over left-sided body movements.
A severe brain injury may cause the individual to experience an unconscious state, or coma. Widespread damage to the brain can result in:
- A vegetative state where individuals are unaware of surroundings, but may open their eyes, make sounds, respond to reflexes, or move.
- A minimally conscious state where consciousness is severely altered but there are some signs of self-awareness or awareness of one’s environment.
- Brain death, an irreversible condition with no measurable activity in the brain and the brainstem.
Symptoms of Brain Damage
Symptoms of brain damage, according to Mayo Clinic, are recognizable traits involving cognition or perception that have been altered due to a head injury. Symptoms may include a combination of some or several of these cognitive or perceptual traits:
- Impaired ability to process information
- Difficulty in concentrating or understanding concepts
- Difficulty with clear thinking
- Unfocused attention
- Inability to share thoughts
- Loss of memory
- Sensitivity to smell, light, and sound
- Blurry vision
- Mood swings
- Slurring words
These symptoms of brain damage arise as a result of traumatic brain injuries that occur from sudden blows or strikes of force to the head. These head injuries can be accidental, caused by someone else’s negligence, or a form of abuse.
When a person suffers blows to the head, the result can be mild to serious brain injuries, including cranial bleeding, bruising, ruptured tissues, or other brain damage. Any of these injuries can result in life-altering complications or even death.
Head Injuries in Nursing Homes
Brain damage can happen to senior residents of nursing homes. Elderly residents can receive injuries and abuse resulting in head injuries, concussions, or brain injuries in nursing homes. It’s difficult to understand how these injuries can occur.
Sometimes, head injuries are caused by an aging senior falling down onto their head. In other cases, the nursing home resident might be the unwitting victim of elder abuse by a nursing home employee or contractor.
This goes against common sense. Nursing homes should be places of safety and security for our loved ones. They should be cared for, not abused. Adults usually place their aging loved ones into a nursing home to be cared for. If a nursing home resident is being subjected to elder abuse, then it’s an opportunity to take legal action for negligence against the nursing home.
Start with getting your loved one the medical help they need. Then, you might benefit from consulting with a lawyer to see if you have a case for compensation.
Causes of Brain Damage
Most commonly, falls are the main culprit of brain damage. The ways that seniors fall can vary. Dizzy spells, fainting, and missteps all contribute to falls. Senior nursing home residents may fall and suffer a head injury while:
- Attempting to walk into the shower or bathing area
- Transferring from their bed to a wheelchair
- Walking in the nursing home
- Reaching for items in their room
- Slipping on a wet surface in the nursing home
Negligence could contribute to any one of these instances of a senior falling.
Another case might involve a senior rolling off a bed in the middle of the night. If the nursing home does not use guardrails to protect their older residents, then the home could be found liable for the injuries suffered by the resident.
There are even more frightening cases of elder abuse in nursing homes, where seniors are taken advantage of and are harmed physically, which could potentially cause brain injuries.
Conditions for Elder Abuse
When aging senior citizens are placed in nursing homes, they are often alone, vulnerable, weak, and in need of constant supervision. These conditions alone make for a recipe for elder abuse.
Various types of neglect can take place when senior nursing home residents are dependent upon the staff, according to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. Anxious seniors could become irritable and anxious during a daily pattern of needing someone to help with trips to the toilet, daily feeding, and more.
The staff may need to frequently turn a resident’s body several times a day if the resident is unable to turn on their own. All of this can foster resentment in an overworked staff.
It may be that the number of residents in a nursing home is too high for the small team of staff members to handle adequately. In a nursing home, anger can arise from this situation. This anger and frustration may lead to physical abuse of the residents.
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What Is Mild Brain Damage?
Many people suffer collisions to the head while playing sports, on construction sites, and during slip and fall accidents. However, it can be hard to determine what mild brain damage is as opposed to a minor or severe one. Unfortunately, not knowing the difference can have serious repercussions. Let us take a closer look at the issue.
Overview of Mild Brain Damage
Often, brain damage is considered mild when there was no loss of consciousness, or if there was, it lasted only a few seconds or minutes. A change in a person’s mental status typically indicates a concussion, such as when the person seems confused or dazed. During a brain scan, the brain may also appear normal if the t raumatic brain injury (TBI) is minor. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you should not take mild brain damage seriously because there is still a chance that severe effects may later surface. For instance, there may be an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s years after an injury occurs.
