Nursing home negligence ranges from pressures sores (also known as bedsores, pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers), falls, overdoses of medication, dehydration and malnutrition, sexual assault, and physical and chemical restraints. Elderly residents of a nursing home are at risk of injury that can result from lack of care, neglect and poor nutrition. It is important that you know how to get answers in a nursing home and what you can do to make sure that your loved one is getting the care he/she needs.
Why nursing home residents are at risk for injuries
In most cases, a nursing home resident is either unable to care for herself (or himself) and may not be mentally able to advocate for his or her rights. Some nursing home residents suffer from Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or have other forms of dementia and they have virtually no ability to alert the nurse manager or other authority at the nursing home.
Daily skin inspections are crucial to preventing pressure sores in nursing homes
Unlike most medical malpractice cases, nursing homes have clear policies and procedures for virtually every situation. For example, upon admission to the nursing home, every resident must be assessed for their risk of developing pressure sores. If the resident is classified as "high risk" for pressure sores, the nursing home must follow a written protocol that sets forth clear rules as to the treatment that must be given, including daily skin inspections during each nursing shift. In many cases, patients at risk for pressure sores must be turned and positioned at least once every two hours. Such treatment protocols are set forth in the Comprehensive Care Plan that every nursing home must have.
Interventions that prevent falls in nursing homes
In cases where a resident is classified as being "high risk" for falling, the Comprehensive Care Plan will have clear rules that must be followed to prevent a fall. For example, such residents should not be left alone in their room in the middle of the day. While residents cannot be physically or chemically restrained, they should be placed in an area, such as in front of the nurse's station, where someone will see if they try to get up from their wheelchair. There are additional precautions that are followed for the resident's bed, such as mattresses on the floor on each side of the bed, bed alarms that are activated if the resident leaves the bed, and lowering of the bed to just above the level of the floor. Such precautions minimize the chance of a fall and if a fall occurs, the extent of the injury is less significant.
Why bed rails pose safety hazards to your loved one in a nursing home
Bed rails are supposed to prevent falls for residents in a nursing home. But for residents at high risk for falling, especially those with confusion, disorientation or Alzheimer's, the risk of a serious fall are significantly increased with the use of bed rails. Nursing home residents, when confused and disoriented, will often attempt to climb over the bed rails and a greater distance than if bed rails were not used. Other residents, when confused, can become entangled and trapped in the bed rails when trying to exit the bed. If there is a gap between the bed rail and the mattress, the resident can become trapped in this gap.
There are much less dangerous interventions that can be used to prevent falls, such as lowering the bed, placing a high impact mat around the bed and putting bed alarm on to alert the nursing staff when the resident gets out of bed. Adjustable height beds can be used to raise the bed when care is provided and lowering the bed when the resident is sleeping.
If bed rails must be used for your loved one in a nursing home, make sure you educate your family member about the risks of bed rails and that alternatives to bed rails are considered first.
The most common accident in a nursing home? Falls
The most common injury in a nursing home? Falls. On average, a resident of a nursing home falls 2.6 times each year and 10% to 20% of all falls result in serious injuries that require hospitalization and surgery. Nursing home residents are generally at much greater risk of falling since they sometimes frail with impaired ability to walk and often have a prior history of falling.
Why physical restraints do more harm than good for nursing home residents
Physical and chemical restraints are more likely to cause harm than prevent it. Specific rules must be followed before a physician can order physical restraints and residents must be closely monitored once restraints are used. Restraints can cause humiliation, loss of independence and increase the risk that the resident will fall or hurt themselves while trying to get free of the restraint.
Who is caring for your loved one in a nursing home?
To lower expenses and raise profits, many nursing homes replace registered nurses with LPNs, certified nurses aides and unlicensed workers. You have the right to know who is caring for your loved one. The law requires the nursing home to disclose the staffing and the ratios of nurses to LPNs and CNAs. Get the details about your nursing home's staffing in order to pick the right environment for your family member.
The Care Plan is the document that you should ask for in a nursing home
The Comprehensive Care Plan is the most important document kept by a nursing home. The Care Plan lists all interventions that are specific to each resident and it is amended as there are changes to the needs of the resident. If you or a family member are injured in a nursing home, the Care Plan will have the answers that you need.
The quarterly Care Plan Meeting gives you the chance to make sure that the needs of your loved one are addressed by the staff members of the nursing home. Make sure you attend the Care Plan Meetings and stand up for the rights of your family member.
Why Malnutrition and an Unintended Weight Loss are the Enemy in a Nursing Home
An unintended weight loss, or malnutrition, can lead to muscle atrophy, infection and disease complications. A nutritional assessment is the first step to finding the cause of the unintended weight loss. Medical conditions and psychological issues may be at the root of the unintended weight loss. You need to take a multi-disciplinary approach to finding the cause of your loved one's unintended weight loss.
If you have questions, I welcome your phone call
I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882 if you have any questions, or you can send your questions to me at [email protected] . If you want more information about preventing injuries at nursing homes, you can request my free book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, which I know you'll like. The book can be requested on the home page this website, www.protectingpatientrights.com.