The decision to place an elderly family member in a nursing home is rarely made lightly. Some elderly family members need specialized care that many of us are not equipped to handle, some may need 24/7 care that their family members cannot give because of their own responsibilities at home, and some may have family members outside of the area who aren’t able to relocate. Whatever the reason, families depend on nursing homes to provide quality care to their loved ones every day. Unfortunately, that quality care is not always met. In fact, sometimes the care doesn’t occur at all, and abuse takes its place. It can be difficult to distinguish when medical malpractice is occurring with your elderly family member if memory loss, difficulty communicating, drug induced hallucinations, confusion, or other reasons are at play. However, if you suspect the nursing home is not providing adequate care, and that it has resulted in serious injury or even death, it is important to speak with an attorney right away. There are three common cases behind senior care medical malpractice, and they are listed below.
- Inadequate care. If your family member routinely has dirty clothes, poor hygiene, looks malnourished or dehydrated, has an infection, or has bedsores, these can be signs of neglect. Some of the above signs could be caused by an illness they have such as malnourishment from Parkinson’s. It can be difficult for patients to swallow, or the medication may make them queasy. However, it is the duty of the medical staff to make sure patients are properly nourished. Bedsores are easily prevented by continual turning of the patient in bed and making sure they are moving as much as they can. Bedsores are an easy identifier of inadequate care by a nursing home, and are serious injuries that can lead to death if left untreated.
- Medication mistakes.Whether a staff member gives a patient too much, not enough, the wrong kind, or withholds medication, when medical mistakes occur, it is considered medical malpractice. Mixing up medication can be very dangerous for patients if they receive the wrong kind. A reaction could occur with another medication they are taking and cause serious injury. If they have low blood pressure and receive a blood pressure medication by accident, it could drop their blood pressure enough to stop the heart. Medical mistakes such as these are considered negligence on the part of the staff member and are grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
- Unfortunately, some nursing home staff members are so stressed or have too heavy of a caseload that abuse can occur intentionally or unintentionally. A patient’s basic hygiene needs may be neglected for long periods of time and result in infection. A patient may experience bruises or broken bones from physical abuse and emotional trauma from verbal abuse. Even sexual abuse can occur in nursing homes. Sometimes patients are afraid to speak up because they fear the abuse will only get worse or, in cases of physical or sexual abuse, it’s embarrassing to admit to someone. Any time a claim of abuse is made, you should take it seriously and explore it further. It may be that your family member confused a dream for reality, or it may be that it was true and your family member was at risk of death because of it.
Family members who realize their loved ones have been neglected or even abused in a nursing home may be shocked, horrified, and even feel guilty about the situation. They may wonder how something like this can even happen. Medical malpractice experts, Cohen and Jaffe suggest it could be from poor hiring decisions, inadequate staff training, failure to provide adequate safety and security measures, failure to provide basic needs, or using unreasonable restraints. Nursing homes have the duty to provide sufficient care to their residents. If serious injury or death has occurred to your family member as a result of negligence, you could be awarded compensation. Contacting a lawyer sooner rather than later is wise as the statute of limitations varies state to state. Seniors deserve adequate end-of-life care. Not only will your claim provide you with compensation, but it may also help future residents from being injured in the same way.