Personal injury cases are on the rise, especially as the population ages. Because of the advances in medical technology, people are living longer, and therefore, nursing home admissions are on the rise. While most nursing homes provide excellent standards of care, some are so poorly staffed that patient care often suffers. Three common causes of personal injury causes in the long-term care setting include:
The risk for falls in a nursing home resident can be related to side effects of psychotropic drugs, poor staffing, unmonitored dementia patients, and sundowner’s syndrome. Sundowner’s syndrome is a phenomenon where people are typically lucid during the day, however, once the sun goes down, confusion sets in. Unless these patients are closely monitored, falls and facility elopement can occur.
Decubitus ulcers, or bed sores, occur as a result of excessive pressure on a bony prominence. Many nursing home residents are incontinent and debilitated, and therefore, need to change position at least every 2 hours and be kept scrupulously free from the effects of bowel and bladder incontinence. Urine and feces are extremely irritating to delicate skin, and if impeccable hygiene measures are not carried out, skin can start to break down.
Skin breakdown is classified in stages. A Stage I decubitus ulcer is characterized by superficial redness with no breaks in the skin, and a Stage IV decubitus ulcer can involve the destruction of muscle and bone. Stage IV ulcers can cause life-threatening infections, and are very difficult to manage. Many personal injury cases involve bed sores that have progressed to Stage IV.
Elderly people can dehydrate very quickly, so it is crucial that their nutritional status be monitored carefully by the nursing staff and dietary department. Monthly weights need to be monitored, and if weight loss is noticed, the patient’s doctor needs to be notified. Blood work also needs to be monitored for evidence of dehydration. When a patient becomes dehydrated, it is often reflected in their lab results. Abnormalities are often noticed in serum protein, albumin, potassium and sodium. Urine tests often reveal concentrated urine and sometimes proteinuria. If the physician is not quickly notified of the patient’s condition, dehydration can cause renal and cardiovascular complications.
If you suspect nursing home neglect, contact a personal injury lawyer who can help you determine if the facility was negligent in the care of your loved one.