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Patients are a potential source of injury for nursing home staff

The people who dedicate themselves to caring for the most vulnerable among us also accept a lot of risk that comes with their job. Medical staff at nursing homes, including nurses, aides and other medical professionals, can easily end up hurt while working on any given day. Many of these injuries can result in long-term or even permanent disability.

As the weight of the average American has gone up, so too has the amount of physical labor demanded of nursing home caregivers. Just lifting and moving a patient could lead to severe injuries. However, patients also pose another risk to staff. Sometimes, patients with mental health or addiction issues can become combative and violent, causing injuries to the people who attempt to care for them.

Dementia can often play a role in violent patient behavior

As people age, their minds and bodies no longer function as well as they once did. In many ways, the deterioration of the brain is even worse than the decline of the physical body. Some people may regress during their final years, acting like small children. Other people can't remember where they are and may believe their caregivers are prison guards or others who may intend them harm.

This can cause a patient with dementia to violently resist help or even attack a caregiver without provocation. People with dementia could hit, kick, bite or even use items from the environment as weapons. Aides and other nursing home staff could suffer severe or even fatal injuries at the hand of a patient who can't remember where he or she actually is.

Addiction can also cause patients to act out in strange ways

Certain medications create a physical or mental addiction in patients. Painkillers are a perfect example. Doctors often take great care when prescribing these drugs to ensure patients don't end up dependent on them. They may not worry quite so much about someone in the last years of their lives. Addressing the pain may be the better option than worrying about painkiller dependence.

While allowing access to pain relief is compassionate, the addiction that can result can provoke unusual and violent behaviors. Some people also end up confused and violent due to a reaction to a new medication. Like people suffering from dementia, these patients could attack and injure staff members, causing serious injury.

Patient violence actually remains a notable cause of injury for people in health care. In 80 percent of workplace violence reports in the medical field, patients are the ones responsible. As many as one in five health care workers may experience physical violence from patients each year. Roughly 50 percent annually report verbal abuse as well. Thankfully, when nursing home staff suffers injuries related to patient violence, those workers typically qualify for workers' compensation in New Jersey.

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