Posted On August 31, 2022 Personal Injury
August 31, 2022 – Making the choice to put your loved one in a nursing home is one of the hardest decisions you ever have to face. Often, what drives this decision is a matter of safety. Your ailing or aging family member simply cannot be safely cared for at home anymore, and professional care is necessary to manage their progressing medical conditions or to keep your loved one from unintentionally causing themselves harm.
It’s even more upsetting, then, when the nursing home to which a family entrusted the care of their loved one violates this trust, allowing residents to sustain serious injuries. These injuries can cause patients who are already in poor health to take a turn for the worse. In some instances, the injuries themselves can be deadly.
Whether they result from intentional abuse or from neglect and negligence that arise out of understaffing, nursing home injuries are unacceptable. Injured residents and their families have the right to hold nursing home facilities and their staff accountable for these failings and the harms—physical, emotional, and financial—that result.
Throughout our decades of experience handling nursing home injury claims in New Jersey, our attorneys have assisted families with nursing home neglect and abuse cases that involve numerous types of injuries. Several of the most common nursing home injuries—like pressure sores, fall fractures, dehydration, and choking—are also injuries for which the families of residents often question whether they can sue in the first place.
We’re here to tell you that, yes, nursing home injury claims frequently involve these types of injuries. With the right attorney on your side, you may have legal recourse if your loved one sustained any of these types of injuries while being cared for in a nursing home.
Pressure sores, also called bedsores and pressure ulcers, develop when prolonged pressure on the skin causes damage to the skin. More severe pressure sores may even damage the tissues beneath the skin.
A person who is not able to change position easily on their own—for example, someone who is bedbound or wheelchair-bound, or who can’t get up from a seated position without assistance—is likely to suffer pressure sores when left in one position too long.
Pressure sores are treatable, but successfully treating them requires considerable care. If nursing home staff allowed the patient to go long enough without being moved or turned to develop a pressure sore in the first place, it might be difficult to trust that the facility will provide the care needed for the bedsore to heal. This care typically includes cleaning and dressing the wound and changing the injured patient’s position frequently.
In most situations, pressure sores are preventable injuries. That’s particularly true in nursing homes, where residents often have mobility limitations and where staff should be trained to turn and reposition the patients in their care. When a nursing home resident develops pressure sores, and particularly when those ulcers progress to an advanced stage, the condition may indicate nursing home neglect.
Falls are worryingly common in nursing home settings. This is particularly unfortunate because the elderly and people with medical conditions that compromise their mobility and physical strength may be more prone to suffering serious injuries, such as bone fractures, in a fall. Fall fracture injuries can worsen existing medical issues, make it more difficult to get around, and necessitate immobilization of the broken body part. These outcomes lead to an even greater loss of strength and mobility. Some fractures may require surgical repair, which can pose additional risks to older and ailing patients.
Historically, environmental fall hazards have been a major cause of nursing home falls. An estimated 16 to 27 percent of nursing home falls are widely believed to result from environmental hazards. The environmental fall hazards often found in nursing homes include:
Even if there was no environmental hazard that contributed to the fall, the nursing home and its staff may be liable for injuries if your loved one’s medical state made them a known fall risk. For example, a resident with a bad hip or knee shouldn’t be left to make their way through the facility alone. Similarly, if your loved one was on medications known to make patients dizzy or disoriented or to cause loss of coordination, failing to provide the assistance they need to walk safely could constitute negligence.
Some falls occur when nursing home staff neglect their charges, leaving residents to fend for themselves when they need food, water, medication, or an opportunity to use the restroom.
Any nursing home fall that causes significant injury is worth investigating further.
Staying hydrated is critical for optimal health and functioning, regardless of a person’s age or overall health condition. If anything, it’s even more important for a person with serious medical issues to stay hydrated, both because dehydration can put further strain on the body and because some medical conditions can raise the risk of becoming dehydrated.
Dehydration among nursing home residents is another sign of potential neglect. Nursing home staff members are responsible for making sure that the residents in their care are receiving proper nutrition, including hydration. If a nursing home resident becomes dehydrated, especially on a chronic basis, the staff may not be making sure that they are getting the nutrition they need. Alternatively, dehydration could result when the nursing home resident suffers from symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, and those symptoms are allowed to persist without being addressed.
If a nursing home resident becomes severely dehydrated, they can suffer serious complications that range from kidney stones and kidney failure to seizures, brain swelling, and falling into a coma.
Many nursing home residents may be on special diets or need assistance or supervision with eating. The medical conditions themselves that nursing home residents suffer from and the medications that they take to manage their conditions, too, can increase the risk of choking—a fact that nursing home staff should know.
All of this means that choking is a serious issue in nursing homes. An important part of caring for residents in a nursing home is taking the proper actions to reduce the risk of choking and, if choking occurs, quickly performing the Heimlich maneuver or other choking treatment rescue procedures. If you have any reason to believe that the nursing home staff’s negligence played a part in your loved one’s choking, you should speak to our nursing home neglect attorneys right away.
The biggest danger posed by choking is asphyxiation—oxygen deprivation—which may be deadly. Even a nonfatal choking incident may be more than just a scare. Brain damage due to asphyxiation, throat damage, and throat irritation are all potential complications of choking. Brain damage, of course, can be a severe problem that affects your loved one’s health and function in important ways. Throat damage and even minor throat irritation may complicate your loved one’s health, particularly if they already had trouble eating or swallowing.
If your loved one has sustained these or any other significant injuries while in a nursing home, you need to take action right away to prevent them from suffering further harm.
If necessary, insist on getting your loved one to a hospital so they can receive proper treatment.
Even if hospitalization isn’t necessary, consider moving your loved one to a safer place, if at all possible. The logistics of moving a resident out of a nursing home—to a new facility or temporarily to a family member’s home—can be overwhelming for families, but we’re here to help. We can draw on our professional experience to help you explore your options and figure out a plan.
Speaking to a member of our legal team during a free consultation can help you clarify what needs to be done going forward and get answers to your questions. Should you sign the paperwork requested by the nursing home staff? Should you file a complaint with a state agency or potentially even call the police? We will advise you of your legal rights and options based on the specific facts of your situation.
Once we gather the facts of your family’s situation, we can launch a thorough investigation into the matter of suspected nursing home abuse and neglect at no upfront cost to you. If you hire us to handle your claim, we will represent you on a no-win, no-fee basis, so pursuing a claim never becomes a burden on your family.
Your family doesn’t have to navigate the challenges of dealing with nursing home abuse or neglect alone. The experienced NJ nursing home lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are here to help. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call (856) 778-5500 today.