The time will come when each family must decide how to care for a loved one who is elderly or disabled and unable to live independently. Often, a nursing home is the only option. Nursing homes are intended to provide skilled medical care and/or rehabilitation to a patient on a short or long-term basis. The care is provided by doctors, nurses, and certified nursing assistants, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapists.
Sadly, many nursing homes fail to provide proper care to patients with whom they have been entrusted. A nursing home is negligent when its employees fail to provide proper care and may be held liable for injuries suffered by patients as a result.
Nursing home negligence may take several forms. Employees at nursing homes may give a patient the wrong medication, the wrong dose of a medication or no medication at all. Sometimes, patients are not assisted with meals and water and, as a result, suffer malnutrition and dehydration. If proper precautions are not taken to protect patients who suffer from impaired mobility or who are bedridden, they can be injured in a fall or suffer a pressure ulcer, also known as a bedsore.
COMMON TYPES OF NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE
Tragically, nursing homes sometimes negligently fail to hire employees who are compassionate and caring. Such employees may actually physically assault patients. A patient who has been the victim of abuse in a nursing home may have bruises, fractures and other unexplained injuries. If your loved one has suffered an unexplained injury, you should immediately speak with the director of nursing, the administrator and the medical director at the nursing home. If abuse has occurred, the local police department and Adult Protective Services may also be contacted.
Each person who is admitted to a nursing home is assessed to determine if he/she is at risk for falls. This is called a fall risk assessment. A patient may be assessed as low, moderate or high risk for falls. If a patient is found to be at risk for falls, the nursing home must implement a fall-prevention plan. Often, nursing homes fail to assess patients or properly implement a fall-prevention plan, and patients fall and suffer injuries like head injuries and broken bones.
Skin Breakdown and Pressure Ulcers (Bedsores)
Many nursing home patients have suffered an illness or injury that has made them immobile and bedridden. Some are unable to control their bladder or bowel. These patients require very specific care. Their clothing and bedding must be kept clean and dry of urine and feces. Moreover, they must be turned and repositioned to relieve pressure every 2 hours. To ensure that patients do not suffer skin breakdown and pressure ulcers, every nursing home should implement a pressure ulcer prevention policy and corresponding procedures.
A patient who is not turned and repositioned may develop a pressure ulcer. As the name implies, pressure ulcers are primarily caused by constant pressure on a body part that eventually cuts off blood flow and results in tissue death. Certain areas of the body, such as the sacrum, buttocks, heels, elbows and shoulders, are particularly susceptible to pressure ulcers. The diagram below shows parts of the body where pressure may develop if a nursing home has not taken preventive measures.
Pressure on the body from lying or sitting
Many patients in nursing homes are required to take medications prescribed by a doctor. Unfortunately, however, employees of nursing homes often make mistakes in giving patients their medications. These mistakes are referred to as medication errors. In nursing homes, medication errors typically fall into the following categories:
- No medication – the nursing home staff forgets to give the patient his/her prescription medication.
- Wrong dosage – the nursing home staff gives the patient the wrong dosage: too little or too much medication.
- Wrong medication – the nursing home staff gives the patient a medication that was not prescribed for him/her.
The consequences of a medication error can be very serious. Medication errors can increase a patient’s morbidity or mortality. In other words, the patient’s medical condition can become worse or the patient may die.