Anyone with a relative who resides in a nursing home has likely had a nettlesome thought or two about the level of care their loved one is receiving. We’ve all heard at least one horror story of nursing home care gone terribly wrong. While some lapses might be minor or easily explainable, there are some things – like bed sores, pressure ulcers, and other signs that clearly point to nursing home negligence.
There are some things like pressure sores that should just never happen if a person is receiving proper care. Then, there are other occurrences, like falls, that automatically raise a red flag, but may not necessarily amount to negligence.
In addition to bed sores and falls, other signs of nursing home negligence that deserve more scrutiny:
- Medication errors;
- Poor hygiene;
- Unexplained bruises;
- Sudden, unexpected injuries or death.
Your concerns should be carefully considered by an Atlanta injury lawyer with extensive experience handling nursing home negligence cases – especially because some may need to be filed as medical malpractice claims, which have higher proof burdens and additional filing requirements.
No matter what, delaying a legal consult is inadvisable. Per O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71, O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, you’ll most likely have two years from the person’s injury or death in which to file claims for personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death. (There are some rare exceptions, usually when the cause of the injury wasn’t known right away, but the most time you’ll get is five years.) That might seem like a lot of time but building adequate evidence of nursing home negligence can be challenging, especially if the patient is deceased or wouldn’t be considered a reliable witness.
Bed Sores and Pressure Ulcers
Bed sores, also referred to as pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers, are injuries on the skin and underlying tissue that result from prolonged pressure. Some areas of the skin may even start to die. Bony areas of the body (hips, tailbone, ankles, and heels) are generally understood to be the most susceptible.
People with medical conditions that significantly limit their mobility or who spend a great deal of time in a chair or bed are at the highest risk. Lack of sensory perception, poor nutrition, and the presence of moisture are also commonly associated with pressure ulcer development. That means many residents of long-term skilled nursing facilities are extremely vulnerable.
Nursing home caregivers know this. Furthermore, bed sores, which are incredibly painful, are preventable. Even Florence Nightingale, quoted in 1859, stated, “If he has a bedsore, it’s generally not the fault of the disease, but of the nursing.”
As noted in a 2010 analysis published in The Permanente Journal, patients who have mobility problems need to be physically turned by staffers on a routine basis, as determined by the person’s individual level of activity, general medical condition, and overall treatment objectives. If a patient has skin – or areas of skin – with excess moisture, it can be treated with drying agents. Because friction can contribute to pressure ulcers, patients must be lifted – not slid – across mattress surfaces. Malnutrition can also be a contributing factor in the development of bed sores, so it’s important nursing homes provide regular assessments for risk of nutritional deficiency – and adjust if necessary.
Because pressure ulcers are a clear sign of failure in nursing home care, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reported some patients have won up to $65 million in damages for medical malpractice and wrongful death claims involving them (though the average is $340,000.00).
Falls in Nursing Homes
Falls among nursing home residents are common – but they aren’t a “normal part of aging,” and they often signal nursing home negligence.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports as many as 30 percent of nursing home falls are the result of environmental hazards.
One reason Georgia injury lawyers at Apolinsky & Associates know a significant number of nursing home falls are the result of negligence – even though older individuals in poorer health are more prone to falls – is that they are far less common in well-run facilities.
Residents should always have the right shoes, proper foot care, walking aids, and the benefit of caregivers who follow proper procedures for lifting and supervision. Patients identified as fall risks should be receiving additional modifications. The facility itself should be regularly inspected for potential fall hazards, like slippery floors, broken equipment, poor lighting, incorrect bed heights, and faulty bed rails.
The people of Georgia put a lot of trust in nursing homes, and these facilities have a duty to live up to those expectations and to provide quality care for some of the most vulnerable among us. Often when they fail, it’s because of understaffing, negligent hiring, inadequate training, or inadequate supervision. A dedicated Atlanta nursing home injury lawyer can help you fight for justice.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.