America is facing a crisis in nursing home care. Many nursing homes are staffed with loving and compassionate people but in far too many nursing homes, our loved ones are abused and neglected. Congressional watchdog studies indicate that nursing homes are horribly understaffed and are often staffed with untrained or uncaring personnel. According to a study, one in every four nursing homes is cited for causing serious personal injury or wrongful death.
If your loved one has experienced neglect or abuse at a nursing home or elder care center in Kansas or Missouri, our Kansas City nursing home abuse lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and make sure those responsible are held accountable. We have recovered over $350 million for our clients and have been protecting the injured for over 30 years. We are prepared to fight for civil justice on your behalf.
Contact our offices at (816) 253-8606 for a free review of your case.
Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
There are many types of nursing home abuse and negligence cases handled by our lawyers, including:
- Abandonment – patient left unattended for hours
- Lack of care involving personal hygiene – patient left in urine and bowel movement for hours
- Bed sores (decubitus ulcers) – can lead to amputation or death
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Improper medication
- Improper restraint – strangulation
- Physical abuse – battery
- Sexual abuse – rape
- Inadequate supervision leading to elopement or wandering
A more detailed explanation of some of these forms of nursing home abuse and negligence follows.
Bed Sores (Decubitus Ulcers) & Wrongful Death
Residents of nursing homes depend on staff for many activities of daily living. Our loved ones need help getting dressed, eating, drinking water, and going to the bathroom. They need assistance in socialization. Due to understaffing, our loved ones may be abandoned for hours at a time. As a consequence, they cannot get out of bed. Pressure sores or bed sores develop when a resident is not turned frequently. They cannot go to the bathroom. The dignity of this proud generation is destroyed when they have to soil their bed, their clothing, and their wheelchair because no one will help them go to the bathroom and no one will come to help them change into dry clothing when needed.
There are four stages of bedsores. It’s important that you are able to recognize the signs of each stage so that you can take action if you suspect your elderly loved one is suffering from such injuries.
The four stages of bedsores are:
- Stage 1: Reddish or bluish colored sores that are warm and/or painful to the touch
- Stage 2: Pink-colored areas on the body, fluid-filled sores, or open wounds
- Stage 3: Yellow skin or tissue and deep wounds on the body
- Stage 4: Very deep wounds, exposed bone, and/or dried or dead skin tissue
This presents a painful and dangerous health condition for our elderly. If left untreated, or if improperly treated, bed sores or pressure sores can lead to preventable infection, decubitus ulcers that go through the layers of the skin to the bone. These can lead to sepsis, gangrene and even wrongful death. If you believe your loved one passed needlessly, our Kansas City nursing home negligence attorneys are here to help. We fight to expose nursing home abuse and neglect to seek justice for those who have already been wronged and to prevent future atrocities.
UTIs & Sepsis
Nursing home negligence can also lead to UTIs and sepsis, two conditions that pose a serious threat to seniors. UTIs (urinary tract infections) are an infection of the urethra caused by bacteria from the large intestine. If left unaddressed, UTIs can lead to kidney infections which may be life-threatening. Women are especially susceptible to UTIs, though they can also affect men as well. Symptoms can include a burning sensation during urination, frequent urge to urinate even when there is little urine present, cloudy or dark urine, bloody urine, fever and/or chills, and fatigue.
Sepsis occurs when the body attempts to fight off an infection by sending chemicals through the bloodstream, resulting in inflammation throughout the body. Sepsis is extremely dangerous and is often fatal when it progresses to septic shock. While sepsis can affect anyone, seniors and individuals with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- High heart rate (over 90 beats per minute)
- Body temperature below 96.8 F or exceeding 101 F
- A respiratory rate that exceeds 20 breath per minute
In order to be diagnosed with sepsis, an individual must exhibit at least two of the above symptoms, as well as have a demonstrable infection. The diagnosis may be upgraded to severe sepsis if the individual also shows signs of abdominal pain, dramatically decreased urination, changes in heart function, changes in mental state, decreased platelet count, or problems breathing. Septic shock is diagnosed when one or more of these conditions are present along with very low blood pressure.
