Louisville Attorneys Defend Victims of Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence
Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence
When someone becomes a resident at a nursing home, that nursing home has made a promise to take care of that resident. Often times, the resident's family is unable to care for them at home due to increasing needs for hands-on daily care. When a nursing home agrees to accept a resident as a patient, that nursing home should be designed to fully care for such a resident. Not only do nursing homes get paid millions of dollars to care for their residents, both Kentucky State and Federal Law demands that they do it in an appropriate manner. Unfortunately, for too many older Americans, the care they receive is far from ideal. In many cases, the care turns into abuse and neglect, making their days at the nursing home a living nightmare. Many times, residents are afraid to speak-up and tell someone that he or she is being abused for fear of retaliation by the nursing home staff. That is why it is very important for family members and friends to know how to identify the signs of abuse and neglect as indentified by an experienced Kentucky nursing home abuse attorney.
Bed sores, also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers, are sometimes thought of as a necessary evil when dealing with anyone who lies or sits for long periods of time. However, they are almost all preventable with proper care. Some of the common preventable causes of bed sores are:
• dragging a person across a bed without proper protection of the feet, tailbone, back, and elbows
• moisture, for example, wet bed linens or adult diapers left for extended periods of time
• not moving a resident frequently enough
• not ensuring proper diet or diet supplements
If a caregiver is not vigilant, a small sore can quickly escalate into a serious ulcer. The longer the ulcer persists, the worse it becomes. The ulcer can eventually become a crater which extends into the muscle and bone of the afflicted elder. These serious bed sores can easily become infected and if the infection proceeds unchecked it can lead to sepsis and death. Bed sores do not have to happen and proper care will prevent them.
Falls account for over 1,800 deaths in nursing homes each year. There are many factors that account for the frequency of nursing home falls. Obviously, the residents are in an assisted living facility because they are unable to live on their own. One should feel better knowing they are somewhere safe with trained staff that can help prevent a fall. However, there are ways in which nursing homes cause falls. If the facility is unsafe or has unsafe equipment in place the likelihood of a fall occurring increases. If the home is not clean, then there may be spills and messes on floors that pose a serious hazard to anyone attempting to walk through them. Hazards in a nursing home account for 16% to 27% of the falls. The frequency of falls that occur in the non-walking population of nursing homes, 35% of all falls, speaks to how staff negligence can lead to injuries from falls.
Another factor in the frequency of falls is the amount or type of medication a resident receives. If these medications, in particular sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs, are given incorrectly, they are very likely to have a negative effect on a resident's ability to walk. This mistake may make an otherwise able-bodied senior citizen unable to safely navigate their way through the home.
Physical abuse is startlingly common among the elderly. Reports of nursing home residents being slapped, pushed, punched or kicked are not uncommon. In fact, one in three nursing homes in the United States have been reported for an abuse or violation. If the resident is unable to communicate, then the abuse may go on for some time, perhaps until the time of their death. Even if the resident is able to communicate, they may be too confused to report it or may be coerced into not telling family or friends about the abuse. Outward signs of abuse are the only real evidence, and often these may be incorrectly attributed to the easily bruised skin of the elderly. There are some signs of abuse that family members should be on the lookout for when visiting the nursing home. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, these signs may include:
• bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks
• bone fractures, broken bones, and skull fractures
• open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various
stages of healing
• sprains, dislocations, and internal injuries/bleeding
• broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of being subjected
to punishment, and signs of being restrained
• laboratory findings of medication overdose or under-utilization of
• an elder's report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated
• an elder's sudden change in behavior
• the caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone
Often, nursing home abuse is not reported to the police. Up to 20% of nursing homes have had sexual or physical abuse incidents that have not been reported to the police. Often, the abuse is reported only internally. If the management does not bring the abuse to the attention of the family, then they are unaware that it has occurred. By not notifying the authorities, nursing home staff and management are looking out for their own well-being and funding, not the well being of their residents.
Psychological abuse of nursing home residents is rampant. Elderly residents may be berated, threatened, forced into isolation, ignored, ridiculed or cursed at. Forced isolation can have serious psychological consequences and regularly leads to physical injury. This type of abuse can be harder to recognize as it leaves no physical marks. However, any emotional abuse can be extremely stressful and can be an indicator that the resident may be more likely to be physically harmed. Some of the signs of emotional abuse of the elderly are:
• being emotionally upset or agitated
• being extremely withdrawn and non-communicative or non-responsive
• unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking)
• an elder's report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated
Medication mistakes in nursing homes can lead not only to increased incidence of falls but can lead to further disability or death. The number of medications a resident takes may be numerous. The caregiver must ensure that each resident is given the correct medications, in the correct dosages, at the correct times. The incorrect dose of a medicine, either too much or too little, can have grave results. If a medicine is not given at all, the effects can be deadly. One study showed that more than half of the medication-related injuries in nursing homes were preventable.
Sometimes nursing home residents are overly medicated purposely. If a resident is seen as a wandering risk or if she has even mild psychological disorders, staff may overmedicate her. This is seen as easier for the caregiver as the resident can be medicated to a point that renders them immobile. However, this is a dangerous and irresponsible practice. The overuse of sedatives in the elderly can have long term mental and physical repercussions and may even result in death.
When a person is unable to feed themselves they must be assisted in order to avoid malnutrition or dehydration. It is estimated that at least one-third of the nation's nursing home residents are suffering from dehydration or malnutrition. This should be a simple fix. Water or juice at regular intervals and complete meals at least three times a day would prevent residents from suffering needlessly. However, a shortage of staffing inside the nursing homes has lead to residents being left with food in front of them that they are unable to eat. Even if residents are able to feed themselves, they may not be eating enough to get the nutrients they need. Without careful attention to caloric intake residents can easily become malnourished.
The lack of proper personal hygiene can be embarrassing to a bed-ridden adult. Beyond embarrassment, poor hygiene can be extremely harmful to nursing home residents. If caregivers do not keep residents clean and dry, the painful and dangerous bed sores discussed above are much more likely to occur. In addition, illness is more easily spread where residents are not kept clean.
The nature of a nursing home, elderly persons seeking care, makes it apparent that its residents are in need of additional help. If the resident is unable to perform a basic self-care routine, then the routine is the responsibility of the staff. One of the most serious side-effects of nursing home neglect is decubitus ulcers, also known as bed sores or pressure sores.
Many nursing home occupants will end their days in the facility. However, there are times when a resident's life is cut short. Wrongful death can be caused by neglect, physical abuse, bed sores which worsen and lead to sepsis, falls, medication areas, and malnutrition.
If a loved one has been neglected or abused in a Kentucky nursing home, please call Gray and White Law for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Gray and White Law
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(502) 210-8942 or 888-450-4456 (toll free)