Altanta Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer
Nursing home neglect and abuse is a significant problem in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nursing homes give tours of their facilities and provide impressive pamphlets and paperwork prior to admitting the resident. Unfortunately, the care provided often fails to live up to the promises made before the resident is placed in the facility.
Nursing homes and personal care homes charge significant amounts of money for their services. Yet, too often, profits are kept high up in the corporate structure and too little money trickles down to the facility. The result is poor resident care, which leads to severe injury or death.
Too often, Georgia nursing home residents are neglected or abused in long-term care facilities. As an Atlanta injury attorney handling long-term care injury and death matters, I have seen the bad side of many of these facilities. To be fair, there are some nursing homes and assisted living facilities which carry out their business the right way–with a focus on the resident, adequate staffing, and proper care. No one denies that these facilities deserve to make a profit; after all, they are usually for-profit businesses.
However, our firm frequently receives calls and hears stories about some of the abuse and neglect which takes place in Georgia nursing homes. When we bring a claim we often hear the defense that the resident “was old” and “was going to die within a few years anyway.” Perhaps true, but elderly citizens deserve proper care and deserve to live out their remaining years with dignity.
The bottom line is this-If the facility is ill-equipped to treat a resident that resident should not be admitted or retained. Frequent falls, pressure sores, and malnourishment are not acceptable under any circumstance.
Most states, as well as the federal government, have enacted laws designed to protect long-term care residents. In Georgia, the Department of Community Health (“DCH”) regulates nursing homes and personal care homes (also known as assisted living facilities).
Over twenty years ago, the federal government enacted The Nursing Home Reform Act (also known as “OBRA”). This Act was a landmark piece of legislation and dramatically changed the operation of nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide. OBRA, signed into law in 1987, sets minimum standards for long-term care facilities which accept Medicare or Medicaid. For example, employee credentials, licensing, and individualized care plans are addressed by this law. Among other things, OBRA:
- Emphasizes a resident’s quality of life and quality of care received at the facility;
- Sets forth expectations that a resident will be able to walk, bathe, and perform other activities of daily living (ADL), to the extent possible. ADL should be maintained or improved absent medical reasons to the contrary;
- Provides for a resident assessment process and the development of an care plan which is tailored to the individual resident;
- Mandates training and testing of long-term care facility staff;
- Ensures the right to remain in the nursing home unless certain conditions justifying removal of the resident are met;
- Allows the resident to return to the facility after a hospital visit;
- Protects the right to choose a personal physician and to have access to the resident’s medical chart;
- Provides the right to be free of unnecessary physical and chemical restraints; and,
- Sets forth uniform standards for Medicare and Medicaid homes.
As a trial attorney in Atlanta who routinely handles wrongful death cases stemming from Georgia nursing homes, I can confidently say……I am tired of hearing “but the resident was old and may have died soon anyway.” I have heard this from nursing home employees and even some relatively callous defense attorneys.
Let me say what I had previously assumed was known by most, if not all, people: Elderly folks deserve to live, and even die, with dignity. To allow nursing home residents to repeatedly fall, get malnourished, become dehydrated, or develop horrendous pressure sores while under the care of allegedly competent employees of nursing facilities is just absurd. The “elderly” folks of today are the ones who fought in World War II, The Korean War, made it through the Great Depression, and for us Atlanta folks…made it through countless decades of terrible Braves baseball.
All of these things, in addition to human decency, demand that we treat today’s elderly generation with dignity, particularly since in most instances they are paying nursing homes to do it! The nursing homes are not running some charity–they are charging, and sometimes charging a lot, to provide care and treatment to people’s parents and grandparents. By the way, I often wonder whether the people showing disdain for today’s elderly generation realize that they are tomorrow’s nursing home residents…..file this under the “what goes around, comes around” law of nature.
I was recently reviewing a file from the Georgia Department of Community Health, which is the governing body for Georgia long-term care facilities, regarding a nursing home in Cobb County, Austell, Georgia which I am preparing to sue. The large file contained numerous reported incidents of nursing home employees physically abusing and stealing money from residents. Hitting or pick-pocketing an 85 year old is sort of like stealing candy from a 5 year old–it is just absurd and should not be tolerated.
