A main issue that increases the risk of medical problems of the elderly often involves poor communication. This contributes to preventable medical errors that frail elderly patients are particularly vulnerable. In a study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, about a third of Medicare beneficiaries have experienced harmful events when staying at nursing homes after being hospitalized. Of these events, nearly 60 percent were preventable.
As a result of managed care and Medicare and Medicaid caps, doctors seem to be spending less time with each patient. Given that this is the first generation with such an older elderly population many doctors are not prepared or trained to deal with all the risk factors involved. Given that all the different care areas are intertwined when it comes to caring for elderly patients, one affected area can cause problems in others. Unfortunately medical school is not doing a good job in teaching students about the cascade phenomenon, where one small problem can lead to a much bigger problem.
There are only 7,500 certified geriatricians in the United States, which is far fewer than needed to care for the elderly population. This shortage will only become worse as the population continues to age and life spans lengthen. This means that elderly patients will be receiving treatment from primary care physicians lacking the intimate understanding of their health care issues.
When elderly patients are admitted to nursing homes for rehabilitation, they will often develop other health issues due to the substandard treatment and/or negligence. In one case, a patient developed horrible bedsores and died only weeks after entering a nursing home for rehab.
Most medical errors are of omission, not commission. This includes the failure to communicate vital information, which is just as dangerous as withholding vital medication. Until the medical system becomes more attuned to the needs of the elderly, lapses of communication and care will continue.
If you have an elderly loved one who has been the victim of nursing home malpractice, contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case.
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