Posts tagged with "nursing home negligence"

Massachusetts Question 1 has Nurses Divided

Few ballot questions have vexed Massachusetts voters more in recent times than Ballot Question #1 which seeks to put strict limits on the number of patients that nurses care for in a hospital setting.  How can we say that it is so controversial?  A WBUR poll of 500 registered nurses reveals that 48 percent plan to vote for the ballot question that would establish maximum nurse-to-patient ratios in state law, and 45 percent say they’ll vote against the very same measure. Only seven percent are undecided.  “Nurses are split on the question,” says pollster Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

Those in favor of the measure believe it will enhance patient safety while those against claim that a “one size fits all” approach is too inflexible and will lead to a host of unintended consequences from greater waiting times in emergency rooms to forcing smaller, rural hospitals to close due to their inability to afford the extra nursing staff that will be required.  Should the measure pass, the maximum patient to nurse ratio would be set at 4 to 1 but that ratio can vary depending on the condition of the patient or the unit that they’re in.  For example, in units with post-anesthesia care or operating room patients, the measure would mandate a ratio of one patient under anesthesia per nurse or a maximum of two post anesthesia patients per nurse.

While everyone desires a safer hospital environment for patients, there is no consensus that passing Ballot Question #1 will serve that end.

To Avoid Nursing Home Negligence, Know Your “Rights”

TO AVOID NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE, KNOW YOUR “RIGHTS”

 

 

Making the decision to admit a loved one to a nursing home can be an agonizing experience.  We are tempted to think of the care rendered by such facilities as impersonal and vastly inferior to that which we would provide to our loved one at home.  This is not always true, of course.  It is an undeniable fact, however, that the resources and attention offered by these facilities are often being stretched beyond the limits of what is safe.  As life expectancy increases, incidents of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have commensurately risen as well.  Population in the nation’s nursing homes has therefore swollen in recent times.  Most alarmingly, perhaps, is that these numbers are projected to dramatically increase over the course of the next several decades.  Our seniors find themselves at increased risk while a patient at these facilities.  The best guard against neglect, is to “know your rights.”  Massachusetts General Laws c. 111 section 70E provides a “bill of rights” that protects every patient.  While the statute is long and comprehensive, several provisions are particularly helpful to nursing home patients.

 

Massachusetts General Laws c. 111 section 70 E provides, in part:

 

Every patient or resident of a facility shall have the right:

*to privacy during medical treatment or other rendering of care within the capacity of the facility;

*to prompt life saving treatment in an emergency without discrimination on account of economic status or

source of payment and without delaying treatment for purposes of prior discussion of the source of payment                                                                  unless such delay can be imposed without material risk to his health, and this right shall also extend to those persons not already patients or residents of a facility if said facility has a certified emergency care unit;

* to informed consent to the extent provided by law;

* upon request, to obtain from the facility in charge of his care the name and specialty, if any, of

the physician or other person responsible for his care or the coordination of his care;

*to confidentiality of all records and communications to the extent provided by law;

Staffing Issues that Can Contribute to Nursing Home Negligence

Staffing Issues That Can Contribute to Nursing Home Negligence

It is always a tough situation when a loved one must transition to a nursing home. As a relative, you no doubt research nursing homes in your area in order to find the most suitable living environment, with the assurance that your loved one’s needs will be met and that they will be well taken care of.

However, quite often those living in a nursing home face abuse and neglect. When such circumstances occur to someone you love, you feel a great deal of anger. While you may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done, be it physical or mental, but legal action can ensure that you and your loved one receives just compensation, as well as assurance that those responsible for the negligence are held responsible.

You can also hopefully avoid any such negligent behavior by choosing a nursing home that is adequately staffed. While there may be a variety of reasons staff members elect to neglect the patients in their care, it is understaffing itself that more often than not directly contributes to nursing home negligence.

Reasons Why a Nursing Home May Be Understaffed

There are many reasons while a nursing home may experience staffing issues and a general shortage of competent staff. For starters, there is a shortage of healthcare workers and nurse practitioners in the United States, with a great need to fill thousands of future positions in nursing homes and healthcare facilities.

