People often ask what we need to do to prove that a loved one suffered elder abuse in a nursing home. While the evidence we use varies from case to case, there are some common factors in nursing home negligence. For example, there may be an insufficient number of nurses or certified nurse assistants (CNAs) to provide the proper care, or the facility's staff doesn't have the appropriate wound training.
However, the real difference in these cases is finding evidence that the nursing home had knowledge of a problem but didn't do anything to stop it. This proof was vital in securing a settlement for a recent client who suffered a bedsore at a prestigious Orange County nursing home.
Bedsores Are Often the Result of Negligence
Bedsores, or pressure sores, are a severe concern in elderly or immobile patients. If the patient is lying on their back, bony prominences like tail bones or elbows can push the skin into the bed, bruising the patient and causing skin ulcers.
Bedsores are not only painful; they can turn deadly in bed-bound patients. These patients need the highest level of care and may not be able to control their bodily functions or get out of bed to go to the bathroom. Urine and feces will further exacerbate the bedsore and open the body to potential infections. If bacteria enter the patient's bloodstream, they may not be able to fight off the infection—especially if the patient already has a compromised immune system.
If a nursing home resident has limited movement, staff members will have to reposition the resident at least every two hours throughout the day to prevent pressure sores from developing or from getting worse. Unfortunately, understaffed nursing homes may not have the resources to check on all patients regularly, allowing patients to stay in the same position—or lie in their feces or urine—for hours at a time.
Management Knew There Were Problems Within the Facility
Our client was a resident in a facility owned by one of the largest nursing home chains nationwide. These national chains are required to track what's going on at the local level to ensure the quality of care. Part of this record keeping is tracking the number of patients in the beds (the source of their profit), the number and qualifications of staff members, and the number of wounds suffered in their facilities. They're also required to keep track of notifications from patients, families, and administrators of any known problems at the facility.
Our law firm got the facility to release their records and discovered that someone at the regional level was regularly getting updates about a substantial number of patients suffering from bedsores. These notices dated back a long way (prior to our client getting a bedsore), but the regional employee didn't take any action in response. The facility's focus was the amount of the company’s profits, not the safety of the patients.
Holding the Nursing Home Accountable
We were able to show that there was a systemic problem with the facility and that someone in a decision-making capacity for the corporation knew that there was a problem with the facility but did nothing to correct it. If the person in charge had taken measures to prevent similar incidents, our client might never have suffered their entirely preventable injury.
The nursing home attempted to defend themselves by claiming that their residents were very sick anyway, and they did all they could to prevent injury. We successfully took the position that because bed-bound and immobile patients are vulnerable, they require a higher level of care—and the facility agrees to provide that level of care by accepting the patient. In the end, the facility knew that they had breached the duty of care and paid our client a $2 million settlement.
Do You Need to Speak to a California Elder Law Attorney?
If a nursing home or care facility is responsible for your loved one's injury, Case Barnett Law is here to help. Please call our office at (949) 409-0055 or contact us online today for a free and confidential consultation so that we can determine the best way to protect your loved one's rights.