Symptoms to Expect
The symptoms a person can experience after a TBI depends on which area of the brain is damaged. Doctors usually use this fact to anticipate the symptoms that may develop. In most cases, patients with mild brain damage can recover within three months or less after the injury. People above 40 years of age may take longer to return to normal, but no special treatment is often required in order for symptoms to disappear. Signs of mild brain damage can be classified into cognitive, sensory, and physical. The symptoms of mild brain damage, according to Mayo Clinic, include the following:
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Light or sound sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Loss of smell
- Visual disturbances
- Ringing in the ears
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of balance
- Sleep disturbances
- Speaking difficulties
Take note that it is also possible that these symptoms may not immediately show up during the time of injury. They can appear after a few days or weeks. A person with mild brain damage may move and act normally despite not feeling that way. Family members, doctors, and even the patients themselves may also not be able to observe these signs if they are too subtle to notice.
Impact of Mild Brain Damage on a Person’s Life
TBI can still damage your brain even if symptoms appear briefly, and you did not lose consciousness. Even if your loved one only experienced signs of mild brain damage, it is best to consult a medical professional to make sure your loved one receives a proper diagnosis. If someone loses consciousness for more than a minute, vomits, has a seizure, or exhibits worsening symptoms, call for emergency services immediately.
Most people become frustrated when the after-effects of mild brain damage linger. If this happens, the injured person might undergo psychological disruption, which can exacerbate the original symptoms. One explanation is that since the injured person knows the brain damage is only minor, they might not expect additional negative effects to develop. In other words, a person who suddenly realizes that they cannot accomplish tasks as easily as before but does not associate this with mild brain damage may have worse mood swings or depression. It might take the help of a medical specialist to discover that the symptoms are linked to mild brain damage.
How to Deal with Symptoms of Mild Brain Damage
Although not every hit to the head calls for a trip to the emergency room, impacts to the head should still be avoided at all costs. The more your loved one is aware of the symptoms of mild brain damage, the greater the chances that a good outcome will occur. By knowing what mild brain damage is and the signs to look out for, you can have a clearer understanding of issues to expect and how you can address them. As long as it is safe to do so, encourage your loved one to try resuming their daily activities a little at a time. Gradually returning to a routine can help someone get back on their feet faster.
Remember that it is always best to keep in constant communication with your loved one’s doctor and not push your family member too hard. It may seem like symptoms take a long time to vanish, but focusing on this thought can make a situation worse. Do not forget that symptoms are supposed to be a part of recovery and are likely to disappear on their own. They also are there to make one realize when it is time to rest and take it easy.
What Is Moderate Brain Damage?
Moderate brain damage is one of the three levels of traumatic brain injury (TBI), between mild and severe. A TBI occurs when a hard force hits the skull or makes the brain move inside it. Some common examples include getting hit on the head, getting shaken very vigorously, or whiplash.
Professionals categorize a brain injury as moderate to severe when it renders the person unconscious for more than 30 minutes. They may also suffer from temporary amnesia that could more than a day, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Brain injuries can endanger anyone, including seniors. Many types of brain damage do not only cause headaches and nausea, but can also bring life-changing consequences too. One such kind is moderate brain damage. Knowing what moderate brain damage is and its symptoms can help determine if your senior loved one is suffering from it at their nursing home.
Medical attention is a must for anyone who just suffered from a brain injury, no matter how mild it may seem. An early diagnosis can help the doctor prescribe the right treatment to contain the damage before it worsens. MRI and CT scans can help determine the extent of damage while a psychologist assesses the changes in how you think and act.
The Impact of Moderate Brain Damage
Moderate brain damage shares many symptoms with severe brain damage but to a lesser degree. It is still possible for medical treatments to heal the brain entirely, but some side effects might take a long time to subside. In some cases, they may remain permanently.
Depending on where the impact was, moderate injuries can affect different areas of the brain, such as those that handle behavior or speech. Here are some symptoms of moderate to severe TBIs, according to Mayo Clinic:
Both moderate and severe brain injuries can make it more difficult to have clear thoughts. Either of these injuries could cause memory lapses and trouble concentrating on tasks. It might also take longer for their mind to process information.
