Posts tagged with "Nursing Home Law"

Nursing Home Negligence And Protecting The “Greatest Generation”

Nursing Home Negligence

Our country’s annual celebration of the 4th of July holiday always brings to mind the many sacrifices that have been made down the years to guarantee the freedom that too many of us take for granted during the remainder of the year. From the “baby boomers” who lived through the strife of the Viet Nam era to the most revered members of the “greatest generation”, our ranks of senior citizens is dramatically swelling. Indeed, conservative estimates suggest that the number of people aged 65 and older will more than double between 2010 and 2050. This equates to 88.5 million people or 20 percent of our entire population. In addition, those aged 85 and older will rise three-fold, to 19 million citizens, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Recent times have also seen a dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America suggests that 5.1 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—most of whom currently reside in a nursing home facility. This number is expected to dramatically increase over the next 25 years and researchers are at a loss to explain why.

With an ever increasing population of senior citizens comes the obvious need for medical services and long-term nursing home care. As a result, traditional nursing home facilities are often overwhelmed and find that their resources are stretched beyond the limit of what is generally considered safe. Reliable projections reveal that this already overwhelming burden is ever increasing with more seniors necessitating a greater level of supervision and skilled nursing home care year to year. Unfortunately, it is apparent that the increased demands on nursing home care are proportional to a steady rise in medical mistakes. Nursing home patients are most commonly elderly, fragile and particularly susceptible to suffering life threatening consequences in instances that involve seemingly minimal instances of neglect. For example, leaving an elderly patient who is a known fall risk unattended for even a brief period of time can frequently lead to a fractured hip, the onset of pneumonia and eventually, premature death.

In recent times, advocacy groups like the National Quality Forum, a non-profit organization devoted toward developing a strategy for measuring the quality of healthcare in the United States, introduced the idea of “never events.” A “never event” is an event, mistake, or error that should never occur in the healthcare setting. The most common “never events” in a nursing home setting are:

  • bed sores;
  • pressure sores;
  • dehydration;
  • providing a patient with the wrong medicine;
  • providing a patient with the wrong dosage of medicine;
  • failing to properly assess a patient’s fall and choking risk;
  • dropping a patient thereby causing fractures;
  • failing to properly supervise a patient who is prone to choking;
  • failing to keep a patient from wandering or eloping from the facility; and,
  • failing to properly supervise a patient who is otherwise considered “at risk” of a particular danger or harm.

It is important to note that most nursing home staffs are comprised of competent, dedicated and generally well meaning individuals. The formidable burden that these medical professionals face, however, tax their ability to consistently deliver the type of quality healthcare that we would all want for our loved ones. To this end, greater vigilance is required of a patient’s family to identify perceived vulnerabilities and instances where care is seemingly substandard. A greater awareness of a patient’s ongoing needs and changing medical condition, (as well as a pro-active and collaborative relationship with a patient’s caregivers), is the best insurance against the often devastating consequences that follow from a “never event.”

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is a founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of elder abuse and neglect. He is also an adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School.

Massachusetts Nursing Home Injuries May Increase Due to Budget Cuts

Massachusetts Nursing Home Injuries

As the U.S. population ages, more and more people have to confront the decision regarding whether to put a loved one into a nursing home. People want the best care for their loved ones and look for facilities that will be a good fit for their loved ones’ needs. In the current difficult economy, however, many states are considering budget cuts that will threaten the safety and quality of care of nursing home residents. Massachusetts is looking to reduce its Medicaid budget, which could lead to more seniors suffering nursing home injuries.

The Dangers of Nursing Home Injuries

Injuries are a serious problem for many nursing home residents. According to Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, an average-sized nursing home with 100 beds reports 100 to 200 falls per year. About 1,800 seniors die each year from injuries sustained during falls, the CDC reports.

Another common condition among nursing home residents that can be deadly is bed sores. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that approximately 60,000 people die from complications related to bed sores each year.

The Impact of Budget Cuts on Nursing Home Residents

As challenging as conditions already are in nursing homes, budget cuts are only making them worse. Massachusetts cut the state’s Medicaid funding in an effort to make up budget shortfalls, which could have a detrimental effect on the quality of care that seniors receive in nursing homes.

One of the first programs that Medicaid eliminated under its reduced funding was funding bed-holds to guarantee that nursing home residents who leave the nursing home for short periods of time, such as a sudden hospitalization, will have the same bed when they return to the nursing home. As of November 1, 2011, Medicaid will no longer pay to hold seniors’ beds in Massachusetts.

Federal law mandates that nursing homes must readmit a resident who leaves temporarily, but it does not require that the patient go back to the same bed. Many advocates for seniors argue that changing rooms for nursing home residents is the equivalent of putting them in an entirely new facility, because so many suffer from dementia. The confusion that results from being in an unfamiliar room increases the likelihood of falls and other injuries for these residents.

The federal government is also cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding to the states. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it will reduce its reimbursement rates to nursing homes by 11.1 percent beginning in October 2011. Nursing homes will be pressured to make up the funding elsewhere, either by cutting costs or raising rates for residents. One of the primary ways that nursing homes cut costs is by firing staff or paying them less. Understaffed nursing homes have the potential to lead to neglected patients and an increase in injuries such as falls, bed sores, malnutrition and dehydration.

Times are tough across the country and it is understandable that governments need to cut spending in a difficult economy. However, balancing the budget on the backs of senior citizens in nursing homes will cause unneeded suffering and possibly more deaths.