Within the most vulnerable groups in society are individuals who spend their days and nights as residents in a nursing home. Very few of the elderly in these facilities have the luxury of 24-hour private care from individuals overseeing their treatment and comfort. Because many families don’t have the resources and ability to care for their elderly loved ones in their own homes, families must trust nursing homes to provide the appropriate care their loved ones need.
Finding the right nursing home for an elderly family member requires a good amount of research, touring various facilities, and speaking with staff members. Ultimately, when a facility is chosen, it is done so with the expectation that the resident will hopefully receive support, safety, and care. Unfortunately, many residents find themselves in horrific situations and suffer from abuse and neglect. In some cases, nursing home abuse may result in the death of a resident.
Common Causes of Death in Nursing Homes
No caring individual wants to fathom that another human being would deliberately cause the death of an elderly person in a long-term care center. The reality is, however, that through neglect or abuse by the nursing home or its employees, many elderly residents die each year in this country. The most frequent causes of these deaths are shown below.
Slips and Falls
With the progression of aging comes a natural diminishing of balance, strength, and overall health. Accompanying this decline are weakened muscles, poor eyesight, dizziness, and instability that all lead to a greater risk of falling.
Within the scope of a nursing home’s obligation comes the duty to accurately evaluate all residents’ personal needs and then provide the right, safe environment that meets these needs. Sadly, this basic duty is often neglected, leading to the deaths of approximately 1,800 residents yearly due to slips and falls. Had the proper prevention measures been in place and followed, many of these elderly loved ones would not have suffered fatal injuries from a slip and fall.
Shockingly, around 3 million serious infections run rampant through elderly care facilities each year. The resulting 380,000 resident deaths annually could have been drastically reduced if proper infection-control methods had been enforced.
Among the most common forms of infection found are:
- Urinary tract infections
- Diarrhea-causing infections
- Staph-causing infections
- Super infections such as MRSA
Behaviors by staff that contribute to the breeding of infections include:
- Failure to properly wash hands when moving between residents
- Negligent catheter care
- Poor personal hygiene care for residents
- Improper or insufficient care for residents’ incontinence issues
Malnutrition and Dehydration
It is estimated that at least a third of the millions of nursing home residents experience such serious malnutrition and dehydration that these deficiencies lead to their deaths. To prevent this, at a minimum, every staff member should be properly trained in helping with meals and feeding residents. Additionally, nutritional supplements and drinks and a wide variety of good-tasting food could be used to help prevent malnutrition.
Elderly people often have compound health issues that make it difficult to chew at a normal pace or swallow easily, and some of them have impairments that create confusion or difficulty in properly getting food from a plate into their mouth. Every person living in a nursing home deserves to have meals served in a manner they can handle, plus assistance that enables them to enjoy and complete each meal entirely.
Dehydration is frequently the result of negligence in elderly care facilities. Residents often fear having no help available to go to the bathroom, so they hold off drinking liquids and thus dehydrate. In other cases, staff deliberately withhold fluids from elderly residents in an attempt to stop bedwetting.
Approximately half of all dementia patients in nursing homes run the risk of suffering from physical abuse. Violence between elderly patients who have disabilities is very common. While there is a risk of abuse for all elderly residents, some are more vulnerable than others. The risk of death is, of course, higher for residents who suffer abuse.
Some nursing home staff members have been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for abuse and/or assault of residents. No excuse exists for abusing anyone, much less a vulnerable elderly person. Low wages and poor training have been blamed by some, but neither of these reasons carries any weight. Sadly, an elderly resident who is suffering abuse at the hands of a staff member will frequently stay silent for fear of even worse treatment. The result is often a gradual decline in the resident’s health. An elderly person’s death can, tragically, be hastened by such torment and abuse.
There are three main forms of nursing home physical abuse.
- Active Abuse – This is abuse from someone who means to cause physical pain to a resident. Active abuse includes actions such as shoving, slapping, pinching, punching, and biting.
- Misuse of Restraints – It is only legal to use restraints for medical reasons, however, nursing homes will use restraints in abusive ways. This results in injuries such as bedsores and cuts.
- Physical Negligence – This is characterized by failing to provide necessities such as food, water, clothing, and clean living space.
Many people only connect medical malpractice to outpatient centers and hospitals, but it does occur in nursing homes as well. If a health condition isn’t properly diagnosed or treated, an elderly patient can die. If a nurse fails to notify family members or a doctor of behavioral or health changes, a resident can quickly deteriorate. Additionally, medication errors are equally concerning. Overuse and misuse of drugs in these facilities is a major concern that could lead to death.
Some common types of nursing home medication errors include:
- Administering too much or too little medication
- Administering expired medications
- Administering the wrong medication
- Administering the right medication but in the wrong form
- Incorrectly documenting medication history
- Using an incorrect technique to administer medication
- Failing to monitor residents while administering medication
Pursuing Legal Action
Family members of an elderly person who died in a nursing home under circumstances such as the ones listed above should immediately contact us. The legal professionals at The Eichholz Law Firm know that nursing home facilities have an obligation to protect and provide a standard of care for our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents in their golden years.
Contact us today at (855) 551-1019 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with our legal team.