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Nursing Home Abuse – A Guide

Feb 5, 2018 | Nursing Negligence

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The elderly population in the US is growing by leaps and bounds. If numbers were to be believed, over 3 million adults live in nursing homes and similar such long term care facilities in this country.

About 40% of all adults will live in a nursing home some time during their lives, and as the population ages, it is expected that the number of nursing home residents will grow too. While many of these elders are really well cared for, there are several hundred who are victims of abuse.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Elder abuse, in a residential care facility can be hard to detect. It is said that for every one reported case of abuse, over five cases go unreported.

Nursing home abuse has become a grave concern in the US, and seniors who have been abused are at a great risk of death in the 3 years following the abuse when compared to those who aren’t abused. Every 1 in 6 home residents are victims of neglect or abuse every year.

As mentioned earlier, though many residents are certainly well-cared for, neglect continues to be a lot more prevalent than we wish to believe. It is alarming to note that nearly three-fourths of nursing home abuse cases are in fact perpetrated by caregivers.

That is not all. A recent congressional report showed that 1 in 3 nursing homes were cited to have the potential to cause grave harm to these elders, and 10 percent of all these units have violations that actually caused harm, serious injuries, and placed them in the jeopardy of untimely death. The survey also indicated that 44% nursing home residents concede that they had been abused at some time in the residential unit and nearly all of them had witnessed another aging resident being neglected.

Yet another research, indicated that more than half of all nursing home caregivers have admitted to neglecting and abusing elderly patients. CAN assistants in elder care facilities across the country have admitted to having verbally abused, yelled at, and having used foul language with the elderly folk they were tending to.

Despite the abuse that is prevalent in most elder care facilities, the GAO found that most state surveys missed or overlooked significant deficiencies in the system as well as notices of actual harm or jeopardy of a nursing home resident.

Owing to reports such as these, that legislatures in all of the 50 states in the US, have passed several stringent anti-elder abuse laws. But, despite stringent laws having been passed, abuse at nursing homes continues.

Nursing home abuse is not just limited to the elderly. Even adults who may check into care facilities to seek care for fractures and other ailments can succumb to nursing home abuse.

Nursing Home in Atascadero Closed Down

An Atascadero nursing home that was forced to close down after a series of complaints, is now facing yet another lawsuit alleging abuse. This is the third such suit that patients and their families have filed against this facility, in the last two years.

Iris Schedler filed a lawsuit against this hospital in San Luis Obispo Superior court, on account of dependent adult abuse as well as negligent hiring and supervision.

Schedler fell off a horse and broke her tibia, and entered Country Care for short term preoperative care. She claims that an employee applied a Fentanyl patch to her arm soon after she was admitted. This caused her to overdose. She also alleges that this caused blisters to appear on her back. However, the staff that was overwhelmed by the medication error failed to notify her family or transfer her to a hospital for treatment.

Schedler was, however lucky unlike many other inmates, who was able to contact her husband and was relocated to French Hospital Medical center before being sent over to Bella Vista Transitional Care Center, in care. The staff at the care center were shocked to see that her back and legs were covered with blisters.

The lawsuit has charged Country Care staff for having wrongfully withheld care that resulted in not just overdose but also pressure sores.

This is not the first case being reported against the facility. Pacific Christian Senior Services, a nonprofit that held ownership of this facility, settled two other lawsuits in 2016, out of court. Pacific Christian Senior Services, is yet to file a response to this suit in court. The CEO of the company, however did accept that Schedler was indeed a resident at County Care for 2 days in May 2016. He, however, declined to make any comments on the allegations.

Yet another suit that was filed on behalf of Leo Paul Landry, stated that the patient and had fallen and broken his femur. The staff didn’t attend to him properly, and he soon developed pneumonia, which was allegedly treated using a morphine dose. This caused Landry’s death.

Yet, another suit that was filed on behalf of another patient at Country Care states that Gabrielle Cohoon entered the facility after a hip fracture. The staff failed to reposition her which led to bedsores. Though she was taken to a hospital, it was too late. She received treatment for not just bedsores, but also a urinary tract infection, dehydration, and malnutrition. Gabrielle died two days later.

Country Care closed down in September, which forced close to 35 patients to move. The nonprofit, however still runs two facilities – an assisted living facility that also offers independent living options, and Bethesda House – a facility for patients suffering from severe dementia.

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What classifies as nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse is not just limited to elders and physical abuse. There are many aspects to nursing home abuse. These are:

1. Physical Abuse – An event or a condition that can cause physical harm. This can be intentional for instance, hitting, pushing, or pinching patients. Neglect due to lack of physical care, and overuse of restraints also classify as physical abuse.

2. Sexual Abuse – Though not very common, this is not unheard of. Sexual abuse is exploitation or unwanted sexual attention. This includes sexual attention that may be given to a patient who cannot express his wishes due to an ailment or any other reason, or is cognitively compromised.

3. Psychological Abuse – It is hard to pinpoint cases of psychological abuse and it hence goes unreported. Criticizing, yelling, humiliating, and/or shaming the patient can be classified as psychological abuse. Patients who are being put through psychological abuse tend to exhibit behavioral changes.

