Nursing homes care for the most fragile and vulnerable members of our society and our families. This makes it critical that nursing homes take all the precautions necessary with our loved ones. But the fact is that the care provided does not always reach the appropriate level. Plus, your family is not there 24/7 to monitor the care and treatment that our elderly relatives are getting.
This is very different from when a child gets care, for example. We are with our children while they are receiving that medical treatment and because of this, we can monitor everything that is happening and ask questions online.
Why Nursing Homes are Unique
Nursing homes also must balance residents’ need for freedom, as well as the need to protect them, given the residents’ own limitations. Nursing home residents are not prisoners, nor are they school children. They are free adults with rights, and they deserve to lead full lives while maintaining the necessary quality of healthcare.
On the other hand, many may need special care or may need to be kept safe from themselves, and that often may require certain restrictions on their freedoms.
Nursing home residents are also unique because the care they receive is a mixture of non-medical and medical care. Nursing homes are often staffed with doctors. Residents’ day-to-day treatment often involves the administration of medicines, physical therapies, or diagnosing injuries and disease.
That means when there are nursing home injuries, there are several things that can go wrong. But, there are some accidents and injuries that are more common than others. It may help you to know what to look for if a loved one is injured in a nursing home, and what the most common types of nursing home injuries are.
Decubitus and Skin Ulcers (Bedsores)
Many nursing home residents are active, and able to get around on their own power. But many are not and are bedridden.
It may seem that laying in bed stationery is a pretty harmless activity. But, there is a hidden danger when a human body is sitting in a bed for an extended period of time: decubitus ulcers.
Ulcers of the skin happen when the skin is rubbing against a surface, such as a bedsheet, for an extended period without moving. The pressure of the skin on the surface below, and the lack of airflow can open gaping wounds on the skin.
These wounds can be superficial, simply scraping off the top layer of skin. They can also be more serious. In some cases, so serious that they expose layers of tissue, muscle, and bone.
Aside from the obvious pain, these are open wounds. As such, the patient is susceptible to infection. Decubitus ulcers can and often are deadly.
Thankfully, many nursing homes have beds that automatically move the patient’s body. Otherwise, many homes are trained to have staff simply move or reposition the patient’s body periodically to avoid any one part of the body from being in contact with the surface underneath for an extended period.
But often, patients are overlooked. The hospital staff in a nursing home may be poorly trained. A resident can be left in one position for too long. Making matters worse, the ulcer is often underneath the patient’s body, out of eyesight. That means that nurses and other staff can easily overlook a decubitus ulcer in its early stages, making the nursing home injuries worse.
Bed rails are meant to protect residents from falling out of bed. Also, bed rails can serve to prevent the patient from getting up and walking around during periods where there is not enough supervision to keep them safe.
But those same safety measures can also cause harm. In fact, bed rails can be so dangerous that the FDA reports that 50% of bedrail injuries end up being fatal.
Most bed rail injuries involve residents becoming lodged between the bed itself, and the bed rails. Unable to get themselves up, their body weight pushes their bodies further down between the bed and the bed rail. Eventually, they may be crushed or be unable to breathe.
Other injuries happen when a resident tries to get over the bed rails. Because the bed rails are higher, the fall from going over the bed rail, all the way down to the floor, can end up being deadly.
The good news for many nursing home residents is that if they are walking and able to transport themselves, they have a certain level of independence and quality of life. The bad news is that a mobile elderly resident can also be a resident in danger. Specifically, if he or she is allowed to go into areas where residents are not permitted to go or move about without proper supervision or assistance.
Many of these areas are intended for staff. The same staff that are aware of, and who can avoid, things on the floor, or items on shelves, or who can maneuver cluttered areas. Nursing home residents cannot do this, and when they venture into these areas, nursing home injuries such as falls can easily happen.
Like any business or hospital, nursing homes can have fluids on floors, or objects that obstruct walkways. When you or I encounter these situations, there may be no incident. When elderly nursing home resident does, they may be too unstable to keep themselves from falling.
The injuries to an already frail nursing home resident can be devastating. Many do not have the agility or musculature to brace themselves from the impacts of a fall. These falls can lead to serious fractures.
Sadly, abuse is a fact of life in many nursing homes. However, it is illegal, and victims can sue for damages that are sustained when they are abused in nursing homes. Abuse can come in many forms:
- Nursing home staff, untrained to deal with residents, may use excessive force in trying to handle residents. They may also become frustrated with residents not following instructions, and resort to violence or improper restraining.
- Nursing home staff may not do anything intentional at all, but may simply use too much force when handling or managing residents.
- Abuse can happen from other residents. Sexual assault and physical abuse from other residents is a common problem in nursing homes. It is the nursing homes’ obligation to recognize these dangerous situations. If they are identified, the nursing home must do whatever can be done to minimize or avoid them. A nursing home cannot take a “blind eye” to relative-on-relative abuse.
Medical malpractice in a nursing home is much the same as it would be for anybody. If a relative’s condition is not getting better or is getting worse, or if there is some condition, accident, or injury that appears to be untreated, it may be an indication of medical malpractice.
Many nursing homes may be slow to order needed tests or diagnostics or may not get residents the medications that they need in a timely manner, or may administer the incorrect medications.
If your loved one has been sitting with a nursing home injury or condition for an extended period without any medical attention at all, it is possible that he or she is a victim of medical malpractice.
Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect: How Can You Tell?
It is very likely when you visit a loved one in the nursing home you will not personally see or observe your loved one being abused, neglected, or ignored. Making matters more difficult, many of our loved ones may be suffering dementia or other conditions that don’t make them very reliable when retelling what may have happened to them.
A Schaumburg nursing home neglect lawyer can help you Claim Your Justice and determine if a nursing home has abused or neglected a loved one. Here are some ways that you can tell if there is abuse going on in the nursing home.
The obvious sign of abuse is physical injury. Often, seemingly small injuries can lead to discoveries of larger cases of abuse. For example, a loved one that has a small bruise may actually be a victim of abuse. For the bruise you see, there may be others you don’t see, or which have since healed.
Loved ones may complain of feeling sick. It may be a slight head cold, nothing serious. But that also could be the start of infection caused by a major decubitus ulcer.
If your loved one is communicative, monitor changes in mood and affect. Depression, or a change in personality, can often signal pain, or abuse, that is happening when you’re not there. Whenever an outgoing person becomes withdrawn, or people start demonstrating abnormal personality traits, it could be a sign that something is going on.
Remember that these personality changes could also indicate a concussion which is a common result of falls. You may want to ask if your loved one has received any diagnostic scans to see if there is an underlying cause for these personality changes. You may want to look at your loved one’s head, for any visible signs of head trauma.
Doing an Investigation
As a family, you are entitled to see your loved one’s records. You may want to look at both the nursing home records, as well as medical records. Many medical records may be kept separately at the offices of the attending physicians.
Your Schaumburg nursing home neglect lawyer can get records for you, and often have an expert review the records to see if there has been neglect or abuse.
You can also speak to a resident’s attending doctors. Many only have knowledge of their medical treatment, but not the care the nursing home is giving when they aren’t there. This still can help you get an idea of what injuries or ailments the doctor has been treating. Then, you can have a broader picture of what has been going on with your loved one while you weren’t there.
Do you believe that a loved one may have been a victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home? We can help. Call our Schaumburg nursing home abuse attorneys at Claim Your Justice to schedule a free consultation at 847-434-3555.