Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuits

Putting your loved one in a nursing home is a difficult decision. You probably worked hard to find a place you trusted to take care of her. Unfortunately, despite their promises, many nursing homes don’t put resident care first: they are set up to generate revenue for the owners, and often sacrifice patient care for profit.

If your loved one has been hurt as a result of nursing home negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for that injury. For more information about your options, please speak with one of our nursing home negligence attorneys today.

Signs of Nursing Home Negligence

The best way to protect your loved one from nursing home negligence is to visit often and watch for the signs of neglect such as:

  • Dehydration

  • Changes in skin complexion or texture

  • Complaints of hunger

  • Clothes fitting poorly

  • Catheter bag that is always full

  • Bed sores (also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers)

  • Multiple falls

  • Tendency to wander

  • Inactivity and depression

These are often signs that your loved one is not being properly cared for or monitored.

Nursing Home Dehydration Claims

Largely because of misdiagnosis and inadequate staffing levels, up to half of all nursing home residents may be dangerously dehydrated.

Proper hydration is essential for everyone, but it is even more important among older people. Many nursing home residents already suffer from serious or chronic medical conditions, which cause their bodies to consume energy at a higher rate even if they are somewhat immobile. Furthermore, dehydrated elderly people usually have weak immune systems and muscles, leaving them vulnerable to illness and injury.

Nursing home negligence lawsuits focus attention on issues like nursing home dehydration and force facilities to pay attention to the needs of their residents.

Misdiagnosis of Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents

In this context, misdiagnosis usually means a failure to recognize the signs of a serious medical condition and properly diagnose that condition.

Some of the most common signs of dehydration, like dry mouth, dizziness, and dry skin, are also commonly associated with age. As a result, many caregivers dismiss the early symptoms, and the problem gets worse.

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem among the elderly that’s commonly associated with chronic conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and heart problems.

Understaffing Resulting in Dehydration of Nursing Home Residents

Industry standards require that, at a minimum, nursing homes must have at least one registered nurse on site for eight consecutive hours, seven days a week. Staffing levels are a significant component in nursing home neglect lawsuits, because low staffing often leads to serious problems, including dehydration. However, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are the lifeblood of many long-term care facilities, and as reimbursement levels have rather persistently declined since the 1990s, nursing home administrators have attempted to increase the patient population to make up the difference.

As a result, there are fewer staff members to check on residents. So, they do not come around as often and they do not stay as long. Understaffing essentially exacerbates the misdiagnosis problem, because rushed staff members either do not see dehydration symptoms or are quick to dismiss them as the effects of aging.

One study concluded that nine out of ten residents consume less than 1,500 milliliters of water a day, mostly because of low staffing levels.

The nursing home is legally responsible for both the negligence of its employees and the fact that they do not have the time to properly do their jobs. Consequently, in addition to compensation for actual injuries, many juries award substantial punitive damages in these cases.

Malnutrition in Nursing Homes

According to one study, low staff levels are the main reason that at least a third of nursing home residents in the United States are dangerously malnourished.

Malnutrition causes a wide range of serious conditions, particularly if the victim is already physically frail. Most nursing homes have individualized care plans in place that contain strict guidelines about daily calorie intake and the types of foods to be consumed. Failure to adhere to such a plan, or failure to make one in the first place, is evidence of negligence that creates liability for damages.

Elder Malnutrition

Poor nutrition weakens bones and muscles, increasing the risk of a serious fall. Malnutrition also weakens the immune system and retards wound healing. Some common causes include:

  • Health Issues: Some conditions, like dementia, often decrease appetite, and some hygiene issues, like bad teeth, make it difficult to chew and swallow. In other instances, medication side effects may create similar issues.
  • Limited Diets: On a related note, low salt or sugar diets to control heart problems and diabetes make food taste bland and restrict the number of food choices.
  • Diminished Social Contact: This concern is very prevalent among new long-term care residents who recently left their homes and friends or residents in poor health confined to their rooms. People who do not enjoy eating as much do not eat as much.
  • Alcoholism: Even small amounts of alcohol decrease an already light appetite, and too often, alcohol begins to replace meals altogether.

In addition to not eating, some other signs of malnutrition include weight loss, slow wound healing, and abnormal bruising.

Low Staff Levels and Legal Liability

During meal times, it is not enough for staff to serve food and then leave. Instead, they should spend time with residents to ensure that they are eating and not wasting their food.

However, many nursing homes do not have enough people to provide that kind of care. In fact, over half of nursing homes are dangerously understaffed, according to one study. In these environments, it is common for staff to serve a tray of food and then attend to other duties. Furthermore, there may be no full-time dieticians available to go over patient menus and examine residents to look for signs of malnutrition.

Damages in nursing home malnutrition claims may include money for medical bills and also compensation for pain and suffering.

Pressure Ulcers And Nursing Home Neglect

Bedsores are strong evidence of both a failure to use ordinary care and constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and these are the two main prongs in a nursing home neglect case.

If successful, nursing home negligence claims draw attention to the hazardous environment at the nursing home and generally force changes that benefit all other residents. Additionally, victims are entitled to compensation for their tangible losses, such as medical bills, and their intangible ones, such as pain and suffering. Some juries award substantial punitive damages in bedsore cases as well.

Bedsores and Ordinary Care in Nursing Homes

In nearly all circumstances, the industry standard is that nursing home patients should be turned and examined at least once every two hours. Strict adherence to this regimen, if it is followed by prompt and effective follow-up, reduces the risk of pressure ulcer development to almost zero.

Bedsores and Knowledge

Pressure ulcers rather quickly advance from stage one to stage two or three. According to Anjou v. Boston Elevated Railway Co., a landmark case in tort law, this progression is evidence of constructive knowledge (the nursing home should have known about the problem), which may form the basis for liability. In the Anjou case, Helen Anjou slipped on a banana peel at the train station; witnesses said the peel was black and gritty, as if it had been on the floor for quite some time. The company countered that it did not know about the banana peel and therefore had no duty to clean it up. The court concluded that the condition of the peel indicated “that it was not dropped a moment before by a passenger,” and therefore “the platform was suffered to remain in such condition as to be a menace to those rightfully walking upon it.”

A stage three bedsore (and arguably a stage two bedsore) is essentially the same thing as a black banana peel on the floor. Like the offending peel, the bedsore had festered for so long that constructive knowledge attached and therefore even if the nursing home did not actually know about the patient’s condition, the nursing home may still be liable for damages.

Causes of Nursing Home Negligence

Nursing home negligence may be due to a simple understaffing of the facility or it may be due to the lack of qualified staff in the nursing home. Unfortunately, this often comes down to a simple question of profit.

For-profit nursing homes seek to maximize revenue by filling their beds, and minimize cost by reducing their staff. The result is that the staff is too small to handle the burden of caring for all residents. Staff may be stressed and distracted, which makes it harder for them to maintain an appropriate standard of care for all residents.

You and Your Attorney Can Make a Difference

Nursing homes should not be pure profit centers. They should put resident care first, and profit second. However, when a nursing home loses sight of these priorities, a nursing home negligence lawsuit can help remind them that they can only profit if they provide quality care for all residents.

When pursuing a nursing home negligence lawsuit, you need the help of a skilled attorney to give your case the best chance of success. At AccidentAttorneys.org, we have assembled a nationwide group of lawyers that have been recognized by their peers and independent ratings agencies as being leaders in their profession.

To talk to a leading attorney in your area, please contact AccidentAttorneys.org today.