Abuse and neglect at nursing homes are longstanding problems. Some of the most common nursing home injuries are also among the problems that can leave the families of residents with a lot of questions.
If you have a loved one who lives in a nursing home, you may already know to look out for signs of abuse, like unexplained bruises and cuts. However, when your loved one sustains an injury for which you are given a plausible explanation, like a fall or choking injury, you may not be sure what to think.
Could the injuries be a result of preventable “accidents” that happened because of a staff member’s negligence? Or are they true accidents that occurred in spite of the people caring for your loved one taking the proper precautions? Similarly, do common conditions like pressure sores indicate negligence, or do these issues just happen sometimes in environments like nursing homes?
To learn more about nursing home injury claims, please see our recent piece on the topic here.
What Should a Nursing Home Provide?
To successfully sue a nursing home for injury, you have to show that the nursing home is liable, or legally responsible, for the injury and the harms and losses that result from it. For families that are considering moving forward with a nursing home injury claim, it’s important to understand what duties nursing home staff have to residents.
While the precise services the nursing home is required to provide to residents may vary from one facility to another, nursing homes commonly provide the following:
Skilled nursing care and medical monitoring
Medication monitoring and administration
Emergency medical care when required
Personal or custodial care, including assistance with bathing, dressing, and eating
Room and board
Opportunities for socialization and recreation
As WebMD puts it, residents in a nursing home can expect “the most extensive care a person can get outside a hospital.” As such, the nursing home facility and its staff have an obligation to supervise and provide medical and personal assistance to residents. They must also maintain the areas of the premises the resident is authorized to access in a safe manner. Failing to uphold these duties could leave the facility open to nursing home personal injury lawsuits.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Falls?
A common question nursing home injury attorneys hear is whether families of residents can sue for nursing home injuries due to falls. There are many ways that a fall may constitute nursing home abuse or neglect under personal injury law, including instances in which someone who works in a nursing home makes any of the following mistakes:
Failing to provide mobility assistance to a resident who, due to medical conditions or medications, is a known fall risk
Allowing environmental hazards that can put a resident at risk of falling to exist on the premises, including wet or slippery floors, broken or nonexistent handrails, and poor lighting
Improperly supervising residents who require 24-hour care and supervision
Neglecting nursing home residents so that they have to fend for themselves to meet basic needs like getting to the bathroom or acquiring food and water, even if they can’t safely travel on their own
Nursing home brain injuries, back injuries, and hip injuries are among the most common types of damage that result from a fall in this environment. A fall can be particularly devastating for nursing home residents who are in poor health in the first place. The complications of a fall may exacerbate existing conditions and put your loved one at risk of suffering new health problems that could have been prevented if the nursing home staff had upheld the duty they owed your loved one.
Can You Sue Nursing Homes for Choking Incidents?
Part of providing 24-hour supervision and personal and custodial care is preventing avoidable instances of a resident choking. A patient with known problems chewing or swallowing food may be placed on a special diet or require direct supervision when eating or taking medication. If nursing home staff fail to follow doctors’ orders or provide this supervision and a resident chokes as a result, the facility and its workers may be liable.
Similarly, nursing home staff may be responsible for ensuring that a resident who is known to pose a danger to themselves by putting non-food items in their mouth does not have access to any such hazards.
If you were notified of a choking incident involving your loved one in a nursing home, a thorough investigation conducted by experienced nursing home injury attorneys may help you understand how this happened and whether neglect or abuse may be to blame.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Pressure Sore Injuries?
Bedsores, pressure sores, and pressure ulcers are a type of skin damage that occurs due to prolonged contact between skin and surfaces. When a person is active, their movements prevent prolonged contact between skin and, for example, the surface of a bed, chair or wheelchair that could otherwise result in pressure sores. However, many nursing home residents don’t have full mobility. They may spend much of their time in bed, in a wheelchair, or sitting in a chair, and they may not even have the ability to turn or otherwise reposition their own body within that space.
Most commonly, what happens in a nursing home that causes pressure sores is neglect. Staff members may be too busy or simply not conscientious enough to regularly turn and reposition residents whose limited mobility puts them at risk of developing pressure sores. This type of nursing home skin damage can even harm the tissues beneath the skin.
If an investigation reveals that nursing home staff failed to follow proper procedures to prevent pressure sores in residents with limited mobility, families may have the right to sue for financial compensation.
Families of nursing home residents who believe that they may have the grounds for a nursing home neglect or abuse claim should consider consulting an experienced nursing home accident attorney to learn more about their legal rights.