Many elderly residents require additional assistance as they grow older. Unfortunately, too many of them fall victim to elder abuse in a nursing home. Our Philadelphia nursing home attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can assist your family in cases of nursing home neglect or abuse. Negligence or reckless actions by workers at nursing homes can result in bed sores, injuries due to falls, dehydration, malnutrition and many other harmful injuries and conditions among patients.
Neglect and inadequate medical care can risk the health and safety of the residents in the facility. From the failure to treat serious staph infections or pressure ulcers to the failure to respond to calls for help, negligence at a residential care or skilled nursing facility can end in tragedy for families of elder abuse victims.
When is a Nursing Home Liable for Elder Abuse and Neglect?
If it can be demonstrated that a nursing home or its employees have acted negligently, they may be held liable for any resulting damages. The following may be grounds for filing a nursing home abuse claim:
- Aspiration and choking events: Nursing home residents with dementia and other conditions are at higher risk of choking; competent care facilities watch for these risk factors and dedicate more of their resources to preventing choking injuries in residents that have them.
- Broken bones and fractures: A number of acts of malpractice and negligence can be the cause of broken bones and fractures, from the lack of preventative nursing home protocols to outright abuse.
- Dehydration and malnutrition: One report found that as many as one-third of all nursing home residents suffer from dehydration and malnourishment, with some nursing homes averaging 30–50 percent of their residents underweight.
- Elopement (wandering off): Nursing home elopement or wandering off refers to a resident leaving the facility without properly mandated care and supervision. If a resident is not located within the first 24 hours of elopement, there is a 1 in 4 chance they will not survive.
- Falls and lack of fall protection: Falls happen to nursing home patients at twice the rate of older adults who live independently, and for this reason a fall prevention protocol is considered part of a nursing facility’s standard of care.
- Infections (failure to diagnose and treat): Each year, around 25,000 nursing home residents die in hospitals while suffering from sepsis — and failures in its diagnosis and treatment make this already deadly infection more lethal.
- Medication errors: Studies estimate that 800,000 medication-related injuries occur in nursing homes yearly, and the worst of these can worsen residents’ conditions or even result in death.
- Mismanaged conditions: Nursing home facilities have a duty of care to their residents which explicitly covers the proactive management of any medical conditions.
- Pressure wounds and bedsores: These ailments, which affect between 11–28 percent of nursing home residents yearly, are often deadly and almost wholly preventable.
- Physical, sexual and emotional abuse: Intentional abuse of all kinds is widespread among nursing home residents and can be deadly — one 13-year study found that victims of elder abuse are twice as likely to die prematurely as non-victims
- Transportation errors: Nursing homes aren’t only responsible for abuse that happens on facility grounds, but are also responsible for providing safe transportation to activities they have chartered.
- Unexplained injury or death: When a nursing home resident dies suddenly and unexpectedly without a diagnosed, life-threatening condition, it may be cause for concern.
- Wandering: A care facility has the responsibility to ensure the safety of its residents throughout its premises; each year wandering is responsible for 100,000 preventable injuries.
Source: Pxfuel.com, shared under a Creative Commons Zero license
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
As signs of nursing home abuse can sometimes be dismissed as symptoms of old age, dementia or other conditions, it’s important that residents’ loved ones can recognize the signs of mistreatment.
Below are examples of nursing home abuse warning signs:
- Bills left unpaid
- Bruises, bleeding, cuts
- Changes in a resident’s will and/or power of attorney
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Unexplained diseases or infections
How Do Good Nursing Homes Guard Against Preventable Injury?
A well-run nursing facility will have instituted preventative protocols, which are tied into periodic assessments of special resident conditions and risks. These protocols may cover the following:
- Staff training and education: All staff should be aware of high-risk residents, signs of increased injury risks and preventative strategies.
- Adequate staffing: Key to injury prevention is adequate monitoring, which is hard to accomplish when a facility is understaffed.
- Fall-proofing the facility: Changes within the nursing home can make it easier for residents to get around safely. Such changes include the generous installation of grab bars, raised toilet seats, lowered beds and handrails in the hallways.
- Exercise programs: These help to improve residents’ strength and mobility.
- Working with residents on anti-injury strategies: Residents without cognitive impairments may benefit from help in planning for scenarios where injuries are more likely.
- Room checks: The more frequently staff check in with high-risk residents, the less likely they will be to attempt to use the bathroom or do difficult tasks on their own.
Source: Pxfuel.com, shared under Creative Commons Zero license
When to Consult with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney
Malpractice and negligence are always avoidable, but even injuries that seem unavoidable may come down to issues within the facility’s control, such as appropriate staffing and regular monitoring.
The best course of action if you feel that nursing home malpractice or negligence has caused harm to you or a loved one is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in medical malpractice, McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of negligence.