The brain also controls the senses, so any damage to it may affect how your senior loved one perceives the world around them. They might become less or more sensitive to light, heat, and sound. Odors could even smell different them, or they might have a hard time feeling textures.
Brain injuries can also alter your loved one’s personality and how they process emotions. They could experience frequent mood swings or impulsiveness, making them depressed or anxious as well.
Loss of Motor Skills
Moderate damage to the brain can result in physical disabilities that could be permanent or leave after some time. A senior with moderate brain damage could be more challenged when it comes to coordinating their actions and making delicate movements like holding a pen. They might also experience numb extremities.
Brain injuries can also impact a nursing home patient’s ability to speak and read. They may have more difficulties when it comes to reading comprehension and understanding what other people say. They could even start slurring when you talk.
All of these side effects can make it difficult for senior patients to go back to a normal lifestyle. You might notice they have a harder time expressing themselves and doing activities they like. But with the help of proper rehabilitation, therapy, and supportive loved ones, a full recovery is still possible.
How to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe from Brain Damage in a Nursing Home
Check your loved one’s nursing home residence for wet floors that could cause them to slip and hit their head. Also, keep an eye out for poorly designed bed railings and low hanging shelves and cupboards that could cause head trauma. If they had a head collision at any point during their stay, have them checked by a medical professional.
Keep in mind that caretakers must exercise patience when handling elders who are still suffering from the aftereffects of brain damage. Having to deal with problems like mood swings and hypersensitivities can be mentally draining. However, they should not lower their standard of care because of a work challenge. Pay attention to how caretakers in the nursing home treat other senior residents.
What Is Severe Brain Damage?
Severe brain damage is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is characterized by being unconscious for more than 30 minutes and having amnesia for more than a day, according to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report.
Aging seniors living in nursing homes are more at risk of suffering injuries to the head, and subsequently to the brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that falls are the main cause of injuries and death among seniors in the United States. These may be falls on stairs, falls off beds, or other types of falls. These falls also can cause traumatic brain injuries, leading to severe brain damage.
Other head injuries leading to subsequent severe brain damage can also occur as a result of negligence from mismanaged facilities, poor mobility conditions, or an angry, abusive staff worker.
These types of incidents are quite horrifying to family members. These people have placed their trust in nursing home management and employees. They pay good money for their aging seniors to receive top-quality nursing home care. But if family members start to see signs of disorganized confusion or mental or physical abuse of their loved one, it may be time to take legal action.
If you suspect that the nursing home is being negligent in its care, or even worse, your loved one is being beaten around the head, and cannot explain the bruises or welts, then nursing home abuse may be a factor. That’s the last thing you want happening to your loved one, who may become traumatized or disabled, or suffer severe brain damage as a result.
Nursing Home Conditions
It is crucial to assess nursing home conditions before placing a senior into a nursing home.
The nursing home should look clean, safe, and calm. Management should use background checks and train their nursing home staff. The staff should be attentive to the residents’ needs, such as helping with dining, keeping their bodies and environments clean, and treating them with kindness.
These are just a few of the things one should consider before placing a loved one into a long-term nursing care facility.
You want your loved one to be treated with gentleness and kindness in a nursing home environment. However, instances can occur in nursing homes in which the seniors are treated with disrespect and scorn by employed caregivers.
Types of Head Injuries
If your loved one does not remember how they were injured or is having trouble remembering anything for a period longer than a day, that could be an indicator of severe brain damage.
Brain damage may have already occurred from a concussive blow. The fall might have been caused by unsafe surroundings, or even a blow by an abusive nursing home staff member. Head blows can be serious physical ailments that can lead to severe brain damage.
If your senior loved one was abused in a nursing home, and the abuse caused severe brain damage, you could be entitled to compensation to cover medical expenses related to their injury. Read below to learn more about pursuing legal options against nursing home ownership, management, and staff.
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Can Brain Damage Be Fixed?
The human brain can recover from damage – if the damage was not too severe. When the brain is damaged, brain cells die, affecting the bodily functions those cells govern. The damage can range from mild to severe, and the chances of recovering may also range as well. If you’re wondering if it’s possible for brain damage to be fixed, the simplest answer is that it depends.