NURSING HOME FALLS – THE NUMBERS
Annually, the average nursing home (which is approximately 100 beds) is the site of between 100 and 200 resident falls. Keep in mind that many falls are unreported by the facility and some falls are not witnessed. It is estimated that almost 2,000 elderly individuals die in long-term care facilities each year from injuries related to falls. For those nursing home residents who survive a serious fall, the resulting injuries can dramatically impact their mobility and overall quality of life. Although approximately 5% of people over the age of 65 are in long-term care facilities, these individuals constitute around 20% of deaths from fall-related injuries for the same age range. Even more concerning, there are studies showing that as many of 75% of nursing home residents suffer some sort of fall each year—that is almost double the rate for older adults who do not reside in long-term care homes. Further, once a resident falls, he or she is very likely to fall again in the future. The average over 2.5 falls per person each year. Some experts estimate that as many as 20% of falls results in serious injuries, with around 5% causing a fracture.
WHY DO FALLS HAPPEN SO FREQUENTLY IN NURSING HOMES?
First, elderly and infirm people are more prone to fall. They suffer from bone and joint issues, resulting in gait and balance problems. Generally, individuals residing in a nursing home are in worse health than people of the same age residing out in the community. In addition to physical ailments, nursing home residents frequently have memory and other cognitive difficulties, which make the safe performance of activities of daily living more difficult. Finally, long-term care facilities often fail to hire qualified staff and then fail to offer appropriate training. This combination leads to the failure to appropriately monitor nursing home residents and overlooking other needed precautions to prevent falls.
COMMON REASONS NURSING HOME RESIDENTS FALL
- Nursing home staff – If the nursing home employees are poorly-trained or inattentive, the resident may get substandard medical care, may not be identified as a candidate for a chair/bed alarm, may be allowed to roam the facility in socks, and may not be trained on the proper use of walking aids.
- A bed which is too high, wet floors, bad lighting, and improperly maintained wheelchairs.
- Balance issues/Muscle weakness/Trouble walking.
- Medications like sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs affect a resident’s central nervous system and can affect balance and coordination.
MINIMIZING THE RISK OF FALLS AND LIMITING INJURIES IF FALLS OCCUR
Fall prevention ideas and safety measures include:
- Identifying and addressing risk factors very early in the resident’s stay at the nursing home. Creating and adhering to a Fall Care Plan early in the resident’s stay. (Click here to learn more about the Fall Care Plan, a vital fall-prevention measure).
- Properly training staff about nursing home falls, resident risk factors, and ways to minimize the risk of falls.
- Safety additions to long-term care facilities, such as: grab bars near toilets, showers, and beds, raised toilet seats, and low beds.
- Fitting residents with hip pads (Below is an example of a hip pad that would minimize damage to the residents hip in the event of a fall).
- Bed and wheelchair alarms, which alert staff when residents try to move without assistance. (Below is an example of a wheelchair alarm, which would sound if the resident attempted to get out of the chair without staff help).
FEDERAL REGULATIONS FOR NURSING HOMES
A detailed outline of federal regulations applicable to nursing home may be found here.
Unfortunately, despite the enactment of a number of federal and state laws designed to protect nursing home residents, numerous facilities still fail to provide adequate care. Our firm has handled cases involving: falls resulting in broken hips or death, pressure sores resulting in significant wound treatment or death, resident wandering which leads to severe injury or death, and malnutrition/dehydration.
SIGNS OF NURSING HOME ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Because of their often frail mental and physical status, nursing home residents may be subject to neglect or abuse. Some signs of nursing home neglect or abuse are:
- Unexplained or unexpected death of the resident
- Rapid, unexplained decline in the resident’s health
- Repeated falls at the long-term care facility. Click here to learn about nursing home falls, injuries from falls, and prevention measures.
- Pressure sores (These are also sometimes called “bed sores” or “decubitis ulcers”)
- Malnutrition (This often results in significant weight loss)
- Broken bones, unexplained bruises on the resident’s body
- Poor hygiene
- Wandering, which results in significant injury
Many of these conditions are caused by insufficient staffing levels and/or poor training of nursing home staff.
SELECTING A NURSING HOME IN GEORGIA
The State Bar of Georgia provides an excellent outline for selecting a nursing home. This information may be found here.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SECURING QUALITY NURSING HOME CARE FOR A FAMILY MEMBER OR LOVED ONE.
- Get involved with the resident’s care, show up at the facility frequently, and ask questions about the resident’s care. Contact state authorities if you have specific complaints about how a nursing home has treated a resident.
- Visit the facility at different times and show up when the nursing home staff will not expect a visit. When you visit the nursing home, check for the appearance of pressure sores on the resident. Decubitis ulcers generally appear on spots on the body where the skin is subjected to pressure, such as the buttocks/sacral region, elbows, and shoulders.
- If you suspect that the resident is receiving improper treatment, review the patient’s chart. Ask questions of the staff.