The growth of nursing homes across the United States has created many positions that just aren’t being filled quickly enough. A new nursing home may appear clean, efficient and appealing, but you should also be sure that it is fully staffed before choosing to administer a loved one there.

A nursing home may also be understaffed if its employees aren’t paid fairly. Low wages can lead to a high turnover rate (not to mention the fact that it doesn’t give workers a great incentive to perform their job well). A high turnover rate also means new staff must be trained, which essentially means staff that is unfamiliar with your loved one’s particular needs and daily routine. Low pay could also result in not too many applicants accepting a position, as they may seek a position elsewhere for higher pay.

When visiting nursing homes for consideration, ask some of the staff how long they have been there, if they enjoy working there and if much of the staff has been there very long. If they answer honestly, you can get a good idea of how well the place may be staffed and if the staff is happy there.

A nursing home may also expect too much of its staff. A staff member who must handle multiple responsibilities that are better served by additional staff members is unlikely to have the time to sufficiently see to the need of his or her patients.

And finally, nursing home management may simply refuse to hire the proper amount of staff in order to keep profits high.

Negligence: The Unfortunate Consequence of Nursing Home Understaffing

As you might have now realized (or even experienced already with a loved one currently in a nursing home), understaffing can cause serious problems in a nursing home, especially patient neglect. Such neglect isn’t always intentional — as mentioned above, staff members can often be overwhelmed with many responsibilities and daily tasks, making it hard to give their patients the time and care they require.

Additionally, staff that isn’t treated properly by management or paid poorly can become disgruntled. As employee morale suffers, so too does their work ethic, and the overall work dynamic can lead to instances of abuse or neglect.

With many patients dependent upon nursing home staff for a large amount of care, neglect can lead to physical injury, psychological trauma and even death. Patients that are suffering from limited mobility are dependent upon their caregivers to help them move in order to avoid maladies such as atrophy or bedsores.

Additionally, receiving medication and food at the proper times, being provided with regular bathing and grooming, and help with going to the bathroom are all basic needs that can be overlooked or neglected due to understaffing.

Legal Repercussions of Nursing Home Understaffing

Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide proper care for the patients within their walls. Failure to do so can often result in strict fines, and rampant episodes of neglect and abuse have served to shut down many nursing homes. Additionally, nursing homes have been sued for wrongful death and/or illness of patients in their care that suffered due to neglect.

With understaffing being recognized as one of the leading causes of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, it is being viewed more and more as a crime. Staffing violations should be reported so as to ensure that no patient suffers needlessly.

If you or a loved one has experienced abuse or neglect in a nursing home, contact the law office of Colucci Colucci Marcus & Flavin, PC. Our personal injury attorneys can help you take the necessary steps to receive just compensation and/or justice in cases relating to nursing home understaffing and neglect. You may call us at (617) 698-6000, or you can also contact us online to set up your free initial consultation.

Nursing Home Neglect

How to Tell If a Nursing Home Is Neglecting a Loved One

Nursing homes and other assisted living care facilities are businesses a family hires to look after elderly loved one who can no longer safely look after themselves. Sadly, a lot of these places let folks down and nursing home neglect is a growing problem in America as the Baby Boomer generation ages and more of its members require assistance.

It’s common to find nursing homes that are understaffed or that lack adequate services, but the average person may not be able to tell which places are superb and which ones allow people to suffer. If you suspect your loved one isn’t being taken care of properly, try these simple strategies.

 

Ask Questions

Go right up to staff and ask them how many people are on duty, and how many seniors they are looking out for. Don’t be afraid to ask people about their credentials and qualifications. Do you see mostly teenagers and college students working there?

If something looks odd or out of place to you, ask about it. Is another resident in a wheelchair just left in the hallway facing the corner? Don’t be shy, ask what is going on.

