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Should families be concerned when charges of nursing home neglect come forward?

Nursing Home Abuse ChargesThere’s an inherent feeling of helplessness for families with loved ones in the care of a nursing home.  After all, despite families best intentions and diligent visits, there is only so much that families can do to ‘completely’ safeguard their loved one. At some point, families must come to terms with the fact that the facility they have selected to care for their family member will be the one providing the lion’s share of medical care for their family member.

Conceding care-related responsibilities

At some point during the admission to the facility most families will run into a situation where there is an error in the care provided to their loved one. Perhaps the patients food was served cold or the staff was delayed in responding to a call? Of course everything depends on the context and it’s frequency, but for families there is a fine line between balancing the role of an advocate vs. accepting the fact that perfect nursing home care is really nothing more than an unrealistic expectation.

Implications of action and in-action

As a lawyer who has spoken to countless families with loved ones under the care of a skilled nursing facility, I know the dilemma families face when when an issue presents itself at a facility. Make a stink and risk the staff at the facility attempt to make life a little less pleasant for their loved one. Fail to mention anything and recognize the fact that by failing to speak up there’s a chance that the facility will cut corners again and again. The inherent dilemma between advocacy and complacency seems to get worse when episodes of suspect care get reported at the facility by news outlets. Is the news report of an incident enough for a facility to be on notice of a problem and take necessary corrective action, or should families let administrators at the facility aware of the fact that they are tuned in to the recent ongoings at the facility and will be scrutinizing their loved ones care even further? I began to reconsider these issues when I read about at nursing home in Maine where maggots were discovered on the surface of a patient’s leg.  According to reports, a nurse at Newton Center discovered the maggots while conducting a routine skin inspection of a patient at the facility.

No harm, no foul?

The situation was reported to state authorities who conducted an investigation and determined both that the  situation caused no harm to the patient and indeed the incident was isolated — with no other patients at the 74-bed facility with similar issues. Further, the conditions at the facility which could have contributed to the situation were remedied by the facility according to state inspection reports.According to past inspection reports, Newton received almost three times as many citations as other facilities in the state.  An inspection from last fall revealed conditions including:

  • Dirty bedside tables
  • Wheelchairs covered with dried food
  • Chipped bathroom tiles
  • Dangling utility wires

Despite its outward appearance as a facility in disrepair, according to Medicare’s quality rating for staffing and quality of care the facility was rated ‘above average’ with a four out of five star when it came of ‘staffing’ and ‘quality of care’.  Weighing the disgusting conditions in relation to the decent care, what would you do?  Has the facility seemingly suffered enough or should families do more to voice their concerns?

For additional information view our Maine nursing home law page.

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