4. Financial Exploitation – This can include theft of valuables, theft from banking accounts, and applying for credit in the patient’s name. This can occur when a caregiver gets access to a patient’s financial matters.

Neglect is a result of inadequate staffing and is often unintentional. Neglect occurs when the inmate’s needs aren’t catered to. When a patient is not provided food, clothing or water, and his or her personal hygiene is compromised; it can have grave ramifications. Neglect can lead to several other medical conditions such as bed sores, infections of various kinds, dehydration, and even malnutrition.

Resident to resident abuse is also not uncommon. This can occur when one resident begins to abuse another. This can be physical, sexual, or even psychological. There the staff at care facilities need to take the onus of protecting residents from being abused by another resident.

What are the signs of nursing home abuse?

Family members often find themselves in a difficult spot, unable to care for their aging elders. They do not have the resources or skills needed to tend to the needs of older individuals who may be infirm or require special medical attention. This is when they resort to skilled nursing facilities. They delegate their responsibilities to such institutions with the hope that their family member will be well cared for.

Sadly, not all care facilities live up to the trust of these families. In fact, many of these residents are neglected and subjected to abuse on a daily basis. Sadly, an overwhelming majority of these incidents tends to go unreported. Listed below are a few signs of nursing home abuse:

· Fractures or broken bones

· Unexplained bruises, cuts, or welts

· Frequent infections

· Bed sores

· Dehydration

· Refusal to speak

· Emotional outbursts

· Refusal to eat

· Refusal to consume medications

· Poor physical appearance

· Lack of personal hygiene

· Unexplained weight loss

· Changes in mental status

At times, caregivers may refuse to let their patients to be left alone with others. This must arouse suspicion and should be investigated. Not all patients with the above said symptoms may be subjected to nursing home abuse. However, any sign must be cause for further investigation.

A Georgia Widow Files Lawsuit

A medical lawsuit against an Atlanta hospital group was filed by a Georgia widow. She claims that negligent care, lead to his death. According to the report, negligent care caused her spouse to endure bedsores of the fourth degree, during his stay at the facility. This not only resulted in unnecessary suffering, but also his untimely death.

William Mays was reportedly admitted to the hospital on Dec 26th, 2013, as he was having difficulty breathing due to a swollen tongue. According to the statements on the claim, Mr. Mays had absolutely no bedsores when he was admitted.

Olive Mays, his widow who is represented by the Jonathan W. Johnson firm that specializes in medical malpractice cases, claims that the patient had to be intubated in the ICU. He also stated that when they were getting ready to discharge him is when they found the bedsores.

Bed sores, which are also known as pressure ulcers, are caused by pressure against the skin that can limit blood flow to the skin. Other factors that limit mobility can make the skin extremely susceptible to damage and cause the development of pressure sores. When a patient succumbs to bed sores, staff need to constantly clean and treat them to prevent further infections.

According to the filing, "The medical records of Wellstar Douglasville, have no mention of pressure ulcers, wounds or skin breakdowns until January 8th when the nursing notes make reference to a right foot scab and mepilex of the sacrum that is red and wound care treatment guide was being followed.

The claim states that Mr. May’s bed sores progressed to stage 4 pressure sores, wherein the tissue is so severely ulcerated that it exposes the bone.

According to Johnson, who is representing the case, "This is the kind of thing that should never happen, in fact, it is a red flag that something went terribly wrong." He also added that 4th degree bedsores are a direct result of medical negligence. When the patient is kept clean and rotated, bedsores do not progress. It is when bed sores aren’t kept clean enough or the patients aren’t rotated enough, can high level bed sores be formed.

The statements also claim that Mrs. Mays made recurrent requests for help. One of her family members was a nurse and she reportedly called the hospital, following which he was given an inflatable bed that is used for sore patients. All requests for help was documented and the wife too maintained a diary.

Three months later by the time of his discharge, the wound at the base of his spine was showing signs of improvement, but was still dangerously large and also oozing.

The sore had stopped progressing, but had to be cleaned every day, even after his discharge. According to Johnson, Olive Mays did this herself. She turned him every two hours and cleaned the sore. The now widow felt she would be able to do a better job caring for him at home as she had medical training. A private healthcare nurse too visited the May’s home 4 to 6 times a week to attend to his pressure sores.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Mays went through unnecessary suffering and pain and that it was the bedsore condition that contributed to his death.

The causes of action include, general negligence, professional negligence, wrongful death, and also loss of consortium.

The lawsuit claims that Mr. May’s widow is entitled to an award for special damages towards funeral expenses, medical expenses, and pain and suffering in the amount of at least $483,904.38.

RMFW Law is the Finest Law Firm in the City

If you or a loved one has been harmed or injured due to medical negligence, or nursing home abuse at the hands of a caregiver or hospital staff, you should immediately seek the help of a reliable and experienced medical malpractice attorney. This will help you recover the damages you are entitled to for your pain and suffering. Waste no time, contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280 to find a stellar legal pro to handle your case.

RMFW Law gets the job done! We know how to win these types of case. You pay us nothing up front. We only win if you win. RMFW Law wants to win as badly as you do. No one should treat your loved one like this!