For many people, a short term admission to a nursing home to recover from an illness or provide a break to a caregiver sounds like a reasonable proposition. While many of these people are not inclined to use the services of a nursing home for their long-term care needs, there appears to be more of a willingness to use nursing homes for a fixed period.
After all, how much could possibly go wrong during a short term admission of just a few days or weeks?
Despite the short time horizon, without the nursing home’s understanding of patient needs and an understanding from the family concerning the type of care that nursing homes are capable of providing, short term admissions—of any duration– can lead to patient injury and even death.
I was reminded of just how dangerous short-term nursing home admissions can be after I began to review the records in a case involving a woman who suffered a disabling hip fracture in a fall at a facility. What makes this case a bit unusual is that the woman wasn’t even officially a patient at the facility!
The woman fell in a supervised ‘waiting room’ at the nursing home as her family was in the process of completing admission paperwork in a nearby office. As it turns out, the nursing home was recommended by physical therapists who were working with the woman during rehab exercises following a hip replacement at a nearby hospital.
Barely ten minutes in the waiting area—with a staff member nearby— the woman fell out of a chair (that she theoretically should never have been placed in) and fell onto her ‘good hip’ (the hip that she did not have surgery on)—suffering a fracture.
The nature of the fall resulted in a dangerous hip fracture that required surgery and implantation of hardware.
In evaluating the liability of this case, it appears as though both the hospital and the nursing home may be partially to blame for this nightmare as poor communication resulted in the absence of discharge orders from her treating physician— which would have indicated that she was a fall risk and she should be should not have been placed into a chair and full fall precautions were to be put into place.
While the above circumstance may be alarmingly extreme, I find that many facilities fail to address some of the most basic care related needs for patients when they know that they are only at the facility for a short period. From a medical and legal perspective, this hands off approach to evaluating short term patients’ care related needs is simply unacceptable.
Regardless of the duration of the nursing home admission— be it for a few days or for an extended period—nursing homes have a duty to care for the patients that they admit to their facilities.
From the perspective of a family or patient, it is important to treat short-term nursing home admissions as you would any admission to a medical facility and incorporate the following measures:
- Clearly articulate any special needs or requests to staff members
- Provide staff with information and contact numbers for treating physicians
- Make all medications and dosages known
- Convey special medical needs to staff
- Bring relevant medical records
- If coming directly from a hospital, bring discharge orders
- Provide emergency contact information
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