- If you have concerns, begin to document the issues and take pictures. Keep a log of any problems you notice at the facility, including dates, times and individuals involved. Send a letter of concern to the nursing home Administrator and contact an attorney if necessary.
NURSING HOME, ASSISTED LIVING, AND PROFESSIONAL MALPRACTICE RESULTS
U.B. $940,000 (Medical negligence, loss of right eye)
Our client lost her right eye after awakening during ocular surgery due to insufficient amounts of anesthesia. The defendants elected to settle the case just prior to trial.
F.B. $417,000 (Medical negligence / ventilator misuse, death)
We represented the family of 78 year old who was killed after a hospital employee negligently failed to turn a ventilator to the ‘on’ position after placing patient on the machine. While the patient had very significant co-existing health conditions, we argued that she deserved to pass with dignity on her own terms.
N.B. $350,000 (Chiropractic malpractice, stroke)
Our client, a thirty year old, suffered an ischemic stroke after a chiropractor negligently performed a neck adjustment and then negligently failed to recognize the signs of impending stroke. Our client fully recovered but we were able to secure an amount of money sufficient to protect him in the event of any future related health issues.
A.P. $300,000 (Medical malpractice case where a surgeon performed client’s diverting colostomy backwards, resulting in infection and repeat surgery)
F.A. Confidential Settlement (Nursing Home / Wrongful Death)
We represented a World War II veteran who was sent to a nursing home in Cobb County, Georgia because he was a fall-risk. The nurses left the resident unattended twice in the same day resulting in two falls and two head strikes. The falls resulted in a massive brain bleed and, ultimately, caused the death of the resident. Through discovery, we were able to show that, despite the fact that the man was a known fall-risk, the nurses left him totally alone in a wheelchair and repeated the same mistake, even after he had fallen at the facility.
I.D. Confidential Settlement (Nursing Home / Wrongful Death)
Our firm represented the family of a man who was sent for short-term rehabilitation to a nursing home in Cobb County. There, the attending nursing home doctors failed to properly supervise and manage the patient’s Coumadin regimen, causing massive internal bleeding and, ultimately, death.
C.B. Confidential Settlement (Retained gauze after surgery)
Our client, a former nurse, had two pieces of gauze left in her chest after cardiac surgery and wound care at a local hospital. The retained gauze caused a massive infection, resulting in numerous other surgical procedures and significant scarring.
F.B. Confidential Settlement (Medical Malpractice / Pain medication overdose death)
Our client, a chronic pain patient, was victimized by a local physician who had been sanctioned by the Composite State Medical Board. The physician provided pain pills to desperate patients who were in chronic pain, yet he failed to follow the standard of care regarding monitoring, dosing, and supervision of medication use. Our client died of multiple drug toxicity. A lawsuit was brought by her husband and children in order to ensure that some good might come from her untimely death and to ensure that this physician stopped preying on pain clinic patients.
F.E. Confidential Settlement (Assisted Living Facility / Wrongful Death)
Our clients were the surviving children of a lady in her late 80’s who lived in an Assisted Living Facility. She became unsuitable for this sort of residential facility, with limited staffing and oversight. Unfortunately, she developed a pressure sore, which became infected, and resulted in her death. The defendants made no offer to resolve the case before a lawsuit was filed. After years of litigation, both defendants paid to resolve the case before trial.
C.S. Confidential Settlement (Post Elective Surgery / Wrongful Death)
Our clients were the surviving children and husband of a woman who presented to a local hospital for an elective knee surgery. She died within hours of the completion of the surgery. We presented expert testimony to prove that the patient was not appropriately monitored in the post-operative period, considering her various health conditions.
D.B. Confidential Settlement (Assisted Living Facility / Wrongful Death)
We represented the family of a woman who had recently moved into an Assisted Living Home in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The facility charged substantial monthly fees, which included housing, food, and supervision. Within three weeks of admission to the facility, the resident contracted pneumonia, which was not timely noticed or addressed by the staff. Unfortunately, the resident became septic before anyone secured medical attention for her. Therefore, after a prolonged battle, the woman died. We filed a lawsuit after the facility and their insurance company refused to make a settlement offer to the family. After taking the depositions of only two facility staff members, the insurance company for the home paid to resolve the case and avoid a trial.
RESOURCES FOR NURSING HOME ISSUES
- Georgia Department of Public Health Regulations (Regulates Nursing Homes in Georgia)
- Georgia Department of Community Health (Regulates Personal Care Homes in Georgia)
- Georgia Facility Guide
- The Consumer Voice
- Senior Citizens Bureau
Law Offices of Andrew Goldner, LLC
1040 Crown Pointe Pkwy #800
Phone: (404) 869-1580