This is not because the injuries from the hip fracture fall directly caused the death, but death often results from complications from the hip fracture. Studies show that the mortality rate for hip fractures in elderly is as high as 25% during the one year following the injury. Most hip fractures in elderly are such that if the nursing home resident is going to be able to walk or bear weight on the injured leg again, surgical repair of the hip fracture is necessary. In senior citizens, there is a real risk of death during surgery. However, due to advances in anesthesia, “dying on the table” is thankfully a rare event.
Complications of hip fractures in elderly are a common cause of death during the first year post-operatively, many times during the first two months. These include:
- Bedsores – Immobility is one factor which predisposes nursing home residents to developing bedsores, and while a nursing home resident is bed-bound following hip repair surgery, there is a dramatic increase in the risk of developing bedsores. In one case our office handled, the resident survived the hip repair surgery, but developed bedsores on her heels during the first month following her hip fracture fall. The bed sores became infected, and this ultimately caused her death.
- Blood clots – The risk of developing blood clots is present after any type of major fracture, but this risk is especially pronounced where the nursing home resident is bed-bound following a hip fracture fall. When blood clots travel to the lungs, this is known a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal.
- Pneumonia – Many nursing home residents develop pneumonia post operatively. Also, being bed bound while eating increases the risk of inhaling food while eating, which results in a condition known as aspiration pneumonia. In a geriatric patient population, pneumonia is a serious illness which frequently results in death.
- Cardiac complications – Post-operative complications can result in diminished function of the heart and lungs and ultimately result in death. In one case our office handled, the resident was given powerful pain medications after his surgery was over. The medications caused a critical drop in blood pressure and caused a heart attack.
When a resident suffers a hip fracture in a nursing home fall and dies shortly thereafter, there is good reason to investigate whether a wrongful death lawsuit is merited.
When we begin working on a case like this we carefully review the records looking past what is written on the death certificate to determine how the death of the nursing home resident came to pass. We often find that there is a cascade of events that started after the hip fracture fall which ultimately resulted in the wrongful death of the nursing home resident. Being able to make sense of the medical issues and present them to the jury in a clear, concise way is an essential skill for experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers to have.