Placing an elderly or ill relative in a nursing home is often the hardest decision to make. It is a great leap of faith to place the care of a loved one into someone else’s hands. Most people are very careful when choosing a nursing home, but can face constraints due to geography or monetary considerations. In a perfect world, we hope that loved ones placed in a nursing home will receive excellent and compassionate care and medical treatment during their stay. In reality, there are many nursing homes that do not live up to their promises. Residents are left unattended and can slip and fall. They must use faulty or malfunctioning equipment. They sometimes receive improper doses or even the wrong medication. These are examples of common things that occur in nursing homes that can cause serious injuries or even death.
If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home and you feel it was caused by the nursing home and its staff’s negligent behavior, you should contact an attorney immediately. By law, a nursing home is required to provide its residents with a certain standard of care. When a nursing home violates this standard and injures a resident, the resident may be entitled to compensation for the injury. An attorney with expertise in the area of nursing home accidents, like the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt, can help you if your loved one has been injured.
Laws Set Standards of Care
By federal and state law, all nursing home residents have rights. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 is a federal law that is closely mimicked in most state nursing home guidelines, including the State of Alabama’s. The Nursing Home Reform Act requires nursing homes to adhere to a certain level of care that maximizes residents’ physical, mental and social well-being. There are many nursing homes that adhere to these requirements. There are just as many that do not. Unfortunately, each year, thousands of nursing home residents are injured or even die because of nursing homes that don’t uphold the standards of care required by law.
Choosing the Right Nursing Home for Your Loved One
Taking the time to research and carefully choose the proper nursing home may help ensure that your loved one receives the right standard of care. There are many factors that individuals should consider when choosing a home. Here are a few steps you should take that may help you to make the right decision when searching for a nursing home:
Internet Research. The internet can be a very helpful tool for conducting your initial search for a nursing home. For example, once you have narrowed down the location of the nursing home, a good first step is to log onto U.S. News’ list of Best Nursing Homes. There, you can get a ranking of the nursing homes you are considering based on categories such as staffing, whether the home meets state and local health and safety standards, and overall performance. There is also an online tool offered by Medicare called “Nursing Home Compare” that can provide useful information regarding ranking, violations, etc. You should also run a general search on the internet using the names of the nursing homes you have focused in on. Check to see if there have been any negative reviews, bad press or
Personal Recommendations. After narrowing your search down to a few nursing homes, start asking around your community for personal recommendations. Your doctors, local senior centers, clergy, friends or neighbors may have had contact with the nursing home and can give you honest feedback.
Multiple Visits. Nothing will give you the feel of a nursing home better than a personal visit. Visit the nursing homes you are considering on multiple occasions and try to visit on different days of the week. Make sure you tour the entire facility and not just the lobby. Look to see if there’s an adequate amount of staff for the residents. Try to get an idea of how the residents are treated by the staff. Clues to treatment can include the residents’ physical appearance and demeanor and whether they are sitting in the hallways in wheelchairs or engaged in activities. Try to find out if the resident is cared for by the same staff member consistently and what the staff turnover rate is like. Think about how you feel when you are in the facility. Is it easy to speak with the staff and administrators? Do you feel comfortable asking questions? If you don’t feel comfortable, chances are neither will your family member.
Costs. Nursing home care is expensive and often not covered by insurance. Although you don’t want to skimp on your loved one’s care, you need to make sure that you have the funds to pay for your loved one’s stay in a nursing home. To find out more information on how to cover the costs of nursing home care, log onto the Medicare website at Medicare.gov and to the website of the American Association of Retired Persons at AARP.org.
For more helpful tips and a complete review on local Alabama nursing homes got to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website and its sections on Tips for Selecting a Nursing Home, located at http://www.adph.org/HEALTHCAREFACILITIES/index.asp?id=749.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Even if you’ve exercised the utmost caution in choosing a nursing home, your loved one can still be at risk for accidents that occur as a result of the nursing home’s negligence. One of the most common accidents that occur in nursing homes is slip and fall accidents.
Because nursing home residents are often elderly, frail or on medications that cause weakness or dizziness, they are particularly vulnerable to slipping and falling inside the nursing home. Many residents slip and fall as a result of being left unassisted by staff or not given the proper devices to assist with mobilization, such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs.
According to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), slip and fall accidents cause the death of approximately 1,800 nursing home residents every year nationwide. Thousands more suffer injuries such as fractures, particularly hip fractures. The CDC has found that nursing home negligence has been a key contributing factor in many of the injuries and deaths. For example, the report found that wet floors, incorrect bed height, poor lighting and other hazardous conditions caused 16% to 27% of falls among residents. Other causes of falls according to the CDC included “poor foot care, poorly fitting shoes, and improper or incorrect use of walking aids.”
If your loved one was injured as a result of a slip and fall inside a nursing home, contact an attorney. An attorney with experience in nursing home accident law can help you determine if the slip and fall injury was due to the nursing home’s negligence. The nursing home has a duty to provide your loved one with a safe environment and is responsible if it breaches that duty.
Nurse and Physician Negligence
A nursing home resident is entitled to receive a high standard of medical care from the doctors and nurses who are in attendance. If the failure to receive such care causes injuries, then the nursing home resident can sue the facility, and the physicians or nurses involved for medical malpractice. If negligent medical care of a nursing home resident results in death, then the family representative can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent parties. Just because your loved one is in a nursing home doesn’t mean he or she should receive a substandard level of care. In fact, if your nursing home is federally funded by Medicare or Medicaid, there are strict standards of medical care that it must follow. The State of Alabama’s guidelines closely mirror the federal standards of care that nursing homes must abide by.
