Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Unfortunately, there are circumstances in which residents of nursing homes experience an elevated risk of a number of ailments. These issues can occur because of a lack of appropriate care, neglect, or they can simply result from the declining physical state that accompanies old age and created a need for long-term care in the first place. What follows is a listing of the most common ailments, such as bed sores, and nursing home neglect issues associated with nursing home care.
The most frequent and potentially severe cause of injury in the elderly is a fall that results in a bone fracture. It is interesting to note that while many hip injuries occur from falls, in the female population it is far more likely that the hip actually breaks first, resulting in a fall. This can be the result of osteoporosis or malnutrition. Making sure that the elderly resident is observed regularly will prevent the fall from turning into something more serious. In a facility without proper observation, it is possible that a resident could lie on the floor for hours, exacerbating any additional trauma that he or she may have experienced due to the fall.
Bed-Related Strangulation and Suffocation
As older people find themselves in bed for longer periods of time, the chances of an injury increase. Compounded by other issues such as malnutrition and dementia, the possibility that a resident will become trapped between hospital bed rails is increased. According to the federal government, 20 to 30 deaths occur in nursing homes each year because of strangulation or suffocation associated with bed rails or falling between a poorly sized mattress and the bed frame.
In addition to the mechanical injuries associated with the bed and frame, a patient who spends extended periods of time in bed may also be subject to bed sores. Also known as pressure ulcers, stages of bedsores can range in severity from very mild to lethal. In its most mild form, a bedsore is a red irritation that is quickly relieved. In its most severe form, it can result in a wound that penetrates the skin and muscle and can, in extreme instances, introduce infection into the bone. This latter scenario is attributable to a lack of appropriate care and sure indicator of neglect. Bedsores have been the source of many fines and citations by the federal and state regulatory agencies (due to individuals who filed a complaint). A bedsore results from pressure that is unrelieved and persists for hours and even days, which means that appropriate attention is not being given to the resident.
A result of poor care or of dementia that prevents the individual from responding to normal bodily needs, dehydration can be lethal. It can be avoided by maintaining a rigid schedule and assuring that staff regularly addresses the dietary and hydration needs of the resident.
In a nursing home facility without appropriate, individualized nutritional plans for its residents, malnutrition is a real danger. Improper nutrition can result in the kind of weakness or fragility of bones that results in falls and fractures, as well as creating a compromised immune system that might not be able to cope with the infection caused by bedsores or other trauma. Every patient should be evaluated regularly to make sure that all of his or her nutritional needs are being met.
Just because your loved one is showing signs of nursing home neglect, doesn't mean that he/she is just suffering from neglect. The signs for nursing home abuse are similar to neglect. Often times the line where nursing home neglect meets nursing home abuse is hard to distinguish. It is always best to contact a qualified nursing home abuse lawyer who can discuss your situation with you and your options going forward.
"Medicare.gov -- Nutrition Care Alert." March 25, 2009. http://www.medicare.gov/Nursing/Campaigns/NutriCareAlerts.asp (accessed January 15, 2010).
"Medical Care of the Nursing Home Resident -- What Physicians Need to Know." 2004. http://www.annals.org/content/127/3/255.2.full (accessed January 16, 2010).