Nursing Home Negligence: How to Protect Those We Love

When the time comes for someone you care about to enter a nursing home, it can cause stress and trauma not only for them but also for the entire family. Everyone, of course, wants the best care for their relative or dearest friend and will do whatever possible to help ease their transition into a long-term care facility. Before simply selecting the nearest or most affordable nursing home, though, it is important to make certain that the facility you’re considering is a quality nursing home. The facility should employ caring and highly trained medical professionals and staff. You’ll want to do everything possible beforehand to avoid exposing your loved one to nursing home negligence that might cause a physical or mental injury.

Medicare can help you make a more informed choice by using their Nursing Home Comparison website. This site includes detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country. The Minnesota Department of Health also has a website that reports in-state nursing home findings, including an evaluation that covers quality of care and services, along with the appropriateness of a facility’s building, its equipment, staffing, and their policies, procedures, and finances. Always visit each facility that you are considering before finalizing arrangements.

Even with more information at our fingertips, as the population ages, protecting our elderly and making certain that they are well taken care of for however long they have left has been a continuing concern for the entire country. As such, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Act to specify what quality of care is now required for any facility that accepts Medicare and Medicaid funding. However, though federal law requires that nursing homes protect and promote the rights of residents — including making sure that the environment is free of accident hazards and adequate supervision of residents is continually provided — nursing home negligence, accidents, and staff-related errors can still occur.

In 2013, the Star Tribune reported that a staffer at a Minneapolis nursing home failed to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation after being called to a resident’s room by employees. The staff member was later fired. The nursing home, however, was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. State investigators found that, in this case, the nursing home’s policies and procedures were in order.

In 2015, the Star Tribune reported that a western Minnesota nursing home got cited for neglect when an elderly man died of pneumonia after being rushed from the nursing home to a hospital. They found the man malnourished, dehydrated, and he had open sores. The incident was the eighth time since 2011 that the facility had received a citation by the Minnesota Department of Health.

In fact, the greatest number of maltreatment allegations received in 2015 by the Minnesota Department of Health was for vulnerable adults receiving nursing home services. So we all need to stay vigilant and watch out for those seniors who need additional care and who are supposedly getting it in the nursing homes where they are residing.

So what constitutes neglect? If someone fails to care for another as they should or fails to react to a situation which then results in pain or harm to the person they’re taking care of, it’s considered neglect. The failure, even when not intentional, is still considered neglect, such as with caregivers who perhaps don’t have the proper training. Anything that causes depression, or disrupts the mental well-being of a patient, is also considered neglect. In addition to neglect, elder abuse is an issue that can occur and is quite serious. Abuse involves causing intentional harm or pain.

Some signs of neglect and/or abuse to watch out for include excessive weight loss, dehydration, mood changes, any odors caused by poor hygiene, pressure sores, bruises, or broken bones. Not providing proper nutrition for optimal health, failure to answer call lights, lack of assistance with walking, improper dosages of medication and inadequate medical care of any sort are also warning signs.

Out of all the possible issues mentioned above, among others, the primary problem in nursing homes involves falls, so you will want a facility that adequately addresses this matter and provides the best supervision of residents and the best safety equipment possible. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, “Among older adults (65+), falls are the leading cause of injury death, and Minnesota has one of the highest mortality rates due to falls among the elderly in the nation.” Over thirty-three percent of adults — 65 years of age or older — will experience a fall. Falls are actually the major cause of hospital admissions for trauma. Proper care and support are vital to avoid falls and the long-term health problems that a fall can cause.

When something doesn’t look right to you, or if you suspect something is not right, do not dismiss it. Get answers that will satisfy you and assure you that your loved one is safe and well cared for. Often, a resident will not complain about such things themselves for fear of retaliation by the staff, so you have to make certain that you are extra watchful for your relatives and/or friends and reassure them that they can confide in you if they are not being treated properly.

If someone you love has experienced a fall or another injury in a nursing home or is suffering some other type of trauma due to nursing home negligence, please contact us immediately. We’re dedicated to providing quality legal services, with professional reliability and high ethical standards, to make sure that you get the help and representation you need.