If you are interested in speaking with a nursing home abuse lawyer, like a nursing home abuse lawyer in Cleveland, OH, consider contacting the lawyers at Mishkind Kulwicki Law. We are experienced and knowledgeable in this area of law. Having tried over 100 personal injury lawsuits, we stand ready to provide you with advice and the resources to seek justice on behalf of your injured loved one. Elderly and disabled residents of long-term care facilities, group homes, nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities deserve safe care and attention. Anything less is unacceptable.
The horrors of nursing home abuse know no bounds. Resident abuse may occur with a physical assault or rape. But neglect of residents’ needs and negligent care are other forms of abuse. Nursing home neglect can lead to falls, pressure sores, infectious disease, delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment of underlying medical conditions, and elopement.
Assault and Rape. Various accounts of attacks on hospitalized patients and nursing home residents, including physical assault and rape, are all too common. Frequently, violence results from staff who are poorly trained or who have a criminal background. Understaffing increases the risk of staff violence when unskilled and/or undertrained staff are required to care for far too many challenging patients. This can lead to an outburst of anger. Oftentimes, nursing homes advertise skilled and specialized care, especially for the most challenging patients such as those who have Alzheimer’s. When the service that is delivered does not match up with the service that is promised, this is blatant consumer fraud.
In any case involving a physical assault or rape, it is imperative to do a detailed background check on the caregiver who committed the crime. It is also imperative to engage local law enforcement so that criminal prosecution occurs early in the process. The police can provide useful information about the nature of the crime, the criminal’s background and supporting evidence.
It is also important to conduct an audit of the nursing home’s staffing. Was the facility adequately staffed? Did they comply with federal regulations and industry staffing standards? Was the staff adequately trained? Was specially trained staff involved when the facility represented that specialized staff would care for the resident?
Falls. Falls are a common source of nursing home litigation. Every plan of care for a nursing home resident requires assessment of the patient’s fall risk. Depending on the degree of fall risk, there are a variety of interventions that can be undertaken to minimize the risk of a fall. Many factors lead to an increased risk of falls, including medications, physical disability, medical conditions, and a past history of falling. Interventions include padding, side rails, frequent checks, chemical restraints (drugs to sedate patients), physical restraints, assistance, and physical therapy to improve strength and balance. Falls often occur as a result of failing to undertake necessary interventions, such as providing adequate assistance to a patient who is at high risk of falling to use the bathroom.
Often, following a fall, an elderly resident will pass away during the following several months. Current medical literature relates many deaths following a fall that results in a hip fracture to the fall incident. Therefore, a fall that results in a broken hip followed by a fatality requires assessment of a potential wrongful death claim. Ohio law differentiates between personal injury and wrongful death claims. However, these claims can be brought together when a fall occurs resulting in a hip fracture followed by death.
Pressure Sores. Pressure sores, also called decubitus ulcers, develop as a result of bedridden, paralyzed, immobilized or disabled patients spending too much time in one position thereby putting pressure on their skin. The extended pressure leads to breakdown of the skin and the development of ulcers. These ulcers are staged from stage one to stage six. Stage one consists of a red mark on the skin. Stage two involves a red mark that has progressed to an open sore. Stage three is a deeper wound that involves destruction of tissue below the skin. Stage four pressure sores go all the way to the bone. In some cases, a pressure sore is not stageable because the wound is covered with scab or dead tissue called slough. Stages five and six result in death.
Not all pressure sores are preventable. This fact has led to great controversy in lawsuits involving personal injury, infection or wrongful death related to the development of pressure sores. In 2010, the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) held a conference to establish guidelines for determining the difference between end-of-life skin changes and avoidable pressure ulcers. Numerous medical specialties were involved along with wound care nurses. As a result of the conference, an article was published in the Journal of Ostomy Wound Management entitled “Pressure Ulcers: Avoidable or Unavoidable?” This article is frequently cited by experts in litigation to assert that a litigant’s pressure sores were unavoidable. However, since this journal article was created by medical industry insiders, it naturally favors the medical industry’s interpretation of pressure ulcers. Moreover, many of the guidelines are subject to interpretation so that two experts can disagree. This makes pressure ulcer litigation very challenging.
Further complicating matters, many patients who develop pressure ulcers have complex and serious underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, dehydration, malnutrition, vascular disease or incontinence. These residents may have mental status changes, the after effects of a stroke, or may die before litigation, such that they cannot testify on their own behalf. To prove a claim arising out of pressure sores, it is important to obtain the complete nursing home or hospital chart and review it carefully for staging of the pressure ulcer, the plan of care, and nursing efforts to prevent ulcers from forming or from progressing after they have formed. Wound experts, both physicians and nurses, are necessary at trial to testify about whether the pressure sore was avoidable or not.
Pressure sores can also lead to infection, which in turn can lead to death. Proving a wrongful death claim as a result of a pressure ulcer may require expert testimony from an infectious disease doctor, a pathologist or the county coroner.
Infectious Disease. Hospitals and nursing homes are frequent sources of community-acquired disease. In fact, there is an actual term, nosocomial infection, that is used to describe infections that arise in the setting of a healthcare facility. Unfortunately, despite many infection control requirements, infection rates at healthcare facilities are out of control. Ask any healthcare professional, and they will describe how filthy their facility is due to the lack of maintenance, hygiene and failure to implement basic infectious disease controls.
One common source of infection in the nursing home setting is clostridium difficile or C. diff. C. diff is a bacteria that is often found in nursing home fabrics, like curtains, towels and bed linens. It is difficult to kill through normal laundering techniques. C. diff infections occur when a nursing home resident has taken antibiotics that change the normal composition of bacteria in their GI tract. When normal gut bacteria is destroyed by antibiotics, C. diff can take advantage of that environment and grow exponentially. It is a difficult infection to control. Sometimes, it is deadly.
Delayed Diagnosis. One form of nursing home neglect involves a delay in diagnosis or a delay in treatment of an underlying medical condition, such as pulmonary embolism or a cardiac condition. Nursing home residents are at the mercy of the attending nursing staff for most of their medical needs. If they develop an emergency, the decision whether to transfer the resident to a nearby emergency department for assessment is first made by the facility’s nursing staff. Mistakes are often made. There are financial incentives to reduce hospital admissions in this setting that can stall the decision to transfer a patient for emergency care. Again, an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer will have to review nursing home and medical records to determine whether a medical emergency was ignored and, if so, whether earlier treatment would have saved the resident’s life.
Elopement. “Elopement” is the term used to describe when a nursing home resident wanders from their facility. Many nursing home residents, especially patients with dementia from Alzheimer’s disease, may wander from the facility. Elopements can end in tragedy, such as a resident drowning, falling, electrocution, getting hit by a car, freezing to death or serious personal injury. State and federal regulations, along with industry standards, require nursing home and group home facilities to implement security measures to prevent elopement, such as locked doors. These cases are devastating for family members who entrust their loved one’s care to the nursing home.
Time Limits. Under Ohio law, nursing home abuse is considered to be a “medical claim.” Medical claims in Ohio are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. However, when nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect results in death, the wrongful death statute of limitations is two years. The statute of limitations is subject to a number of exceptions. It is always advisable to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer early in the process so that he or she can protect your legal rights in a timely manner.
We are here to answer your questions about nursing home abuse and nursing home negligence cases. We handle cases throughout the State of Ohio. We have the experience and resources to go toe-to-toe with the insurance companies’ lawyers and experts. Most importantly, we care. Please call us if you have any questions.