Elder Falls, Broken Bones & Head Injuries
Left without assistance, elderly people can experience bad falls, fracturing legs, hips and arms, and sustaining head injuries. It is not uncommon for employees at an understaffed nursing home to help an elderly person to a bathroom and then abandon them. Left alone, with no one responding to calls for assistance, the resident must either wait or attempt to get back to their bed or wheelchair on their own. If they fall, they may not even be found right away.
Too often elderly patients in nursing homes sustain preventable injuries from these bad falls. It is common for an older person to break their hip when they fall or to suffer brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other catastrophic personal injuries. Surgery may be required. Huge hospital bills can be incurred or worse, the elderly person may die. In tragic cases such as this, our Cullan & Cullan can help you find out the truth about the circumstances of your loved one’s death, hold the negligent nursing home accountable, and prevent these unnecessary injuries from happening to other residents.
Malnutrition & Dehydration
The most tragic forms of nursing home abuse involve starvation, malnutrition, or failure to provide water. It is hard to believe that our elderly are being denied these basic needs, but they are. Many of our elderly suffer dramatic weight loss after being transferred from their home to a nursing facility.
It is important to watch for signs of malnutrition or dehydration, which may include:
- Change in color
- Dry lips and skin
- Hair loss
- Complaints of being hungry and thirsty
- Unexplained weight loss
- Decreased urine output
It is extremely important that the elderly be given proper nutrition and kept hydrated so they are less susceptible to disease, or are more able to fight a disease or heal quickly. There are many instances where an elderly person would have recovered from a cold or a broken hip if their body had just had the nutrients to fight the illness. Our Kansas City nursing home neglect attorneys take on cases involving dehydration, malnutrition, and other types of negligence.
Improper Medication & Unnecessary Restraints
When a loved one is placed in a nursing home, it is imperative that the nursing staff and nursing home doctors review the patient’s history and the medications that the patient is on. All too frequently, vital medications are stopped or changed without good cause. If there is a long-term injury from the medication error, your family member may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim.
In other instances, new medications or restraints are designed to simply sedate the resident it will take less work to provide care. There may be instances where a loved one needs to have soft restraints to protect them. It is important that the restraints are appropriate for the person and situation. If improperly fitted, strangulation may occur. Restraints may also be too small or too tight. A sign of improper restraints can be bruises on the body or wrists. These can lead to pressure ulcers which can become infected and lead to sepsis. Contact us if your loved one has these or other signs of abuse inflicted at a nursing home.
Physical & Sexual Abuse
Physical and sexual abuse of the elderly is an all too common crime. A nursing home has a duty to protect its residents from physical abuse and rape by employees or other residents. Unfortunately, the victims are often too frightened or are incapable of reporting the abuse. If physical abuse or sexual assaults are reported, they are often swept under the carpet and allowed to be repeated.
There are State and Federal regulations that require nursing homes to obtain background checks on prospective employees. Unfortunately, background checks are frequently not even done or the results are ignored. Violent criminals should not be taking care of the elderly.
Family members must be vigilant in watching for signs of abuse, including:
- Unexplained or frequent injuries
- Emotional withdrawal
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Torn or damaged clothing
- Fear of certain nursing staff members
- Vaginal or anal bleeding
- Bruises, cuts, burns, or fractures
Contact Our Kansas City Nursing Home Negligence & Abuse Attorneys
There are literally thousands of Federal and State laws and regulations that specifically apply to nursing homes, including a resident’s right to sue for abuse and neglect. Cullan & Cullan can help you navigate these voluminous legal codes and determine which apply to your case. We are here to support and guide you to a better and more stable future.
Call (816) 253-8606 today to schedule your free consultation.