How Damage Affects the Brain
Although protected by the skull and three layers of membrane, brain tissue is soft, fragile, and susceptible to injury. Damage to the body or brain functioning results when the brain is compressed, stretched, shaken, or moved inside the skull, or if the skull is fractured or penetrated.
Brain damage from a skull fracture may involve bone fragments being pushed into the brain. Severe shaking or a fall may cause the brain to bang against the hard skull, and there may be bruising or bleeding in the tissue. When an injured brain swells with fluid, the skull keeps it from expanding and the pressure that builds up prevents blood from properly nourishing brain tissue, causing further injury.
Symptoms of Brain Damage
Symptoms from brain injuries vary, depending on the area, type, and severity of the damage. Symptoms may appear immediately after an injury or not until days or weeks later. While primary damage cannot be reversed, treatments can help prevent or reduce secondary damage.
Brain damage may be classified as mild, moderate, and severe.
- Mild – A mild brain injury may cause symptoms such as headaches, nausea, confusion, and memory problems.
- Moderate – In a moderate brain injury, symptoms will last longer and be more severe. There may be changes in thinking skills and processing thoughts, as well as communications problems and changes in behavior and emotions.
- Severe – A severe brain injury may result in extremely debilitating cognitive, behavioral, and physical disabilities. If the injury results in unconsciousness or a coma, vegetative state, or minimally responsive state, the individual may be unable to function and permanently dependent on others for care. There may be brain death, an irreversible condition with no measurable activity in the brain and the brainstem.
Many people with significant brain injury will experience changes in their thinking skills, difficulty focusing, and processing thoughts. They may lose consciousness, become confused, or suffer from headaches or dizziness. They may have trouble with language and communication, impaired logic and sequencing, controlling body movements, or vision and hearing. They may become agitated and show changes in behavior and emotions. These symptoms can be disturbing and create problems for the individual, family members, and those providing care.
Fixing Brain Damage
Whether brain damage can be fixed depends on the extent of brain tissue that was damaged, and to what degree. This can be estimated through the amount of time consciousness was lost, the depth of coma, the level of amnesia (memory loss), and brain scans.
The brain can recover from minor injuries remarkably well, and most people with mild brain injury do not have a permanent disability. However, a severe brain injury with extensive damage usually results in permanent, irreversible damage.
Recovery from a moderate injury varies, and some people can recover partially. Damaged neurons cannot grow back, but the connections between neurons can, and the brain can create new pathways through therapy and training. This may allow other areas of the brain to take over and allow relearning of functions.
How Can I Prove Pain and Suffering in a Nursing Home Abuse Case?
From studies presented by the National Council on Aging, an estimated one in 10 Americans over the age of 60 has suffered from some form of elder abuse. Some estimates show 5 million older Americans experience abuse each year, and elder abuse comes in many different forms: physical, sexual, emotional, confinement, negligence, deprivation, and financial. To prove your loved one’s pain and suffering in a nursing home abuse case, though, requires the collection of evidence.
Pain and Suffering in Nursing Homes
There are two ways that elderly residents of nursing homes may endure pain and suffering due to nursing home abuse.
- Elderly residents can experience pain and suffering in nursing homes when the resident has a medical condition that causes pain, and the nursing home staff is negligent and fails to provide an assessment of a resident’s pain or provide pain medication to relieve a patient’s pain.
- Nursing home residents can also experience pain and suffering in nursing homes due to direct physical or emotional nursing home abuse from the nursing home staff.
In the first case, the nursing home staff is negligent in their duty to provide appropriate medical care and treatment to their residents who suffer from pain due to a medical condition. In the second case, the nursing home staff directly caused the pain and suffering of the elderly resident due to their physical or emotional abuse towards the resident. Both types of neglect and abuse cause residents’ pain and suffering.
Nursing Home Resident Rights
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA), which includes the Nursing Home Reform Act, specifically mandates that nursing home residents have the right to appropriate monitoring and relief from pain through accepted medical practices of pain management. Many states enacted guidelines that require nursing homes to cooperate with federal regulations to ensure that nursing home residents receive proper treatment for their pain and suffering. Pain and suffering needs immediate documentation, regular monitoring, and treatment according to doctor recommendations.
