Medical Malpractice in Nursing Homes

As we age, our medical needs tend to grow. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities exist to meet the medical needs of people who have medical issues but do not necessarily require hospitalization.

These facilities have a legal obligation to provide care which meets the applicable standard of care—care that is not negligent.

Unfortunately, this does not always occur, and every year thousands of nursing home residents are injured by the medical malpractice of treating physicians or negligence by nursing home staff.

Medical malpractice is a form of professional negligence that occurs when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider fails to exercise the degree of care and skill that a healthcare provider of the same medical specialty would use under similar circumstances.

Because patients in nursing home facilities are often vulnerable from health problems, there are many ways for patients to be injured by medical malpractice. Some of the most common are discussed below.

Medication Errors

Medication errors are among the most dangerous forms of medical malpractice. Many nursing home residents take several different medications every day, and any errors can have devastating results.

For example, if a nursing home resident is given the wrong medication, it may result in the patient not receiving necessary pharmacological treatment.

Medication mistakes can also involve giving residents medications that should not be taken together or giving a patient the wrong dosage of the right medication.

The injuries sustained from medication errors do not necessarily have to involve an untreated medical condition or toxicity.

For example, a combination of medications that should typically not be taken together could result in confusion, problems with balance, dizziness, or other problems that result in a nursing home resident falling.

For this reason, the possibility of a medication error should be considered in any nursing home accident case with an injury of unknown cause.

Missed Diagnoses

Failure to diagnose a medical condition is another form of medical malpractice that can cause significant unnecessary pain and suffering for nursing home residents.

In some cases, a missed diagnosis can result in an easily treatable medical condition continuing to cause suffering needlessly for months or even years.

In more serious cases, an undiagnosed medical condition may require much more substantial treatment when finally discovered than it would have but for the medical malpractice.

There are a number of medical conditions that could be overlooked or misdiagnosed in the nursing home setting. Some of the most common include the following:

  • Various cancers
  • Fractures
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Heart disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Stroke<

Patient Neglect

General neglect of nursing home residents is related to medical malpractice and can have a serious and lasting impact on victims’ lives.

In many cases, victims are unaware that they are being neglected or may be too afraid or embarrassed to let others know about the way they are being treated.

Some common forms of nursing home neglect include withholding food or medication, not performing regular maintenance, ignoring unsanitary conditions, ignoring a resident’s requests for care, or simply failing to check in on residents on a regular basis.

This kind of malpractice can result in a variety of serious physical and emotional injuries, including the following:

  • Bed sores
  • Malnutrition
  • Overmedication
  • Undermedication
  • Fractures
  • Infection
  • Skin conditions
  • Depression
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries

Because nursing home residents may be unwilling or unable to report neglect to the facility’s management, it is important for loved ones to be aware of the signs that neglect may be occurring.

If a nursing home resident has unexplained injuries or seems emotionally withdrawn, report the matter to the appropriate parties immediately. If you believe that he or she is in immediate danger, you should call your local law enforcement agency.

Document what you see and the response you get.

Unnecessary Use of Restraints

While restraints certainly can be used appropriately when nursing home residents present a danger to themselves or others, there is also a risk that they are being used unnecessarily or as a consequence for noncompliant behavior.

For this reason, it is important to always thoroughly investigate whether restraints are being used on your loved one and, if they are, understanding the reasons that they are being used.

We have handled cases where sedatives are used as if a restraint in order to make a difficult patient more compliant or less work for the caregiver. The improper use of medication as a restraint is not permitted.

Medical Malpractice Cases Are Extremely Complicated

While it may be tempting for nursing home residents who have been injured by medical malpractice to attempt to represent themselves, it is important to understand that Arizona medical malpractice cases are extremely complicated.

For this reason, failing to retain an attorney increases the risk that you or your family member do not recover compensation or accept a settlement offer far below the amount a jury would have awarded after hearing the evidence at trial.

In fact, under Arizona law, some of the earliest documents which have to be provided to the defendant are affidavits of experts who have been retained to testify that the defendants’ actions were below the standard of care, or constituted abuse and/or neglect, and that the acts of the defendants caused the injuries which resulted.

Failure to have proper, qualified, experts is fatal to a case. When you retain a lawyer, he or she will thoroughly evaluate your case, determine whether you have a claim to pursue, and make sure that any claim that you file complies with the relevant procedural rules.

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