It is often difficult to determine who was at fault in the medical care of a nursing home resident. Residents are often non-verbal or incapable of remembering and recounting what occurred. Reports of incidents can often be self-serving on the part of the facility. The attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt can help you sort through the confusion and get to the facts. We will also pursue justice in the event your loved one is harmed by the medical negligence of a nurse or physician at a nursing home.
Medication errors are very well recognized in the medical field as a common cause of injury among nursing home residents. In fact, medication errors in nursing homes are so common that Medicare and Medicaid guidelines allow for medication errors in 5% of the medication dispensed at nursing homes. Nursing homes that are found to have a medication error rate of greater than 5% are required to submit a compliance plan for correcting the high error rate.
If your loved one has been injured by a medication error in an Alabama nursing home, no rate of error should be acceptable. Overworked or untrained nursing staff members often cause medication errors. In nursing homes, some of the most common medication errors are administering the wrong prescription, failure to consider adverse side-effects, over or under dosage, failure to consider drug interactions, and skipped dosages. In the case of a sick or elderly patient, even one instance of medication error can result in serious injury.
From a legal perspective, medication errors can be difficult cases to pursue. It is often hard to determine if the negligence lies in the medical, nursing or pharmacy staff. The patient will often be wrongly blamed for medication errors. To quickly and thoroughly research the facts of your particular case, it’s important to speak with an attorney as soon after the incident as possible. The nursing home injury attorneys at Farris, Riley& Pitt can help you learn what happened to your loved one and seek just compensation when appropriate.
Defective equipment is an extremely common cause of nursing home injuries each year. Residents in a nursing home interact with many different types of medical equipment each day such as motorized hospital beds, to bed rails, wheelchairs and oxygen tanks. Each interaction with the equipment—if improperly used, unsupervised or defective can be an opportunity for injury. For example, bed rails that either don’t work or are not used properly by staff account for many of the thousands of slip and fall injuries in nursing homes across the country.
Wheelchair injuries are probably the most common cause of equipment related injuries in nursing homes. Statistics shows that about 80% of all nursing home residents use a wheelchair approximately once a day. In many nursing homes, even residents who are mobile are urged to use wheelchairs to prevent slip and falls. Unfortunately, using a wheelchair presents a whole other set of concerns. Wheelchairs, when used improperly or without proper supervision can cause severe injuries. They can tip over; they can stop abruptly and cause a person to fall out; or residents can have accidents when going down ramps or around obstacles. Injuries can also occur when residents are improperly transferred in or out of wheelchairs. Other equipment failures can include faulty oxygen tanks, or improperly maintained walkers.
A nursing home owes your loved one a duty of care to ensure that all equipment is in proper working order and that your loved one is properly supervised when using the equipment. Failure to do so can result in injuries, and the nursing home may be liable for damages.
Wandering, often referred to as elopement, occurs when a patient in a nursing home either wanders around the nursing home unsupervised or even wanders outside of the nursing home. Needless to say, the danger that can befall an elderly, frail, mentally disabled or disoriented nursing home resident who is left to wander alone is mind-boggling. When nursing home residents wander, it is often the result of inadequate supervision due to understaffing or poorly trained staff. It can also occur because the nursing home has failed to take precautions against wandering, such as putting alarms on the doors and windows, or placing staff at the entrances and exits to the building.
Wandering can be extremely dangerous. Patients who have left nursing homes unsupervised have gotten hit by cars or have starved or frozen to death. Patients who wander within the confines of a nursing home can easily become disoriented and injured in unfamiliar surroundings. Nursing homes are required to evaluate each patient for factors that may facilitate wandering such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia or a history of wandering at other facilities. Nursing homes are required to have plans in place to ensure each patient stays within the confines of the facility when unsupervised and do not wander around the facility unsupervised. Failure to do so can result in a finding of negligence on the part of the nursing home and/or its employees.
Don’t Hesitate If You Suspect Your Loved One Has Been Injured
If you suspect that your loved one has been injured as a result of nursing home negligence, you need to contact an attorney quickly. Every state, including the State of Alabama, has what’s called a Statute of Limitations. A Statute of Limitations governs the amount of time a person has with which to file a lawsuit. It can vary depending on the type of lawsuit and particular facts of the case. However, the time periods with which to bring certain lawsuits are often relatively short. People who have been injured in a nursing home accident and who plan to file a lawsuit for damages should consult a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. You don’t want to file a lawsuit only to learn that you took too long and exceeded the time allowable under the Statute of Limitations. Swift action and meeting with an attorney as soon as possible will help you to avoid any problems.
Contact Us for Help
Since the firm opened its doors in 1996, the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have been expertly handling personal injury cases, particularly those related to nursing home accidents. The caring and compassionate attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt know too well how much an injury can impact someone’s life. Hospital bills, medical expenses and pain and suffering can be financially and emotionally devastating to a family.
Let Alabama lawyers Farris, Riley and Pitt help you to pursue justice. For a free evaluation and to learn if you have a claim if you or a loved one has been injured in a nursing home accident, contact the attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt today. You can call us at 205-324-1212 or toll-free at 1-888-580-5176. You can reach our knowledgeable legal staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling our toll-free lawyer assistance line at 1-888-937-7534.