Articles Posted in Inadequate Nutrition

The Arizona Supreme Court has reversed a summary judgment dismissing a nursing home abuse case.

Marika Delgado was the personal representative of the estate of her sister, Sandra Shaw. Delgado appealed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants who were collectively Manor Care of Tucson.  On appeal, Delgado argued that the court erred in finding that the actions that allegedly caused Shaw’s death were not related to her incapacity as required by Arizona law.

Because the Arizona Supreme Court could not say as a matter of law that the alleged negligence that was a cause of Shaw’s death was unrelated to her incapacity, the state Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial judge and sent the case back for further proceedings.

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It is not new that nursing home residents are too often at risk for abuse, neglect and injury in the more than 17,000 nursing home facilities operating in the United States. Too many times these facilities are understaffed or staffed with untrained or unskilled workers. All of this results in many reports of serious physical, verbal and even sexual abuse in Illinois nursing homes and in other states.

It has been more than a decade since there was a two-year investigative study completed that found more than 9,000 instances of abuse. The most common abuse problems are untreated bedsores followed by inadequate medical care, malnutrition, dehydration, falls, inadequate hygiene and cases of wandering residents.

The aging of adult Americans places even more stress on nursing home facilities and long-term care facilities in which the aging are most likely to be residing. The cost of maintaining a resident at a qualified nursing home is now out of reach for many families. Many times a family member or a loved one becomes unmanageable at home because of illness, injury, age, dementia or other onset of the conditions related to aging.

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As the baby boom generation ages, the population of nursing homes is also expanding. Elderly Americans and Illinois residents who reside in nursing homes are likely the most vulnerable members of this aging society. Nursing home cases should not be confused with medical malpractice cases. A medical malpractice case typically concerns particular acts of negligence, such as a failed surgery or misdiagnosis. In contrast, nursing home cases do not involve a particular or discreet act of negligence. Rather, a nursing home abuse case in Illinois involves a pattern of sub-standard care, abuse or neglect.

For example, a nursing home abuse case may involve bedsores. Bedsores can be wounds of the flesh that take form over many days, weeks or even months. A nursing home resident who is dehydrated or suffers from malnutrition would not be the result of a single wrongful act.

Many nursing home cases arise from substandard care, abuse or neglect. Often nursing homes in Illinois operate without a single on-site treating physician; instead, they have only one who may make regular rounds. At the same time, most well-run nursing home facilities provide treatment by a resident physician, a nursing home administrator, a well-trained nursing staff, CNAs, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, wound care doctors, dieticians and other medical and nursing providers.

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Mary Dwyer was 87 years old when she was admitted to Harbor View Heath Care Center for a short-term rehabilitation after she had surgery. During the following three months, she lost 20 pounds and developed multiple pressure sores, including a Stage IV sacral wound. Dwyer required two surgical debridements, application of a wound vac to remove fluid from the wound and a diversionary colostomy.

She then suffered a complication, which necessitated the reinsertion of her bowels into her abdomen. Following the surgery, Dwyer died several days later and was survived by her three adult children.

Dwyer’s family filed a lawsuit against the nursing home’s corporate owners and several affiliated companies claiming inadequate nursing home staffing. Specifically, the lawsuit claimed that the defendant nursing home did not have enough certified nursing home aides available to turn her every two hours or a full-time dietician who could assist nursing home residents like Dwyer during meals. After a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict of $13.2 million for this wrongful death action.

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A Georgia jury has awarded $43.5 million in damages related to the abuse and neglect of an 80-year-old man, Morris Ellison. Ellison was a resident of a nursing home where the ownership held title to a string of nursing facilities in and around the state of Georgia. Ellison eventually died in this nursing home.

Along with the neglect and possible abuse, Ellison was found to have been malnourished, dehydrated and lacking sufficient nursing and medical care, all of which was a contributing factor in hastening his death. But the background of this catastrophic case was that the nursing home owners had bilked Medicare and Medicaid out of tens of millions of dollars.

In this case, the nursing home’s individual owner and his wife ran three nursing facilities or long-term care facilities in Georgia. According to newspaper reports, this couple had a net worth of almost $100 million, relying almost exclusively on Medicaid and Medicare payments to operate their nursing home empire. According to the testimony in the case, one of the nursing home directors stated that the facilities were so lacking in funds that they were unable to pay for laundry, essential supplies and personnel wages for the nursing homes. The owners were systematically draining money out of the nursing homes, which resulted in a lack of food supplies, water, medicine, personnel and basic cleaning supplies.

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In a case that was filed in confidential style, Ms. Doe, an 85-year-old woman with dementia and other medical issues, lived in a nursing home that was owned by Kindred Healthcare Inc. A nursing aide penetrated Doe’s vagina with an object while the two were in a bathroom next to her room. Despite Doe’s heavy vaginal bleeding after the incident, Doe was not taken to the hospital for several days.

Doe was diagnosed later as having suffered vaginal trauma and bruising resulting from this sexual assault.

Doe’s family sued Kindred Healthcare claiming liability and injuries to Doe because of the sexual assault. The jury entered a verdict in favor of Doe’s representative in the amount of $2.01 million.

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Alice Horne was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. She was confined to her bed at the Lexington Healthcare of Orland Park nursing home. Horne was 82 years old; the staff discovered bedsores on her heels and sacrum. The nursing home staff began repositioning her, but the staff did not notify Horne’s family about her condition.

The wounds on her heels and sacrum became infected, and Horne remained in pain until she died from unrelated causes several months later.

Horne’s family filed suit against the nursing home claiming that it had chosen not to provide adequate nutrition and to timely notify the family about Horne’s declining medical condition.

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