 

Listen to Complaints

Most people being taken care of in nursing homes still have their wits about them, and if your loved one is talking about a problem, take them seriously. The seniors themselves are often the best source of information about problems in the nursing home. If they say someone else isn’t being taken care of properly, follow up on it and see if it’s true.

 

Pay Attention to Injuries

Does your senior have strange sores on their hips, heels, ankles or tailbone? That’s most likely a bedsore, and it’s the most common sign of nursing home neglect. These sores come from someone left lying in bed all day without being turned or moved.

Broken limbs are also a problem, and this can come from a senior who tried to move on their own and fall, such as if the staff doesn’t respond to their requests for help. That’s not the fault of your loved one, that’s a neglect issue and it needs to be followed up.

 

What Can You Do?

If someone from your family has been neglected at a nursing home or other care facility, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your rights and what you can do next.

Three Things You Need to Hold a Facility Liable for Nursing Home Negligence

We’re always eager to take on nursing home negligence cases. There’s a large industry that far too often takes advantage of people and consistently understaffs its facilities, despite making a lot of money from families and the government. People get hurt when the staff can’t stay on top of everyone’s needs, and if you know someone who has been hurt please give us a call and we can talk about the legal options you have.

We are happy to explain to you over the phone or in person as to what is needed to make a case against a retirement home. In the meantime, here’s an overview of the three basic steps needed:

 

Liability

Just like any other personal injury case, a nursing home negligence case requires that the resident was harmed while they were under the care of the defendant. Was the resident hurt because of the negligent actions of the nursing home staff or administration?

As an example, we’ll use bed sores, which are the most common type of nursing home negligence injuries we see. Bed sores happen when someone is allowed to lie down for long stretches at a time and the pressure of their weight on a surface harms the body. We need to show that the resident received these injuries while lying in a nursing home bed owned by the defendant.

 

Causation

Causation means that the injury was caused by the actions of the staff or administration. In our bed sores case, did staff members fail to turn over or move the patient from time to time? Were there too few people on staff to keep up with each and every nursing home resident? It’s not enough that the injury occurred while at the nursing home, it also has to be caused by the actions or lack of actions from the people who work there.

 

Damages

Lastly, now that we’ve established where the bed sores occurred and why they occured, we have to show that the bed sores harmed the senior we represent. Bed sores are an actual injury, and they are both easy to spot and easy to demonstrate that they are harmful. We can then show the medical intervention needed to care for the victim. These have to be actual sustained injuries, not potential injuries that were narrowly avoided.

With liability, causation and damages all demonstrated, we are able to continue the case and seek compensation from the nursing home who causes the inexcusable injuries. Remember, we’re the experts, you don’t have to come to us with the proof of liability, causation or damages. We will investigate to make your case as strong as it can be.

The most important thing you need to do is contact us as soon as you suspect there is a problem, as the sooner we get started the better your chances will be of receiving justice. You can visit our website at www.ColucciLaw.com or give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657.

Tales from our files – Lessons Learned Concerning Nursing Home Care

Nursing Home Care

My legal practice is concentrated in assisting victims of nursing home negligence throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Over my twenty-five year career, I believe I’ve seen nearly every conceivable fact pattern concerning neglect and abuse at these facilities. It recently occurred to me that providing examples of the problems that my clients have encountered over the years might serve a useful purpose in helping others to avoid common lapses in nursing home care.

Upon the initial admission to a nursing home, the staff is obligated to conduct an assessment of each patient to properly assess that person’s needs and to create an individualized “Care Plan” for them. If done correctly, the assessment will determine, among other things, whether an immobile patient requires assistance in “transferring” or moving from bed to chair or to the bathroom. The overall safety and welfare of the patient is the principle concern, of course. Sometimes, however, facilities are either understaffed, unprepared or simply “too busy” to properly and safely address the critical needs of their residents.

I had the honor to represent an 88 year old woman that I’ll call “Ann.” She had long been a resident of the defendant’s facility due to advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and other medical complications. Sadly, Ann was unable to verbally express herself, was non-ambulatory and remained completely dependent upon the defendant’s staff for all activities of daily living. Despite her many medical complications, Ann did not suffer from osteoporosis, however. The importance of this latter fact will become clear as you read on.

