New York, NY (PressExposure) June 08, 2011 -- When families put a loved one in a nursing home, they have every right to expect proper care and attention. That is not always the case, and many nursing home residents are unable or afraid to report problems. Personal injury attorney Paul Dansker, partner at New York City-based Dansker & Aspromonte Associates, advises family members and friends of nursing home residents to be vigilant in watching for suspicious injuries and to speak up about possible abuse.
"Residents tend to be frail and chronically ill, making them more vulnerable to mistreatment at the hands of nursing home personnel," says Dansker. "This abuse can come in many different forms."
Unsafe conditions include physical hazards such as rough wooden railings, exposed nails and screws, and sharp metal or glass edges. Rooms with poor lighting or beds at the incorrect height can put residents at risk of falling. Likewise, water, beverage, lotion, medication, or food spills create a slippery floor surface that makes walking dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control notes that up to three-quarters of residents fall each year and close to 2,000 die of fall-related injuries.
Inadequate supervision during movement increases injury risk. Nursing home residents who lack normal balance and coordination need oversight and guidance for walking, feeding, and bathing to prevent injury from falls, spills, or burns. Patients who become confused and wander without supervision are at high risk for injury both on the premises and outdoors if they "escape."
Medical errors are common, accounting for up to 1.2 million deaths between 1996 and 2006, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine. Inadequate staffing due to budget cuts, poor communication among staff members, poor patient transfer procedures from shift to shift, equipment failures, and misdiagnosis increase the likelihood of mistakes in the treatment of a resident. Medication mistakes can occur when residents who are unable to manage their own medications do not receive adequate assistance to ensure that they receive the right drug in the right dose at the right time.
Neglect can come in the form of inadequate physical care or attention. Patients who are left unattended in their room or in a wheelchair, or ignored when they request assistance for going to the bathroom, are at higher risk for falls and bed sores.
Dehydration and malnutrition may result when residents who cannot make food decisions or handle their own feeding and drinking without assistance are left on their own at mealtime.
Bed sores may develop when a resident remains in the same position without moving. They are most common in spots where bones protrude with little protection from body tissues or fat beneath the skin. Poor circulation can cause skin to decompose and develop into a decubitus ulcer, or, more seriously, gangrene. Contact between the skin and urine, feces, moisture or perspiration can increase the likelihood of developing bed sores and worsen existing sores.
"Abuse takes many different forms, which is why taking action is so crucial," advises Dansker. "Request a full explanation of any possible signs of abuses, including bumps and bruises, cuts, sores, burns, broken bones, or sudden weight loss. Take notice if your loved one does not appear well-groomed or seems dirty. Also be on the alert for other types of abuse that can show up, including emotional or personality changes such as depression, anger, or despondency."
The National Center on Elder Abuse of the Administration on Aging (http://www.ncea.aoa.gov) offers valuable information and resources, including guidance on working with a local or state protective services agency. Dansker emphasizes the importance of turning first to staff supervisors and the resident's primary physician if necessary.
"If you suspect serious or ongoing abuse and are not getting the desired response, contact a legal expert. Be sure to keep and bring records that include dates, times, incidents or types of abuse, and staff members on duty," says Dansker. "Don't be afraid to speak up for fear of causing trouble. The dignity and health of a loved one can be at risk if you don't say anything."
Dansker & Aspromonte Associates is located at 30 Vesey Street, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10007. For more information visit: