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Articles Tagged with nursing home neglect

NBC News reported this week on the number of nursing home patients who are transferred to hospitals and subsequently die from sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.  Sepsis often occurs when an infection is untreated or treated inadequately.  Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.  Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock, which is characterized by very low blood pressure, and is a medical emergency.

A private healthcare data firm, Definitive Healthcare, conducted a special analysis of data related to nursing home patients who were transferred to hospitals and later died.  The analysis revealed that approximately 25,000 patients a year had developed sepsis while in nursing homes across the U.S.  Definitive Healthcare looked at Medicare billings from 2012 through 2016, and concluded that the treatment of this life-threatening condition costs Medicare more than $2 Billion a year.   These numbers show that sepsis is a huge public health problem in the U.S.

Sometimes, a nursing home patient can develop a pressure sore on the hip or tailbone.  If that patient is incontinent, there is an increased risk that the pressure sore will become infected.  The longer the infected pressure sore goes untreated, or inadequately treated, the greater the risk of the patient developing sepsis.  If the sepsis is not treated promptly and aggressively, the patient can go into septic shock, and die.  Nursing home patients, who often have other comorbidities and conditions, have an increasingly difficult time surviving sepsis.  It is not just pressure sores that can lead to sepsis in nursing home patients.  Sepsis can develop in bedridden patients who are suffering from pneumonia, urinary tract infections, or other infections.  What can start out as a relatively small, isolated infection can quickly become a big infection and cause the death of a nursing home patient.

Federal and state laws require that nursing homes maintain or attain the highest practicable mental, physical, and psychosocial well-being for their patients.  These laws provide that nursing homes must ensure that their patients’ nutrition and hydration needs are met, as proper nutrition and hydration are two critical components for nursing home residents to maintain their overall health and well-being inside the facility.

The elderly are particularly at risk for both malnutrition and dehydration.  Due to decreased body reserves and other diminished capacities, the elderly are much more susceptible to malnourishment than younger adults. Moreover, many aging patients have dental problems or experience loss of appetite caused by health problems or medications. Thus, they need to be monitored by nursing home staff carefully for any signs of malnutrition. Often times this is not done.

Another reason patients become malnourished while residing in nursing homes is that many cannot feed themselves without assistance, and are not properly fed by nursing home staff. Each year thousands of nursing homes across the country receive citations for inappropriate feeding tube insertions or improper feeding methods.

A great injustice is taking place in this country:  the use of pre-dispute binding arbitration clauses in nursing home admissions contracts by the nursing home industry.  These clauses provide that victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes give up their right to a jury trial. This directly undermines the spirit and intent of the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987:  to improve the quality of care and clinical outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens.

Elderly nursing home residents and their spouses are being pressured or mislead into signing arbitration clauses, frequently when they lack the mental capacity, authority or true willingness to do so.  If arbitration was a level playing field and fair to both sides without any negative repercussions to the resident or family, does anyone really believe that the nursing home industry would feel the need to so aggressively enforce them and seek to bury these provisions within 50 pages of admissions materials?

Arbitration provisions lead to protracted litigation, not faster results or less expensive resolution of cases.  The nursing home industry uses them to stall cases, take appeals and delay justice.  An elderly surviving spouse may not live long enough to see justice when nursing home corporations take this approach.