One day, Ann was being transferred to her bed with the use of a machine known as a Hoyer lift. It was immediately after this transfer that the she began to crudely express that she was in pain. Oddly, no trauma, fall or other “event” was recorded by the defendant’s employees in Ann’s medical chart. When her pain became unbearable, Ann was transferred to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a markedly displaced femur fracture with fragmentation and a massive hematoma. Her extensive injuries required immediate surgery. Ann’s family suspected that she had been dropped during the transfer on the Hoyer lift but the facility vigorously denied this. The case was further complicated inasmuch as there was no independent witness to any suspected accident. We argued that the displaced fracture of the patient’s femur, the body’s largest and strongest bone, was sufficient evidence that a trauma had indeed occurred. Moreover, we argued that the “fragmentation” (splintered bones) and “hematoma” (deep bruising) were corroborating evidence of a traumatic event that the facility had conveniently neglected to record. In response, the facility hired a medical expert who was prepared to testify at trial that Ann could have suffered her fracture by “organic means” (e.g. brittle bones in the elderly can sometimes break spontaneously-without a trauma). They cited the common occurrence of a senior suffering a rib fracture after a hearty sneeze. We successfully refuted this suggestion by conclusively demonstrating that Ann did not previously suffer from osteoporosis or other skeletal degeneration which would tend to make her bones exceedingly brittle and thus subject to fracture without first suffering a trauma. During the course of our investigation we also discovered that, even before Ann was a resident, this particular facility engaged in a systemic failure to promptly and accurately report accidents that injured their residents.

A large settlement was reached on the eve of trial, presumably because the facility was fairly convinced that a jury would likely punish them for their deception in failing to own up to their role in both causing and properly reporting Ann’s accident.

As always, a family’s best defense against nursing home neglect is both vigilance and active involvement in the care of their loved one.

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.

Law Aims to Stop Misuse of Antipsychotic Medications in Nursing Homes

Across the country, nursing home residents are put on strong antipsychotic medications to treat such ailments as aggression and agitation. Often times, they are given these powerful medications for “off-label” uses without their consent or without the knowledge and consent of family members – sometimes leading to nursing home injuries. Some U.S. legislators would like to change that.

Antipsychotic medications are typically used to treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, and sometimes even dementia. Since more than half of nursing home residents suffer from some form of dementia, the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes has skyrocketed. Nursing homes across the country also report using antipsychotic medications to treat their residents for anxiety; in addition, some use them as a sleep aid or in place of antidepressants.

Some Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medications in Nursing Homes

Although antipsychotics can help in off-label situations, they are not approved for such uses and carry far too many risks to do so lightly. Antipsychotics are strong medications that carry grave potential side effects. Some of the side effects of antipsychotic medications include:

  • Weight gain, which can lead to diabetes
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Movement disorders
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

These are especially dangerous for the elderly.

Efforts to Curtail Antipsychotic Medication Use in Nursing Homes

In light of these side effects, three U.S. senators have proposed a bill that would require nursing homes to gain written consent from a family member or designated health care agent before administering these powerful drugs to their residents. The bill would require nursing homes to provide information to family members about the possible side effects and risks associated with antipsychotics, as well as other treatment options available. The goal is to reduce the number of users at nursing homes and encourage alternative therapies. Other types of therapies include:

  • Message therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Distraction techniques
  • Social interaction
  • Calling family and friends
  • Water therapy

The three senators believe nursing homes have abused the use of antipsychotic drugs among the elderly for far too long. They are seeking to make sure nursing homes only use antipsychotic medications as a last resort, and that proper consent for such medications is given before administering them. In the meantime, family members of nursing home residents who have been given antipsychotics without their knowledge or against their will may wish to consider discussing their rights and options with an attorney, especially if their loved ones have suffered injury as a result of the facilities’ misuse of these medications.

