No form of medical malpractice or neglect should be tolerated, but it isn’t always easy to spot — especially when the victim is someone other than yourself. Those in the care of any health professional are there for a reason, and sometimes for more than one, which means noticing suspicious symptoms can be even harder. When your loved one isn’t able to speak for themselves, either due to age or illness or both, it’s possible for certain types of abuse and neglect to go entirely unnoticed until it’s too late.
This is not the fault of anyone other than the actual negligent and abusive parties, regardless of what they may try to imply if you try to seek justice (and you absolutely can and should seek justice). You should be able to trust your loved one’s healthcare professionals without having to keep a suspicious eye out for possible misconduct. When your trust is betrayed, and someone innocent is hurt, that is all that matters.
There are a wide range of signs and symptoms of various medical malpractice, abuse, and neglect families should look out for. The sooner abuse is caught and addressed, the less harm the victim suffers. Abuse isn’t always obvious bruises or egregious errors like amputating the wrong limb, but it can still be serious and life-threatening. Sometimes, just doing nothing can be the most dangerous act a medical or healthcare professional can do.
What are common types of nursing home neglect?
When it comes to nursing homes specifically, mistreatment and neglect aren’t nearly as rare as they should be. The level of dependence and illness from which many residents suffer seems to invite people to take advantage of them . When a nursing home is understaffed, undertrained, and overpopulated, the overstressed and overworked staff are even likelier to take advantage of their patients — usually, by neglecting important care and tasks, and even the law itself.
Neglect can be just as deadly, if not deadlier, as physical abuse, and it can take many insidious forms:
- Social/emotional neglect refers to any neglect that prevents a resident from interacting with others, and can mean anything from physically isolating someone from other residents to failing to provide mobility tools like canes to neglecting to move residents who cannot move themselves.
- Medical neglect is mostly self-explanatory, but it doesn’t just mean failing to notice or treat injuries and illnesses; it also means failing to report them to doctors. Whether this is done to protect the nursing home’s reputation or finances, or simply a negligent oversight, it can have dire consequences. When something like bedsores aren’t prevented, and then aren’t properly treated, they can lead to deadly infections after months of pain.
- Neglect of basic living needs is any neglect that prevents residents from living in safe, comfortable environments. When staff neglects necessary cleaning and sanitizing, reasonable indoor temperatures, and food quality, residents may contract diseases and other ailments.
- Neglect of personal hygiene is also self-explanatory. Hygiene isn’t just about appearances; it’s about cleanliness and health. If nursing home staff isn’t regularly (or properly) bathing residents, changing their clothes and sheets, or checking in on them often enough, residents are not only incredibly uncomfortable, they’re also at risk of even more health concerns.
Over the summer, a Washington, DC woman found out her mother suffered both medical neglect and personal hygiene neglect, leading to serious bedsores and terrible weight loss after the resident was discovered in her own filth. Usually, one form of neglect is an indication of others. Very rarely are they neatly separated by case. If you notice your nursing home-bound loved one is dehydrated, malnourished, frightened, dirty, or otherwise ridden with bedsores, it could be time to contact a personal injury attorney about pressing charges — or, at least, confronting the nursing home.
Neglecting informed consent can lead to deadly infections
Honesty and transparency are key for nursing homes. . Doctors must be honest with nurses who must be honest with other doctors, and all of them must be honest with their patients. Beyond simply respecting someone’s bodily autonomy and allowing them the option to decline a treatment, it’s also a key part of keeping hospital-borne infections and diseases under control. If someone doesn’t know a patient they are accepting is positive for a contagious illness, that someone can’t take any measures to contain it.
More and more health facilities throughout the country are finding this out the hard way. Infections are spreading more rapidly than ever and investigations have discovered negligence is to blame. From “forgetting” to screen certain patients or neglecting to pass on information on anything (even a deadly fungus) they do find to other healthcare professionals, these dangerously cut corners are putting innocent people at risk. Those in hospitals are already less-than-healthy, and therefore less able to fight off infections. That’s why, on any given day, at least one in 25 patients have a hospital-borne infection. While nursing homes aren’t always hospitals and vice-versa, they face similar risks and — unfortunately — similar neglect.
A startling number of Washington, DC hospitals have been failing to control infections due to probable negligence usually due to a myriad of reasons, but none of them are legally acceptable. The root cause is still negligence; innocent patients are still hurt.
How victims of nursing home neglect and their families can seek justice
Whether neglect happens in a hospital or a nursing home, victims and their families have legal options available to them. Depending on the specifics of your case, anyone from doctors to surgeons to nurses to hospitals and clinics themselves may be liable, and it may even be more than one party. If you’re concerned a loved one has been abused or neglected by a healthcare professional, your best bet is to gather as much information and detail as possible before finding an experienced medical malpractice attorney to build your case.
If you’re awarded damages, you and your loved one could be compensated for any and all medical expensive, punitive damages, loss of enjoyment of life, current and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Never assume you have no case when so much is on the line. You and your attorney need to prove a duty of care, a breach in that duty, and how that breach caused your or your loved one’s injuries. It may not be something you should attempt without legal help, but it is absolutely possible and worth it.
Please contact Pauslon & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling our office.