In a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home, wrongful death can include cases where attendants give patients the wrong medicine, neglect to feed them, or cause them physical harm that directly leads to death. Wrongful death in these facilities often involves patients being left on their own for days at a time, patients not being protected from falls or injuries as directed by state and federal guidelines, or patients being ignored when they complain about life-threatening health issues.
The Risk of Wrongful Death May Be Increasing
Over the next 20 years in the United States, a larger number of people than ever before will need to utilize the care of nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. As the demand on existing resources increases, these facilities may hire quickly without proper training or continue to use poorly maintained facilities.
In these facilities, it is already common for residents to be left alone for far too long, to be ignored, or even to be dismissed as simply complaining when they discuss serious and sometimes life-threatening issues. Tragically, all of these issues make nursing homes the sites of many wrongful death cases, and as the population continues to get older, these threats will likely become even more pronounced.
The Potential for Wrongful Death Can Be Impossible to Detect
When you can no longer care for a loved on your own, you may have to make the decision to place them in a nursing home, and that can be a stressful time for many families. When vetting various long-term care centers, you do your best to ensure the facility and staff will take proper care of your elderly loved one, but unfortunately, you simply can’t predict the future.
Facilities may look adequate and their staff may seem caring, but they may have issues below the surface that lead to the abuse or neglect of patients. It’s impossible to anticipate many of the situations that can occur, and even nursing homes with the best reputations may subject patients to abuse, neglect, or medical malpractice, such as administering drugs in error or employing a new caretaker with a hidden history of abusing patients.
Nursing Homes May Ignore Federal Guidelines and State Regulations
A nursing home or skilled nursing facility must follow both state and federal guidelines for care. This includes the number of medical professionals they have on staff, the number of trained caregivers available for each resident, and the number of hours those caregivers must spend with each patient.
Despite these laws, however, many nursing homes do not provide adequate care. They often break laws out of what seems to be operational necessity. They may not be able to afford to hire enough staff to ensure a safe caregiver-to-patient ratio, or in other cases, a nursing home may not be enough well-trained staff to train new hires in proper procedures.
Many nursing homes that violate state and federal laws regarding care guidelines look fine on the surface. Families often don’t know that something is wrong until it is too late and their loved one is seriously injured or dies due to abuse or neglect.
Elder Abuse or Neglect Increases the Risk of Death
When elders face abuse, their risk of mortality increases significantly. In fact, in one study, the death rate among elders who reported abuse was 13.49 deaths per 100 people. The mortality rate for people in the study who did not report abuse was less than half that rate with only 5.91 deaths per 100 people.
In confirmed cases of elder abuse, the mortality rate was even higher at 18.33 deaths per 100 people. That is over three times the mortality rate associated with people who didn’t face abuse. The statistical link is clear, and to protect your loved ones from wrongful death at the hands of their caretakers, you need to monitor them for signs of nursing home abuse.
There are many indicators that your loved one may be neglected or abused, including but not limited to:
- Sudden injuries that cannot be explained by their medical condition or other reasonable factors
- Injuries obtained from falls
- Bed sores
- Poor hygiene and/or a room that has not been properly kept clean
- Sudden weight loss
- New or worsening anxiety and/or depression or changes in mood and/or behavior
- A sense of fear when nursing home caregivers are around
- Property of your loved one’s, including money or jewelry, that has gone missing
If you notice any of the signs of abuse in a nursing facility, it is critical that you reach out for help as soon as possible.
Inadequate Emergency Responses Can Lead to Wrongful Death
The way a nursing home responds to an emergency can also lead to wrongful death. For example, in the midst of Hurricane Irma, one nursing home lost power. The facility did not have a back-up generator to keep its cooling system running, and rather than evacuating residents to a safe environment such as the air-conditioned hospital across the street, the nursing home simply placed many residents in the hallway and removed some of their clothing.
When residents began showing signs of distress, the staff failed to contact emergency services until it was too late, and tragically, 11 residents died in these conditions.
While some emergencies are simply unavoidable, this tragedy likely could have been avoided or handled more professionally. If your loved one has died due to dangerous conditions in a nursing home or because staff failed to follow proper safety protocols in an emergency, you may also be facing a wrongful death suit.
Dementia May Increase Patients Risk of Wrongful Death
Sadly, patients with dementia often have the highest risk of facing abuse in nursing homes, and in some cases, this mistreatment leads to death. In particular, many nursing homes have given psychotropic drugs to patients with dementia. These drugs are designed to help curb disruptive or self-harm activities, but they are linked to fatality in patients with dementia.
If a nursing home has given these drugs to your loved one without your knowledge or consent, you should consider consulting with a nursing home abuse attorney.
Contact a Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawyer in Salem, MA
If your loved one was injured or has died as the result of elder abuse in a nursing home, contact a nursing home wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t delay – nursing homes often destroy evidence of any wrongdoing on their part, including falsifying records in order to make the injury or death appear as though it occurred naturally and not due to the nursing home’s negligence or carelessness. By hiring an attorney right away to work with you, you can help secure crucial evidence in your case before it is hidden or destroyed.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we fight to not only obtain justice for our clients through the courts, but to change the negligent practices of nursing homes to better protect you and the ones you love. We work hard to ensure that the nursing home responsible for harming your loved one is exposed for their carelessness and negligence, and we utilize every legal option available to ensure that the nursing home is forced to adopt better care practices and follow all applicable laws so the same thing doesn’t happen to another resident and family.