Tales From Our Files – Lessons Learned Concerning Nursing Home Negligence

My legal practice is concentrated in assisting victims of nursing home negligence throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Over my twenty-five year career, I believe I’ve seen nearly every conceivable fact pattern concerning neglect and abuse at these facilities. It recently occurred to me that providing examples of the problems that my clients have encountered over the years might serve a useful purpose in helping others to avoid common lapses in nursing home care.

This second installment addresses a common problem encountered by nursing home patients—the risk and dangerous consequences of dehydration.

My firm represented an elderly man I’ll call “Gus” who was admitted to the defendant’s nursing home facility. Two days previous, he had suffered a stroke. He was admitted to the defendant’s facility to undergo rehabilitation and therapy as a result of the stroke. It is important to note that during the time that he was a patient at the defendant’s facility, he was totally dependent upon the staff for the most basic necessities of life. This included, but was not limited to, needs such as nourishment, hydration and hygiene. During Gus’s stay in the defendant’s facility, he exhibited overt signs that he was not receiving sufficient hydration. A review of his relevant medical records reveals some telling facts: (1) his average daily fluid intake translated to 1,084 cc or 53% of his anticipated need. This is clearly inadequate and lead inexorably to his ultimate dehydration; (2) Gus was ultimately observed to be “very dry” following a routine examination by a dentist. Notwithstanding this fact, no notification to doctors and staff of this important finding was forthcoming; (3) three days later, he had decreased tolerance of fluids (i.e. “sips”); (4) it was noticed that he developed difficulty swallowing; and, (5) he experienced increased lethargy, a likely consequence of his progressive dehydration. Once again, this finding was not properly identified or treated. Neither was Gus’s relatively sudden and significant weight loss.

Gus became non-responsive and was transported to the hospital as a result. Despite the hospital’s attempt to aggressively hydrate him, he died the following day.

We hired an expert who opined that the facility contained a host of deficiencies including their failure to promptly identify, report and aggressively treat the various symptoms and consequences of drastic dehydration. Moreover, our expert concluded that “[i]t seems evident to me that the care provided to [Gus] was substandard and likely resulted in his premature demise.”

I filed a lawsuit against the nursing home for Gus’s wrongful death. We ultimately settled the case for a substantial sum.

My advice is for family members to take an avid role as an advocate for their loved one who is in the nursing home. Only by being actively “involved” can you possibly prevent an accident from occurring.

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is a founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of neglect. For many years he has lectured and served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School. He has also been named as a “SuperLawyer” by his peers as published by Boston Magazine.

Gender May Put Elderly Men in Massachusetts at Risk for Abuse

Many elderly men in failing health are finding it difficult to get the care that they need – not for lack of health care facilities, but because there are not enough beds for men. Since the elderly female population is so much larger, two-thirds of patients in nursing homes are women. This, coupled with the fact that Medicaid will only pay for semiprivate rooms, makes it difficult for health care facilities to accommodate men since male and female patients cannot be roommates – and rooms already occupied by men are hard to come by.

As a result, families may be forced to place their elderly male loved ones in facilities that are less than ideal – including many that may have substandard patient care. And this can put male patients at risk for elder abuse and nursing home neglect.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse occurs when the people who are supposed to care for senior citizens intentionally inflict harm on them, or neglect them. This abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or financial, and can often be caused by health care facility employees. In the case of nursing homes, some signs of abuse include:

  • Sudden weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Bedsores or other untreated infections
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or broken bones
  • Bruises or marks on wrists or ankles
  • Unsanitary living conditions or soiled bedding

Elder Abuse on the Rise in Massachusetts

According to state social workers, there has been a 31 percent increase in the number of reported elder abuse cases in Massachusetts since 2008 – for both male and female together. In 2010 alone, there were 20,000 cases of elder abuse reported.

And, many more cases of elder abuse go unreported. A study conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College shows that for every case of elder abuse that is reported, there are about 24 cases that don’t get reported – oftentimes because the victim is dependent on the abuser in some way.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of nursing home neglect or abuse, contact an experienced attorney in your area today to be advised of your rights and options.