Additionally, a continual reassessment of the resident’s pain and suffering should occur to determine if there are any changes to the resident’s pain and suffering levels. Certain conditions need reassessment weekly, along with documentation. Unfortunately, documentation rarely occurs and can be an additional sign of negligence related to a resident’s pain and suffering.
Proving Pain and Suffering Due to Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
If you believe your elderly loved one in a nursing home has not received proper treatment for their pain and suffering, or believe that their pain and suffering is a result of abuse by the nursing home staff, you should contact both the supervisor of the nursing home and the attending physician.
If you believe that your elderly loved one endured pain and suffering due to nursing home abuse, you will need to prove that pain and suffering occurred. Some of the ways to prove pain and suffering include:
- If your loved one can communicate their nursing home abuse and pain and suffering, this will serve as valuable testimony in their claim.
- Demonstrating through medical records that the nursing home failed to document the pain and suffering of your elderly loved one.
- Obtaining your elderly loved one’s medication administration records (MARs) used by the nursing home staff that indicates that staff only administered pain medication on an as-needed basis. This evidence will prove that your elderly loved one suffered from pain, and a doctor prescribed medication, which staff did not give correctly, in a timely manner, or when they were in actual pain.
- Prescriptions from attending physicians indicating the resident needed pain medication.
- Obtaining all notes of doctors, nurses, or nursing home staff to determine if documentation of any pain and suffering exists (or the absence of documentation), as well as any pain medication provided (and possibly stopped or given erratically).
- Obtaining family member testimony that confirms that the elderly nursing home resident suffered from pain, which was unaddressed or poorly addressed by the nursing home staff. It is important to note that some ways to identify an elderly loved one suffering or in pain can include restlessness, grimacing, clammy hands or skin, sweating, groaning, or crying out in pain. These family member testimonies are particularly useful when an elderly resident has cognitive impairment issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Is Brain Damage Always Permanent?
Brain damage may or may not be permanent depending on the circumstances of the injury. Brain damage can be caused by many things such as trauma, insufficient blood supply to the brain, bleeding, or a seizure. Brain damage may not be immediately detectable after the initial causal event occurs. Evidence contradicts the notion that brain damage is always permanent, however, in some cases, damage is only discovered once it has already become permanent. Call our offices today at (800) 794-0444 for a case evaluation.
Nursing Home Abuse Can Cause Permanent Brain Damage
Moderate and severe brain trauma injuries may impair a nursing home resident’s ability to function for the rest of his or her life. These impairments may be physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral in nature. As a result, everyday tasks, such as speaking and eating may become much more difficult for him or her. Experts state that most consequences associated with traumatic brain injury are preventable. Estimates show that as many as half of people who experience traumatic brain injury will experience degenerative symptoms or die within five years of the injury. Older adults who experience traumatic brain injury are among the populations who are at increased risk of dying the soonest.
Regarding those wondering is brain damage always permanent, it’s important to note that there are many different forms of brain damage. The type of brain damage that a person suffers and whether the damage is permanent or not depends on a range of factors. These factors may include the area of the brain which suffered the damage and the overall extent of the damage. As an example, a concussion happens when a head injury impacts the skull with sufficient force to jar the brain out of place momentarily, causing bleeding or tearing. The brain can usually recover from a concussion on its own without the risk of permanent disability.
Under the right conditions, the brain is capable of healing itself. However, the human brain begins to degenerate later in life. If a person suffers a brain injury during this stage of life, recovery may become significantly slower and less likely. The chances of this may be increased if a person at this stage of life is exposed to repeated incidences of brain trauma. Due to the vulnerability of elderly residents in senior living facilities, a common setting for this type of abuse to take place is nursing homes.
If you or a family member has suffered significant brain damage caused by nursing home staff, you may be able to pursue an action for damages against the individual actors and the nursing home.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Is Ready to Help
Even the slightest of brain damage can be a difficult hurdle to get over, and your loved one should not have to suffer without getting the help they need. If you believe your loved one is hurt in a nursing home because of negligence or abuse, do not hesitate to reach out to Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 794-0444 to receive legal assistance today. Get started by calling today for your free case evaluation.