legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Sometimes Medical Complications, Such as Bed Sores, are not Disclosed Until the Patient is Seen at a Hospital
Nursing homes do not always have the equipment necessary to professionally diagnose and combat serious medical complications in their residents. Even when they do, nurses and other care staff must still observe any health failures occurring in a resident and try to treat them, if possible. They are under obligation to disclose information to a resident’s loved ones, his or her doctor, and the hospital.
Why do Nursing Homes Fail to Disclose?
The failure to disclose serious medical conditions is still too common among nursing home staff. In a study conducted by the School of Nursing at the University of San Francisco in 2012, only half of the 1,180 participants would provide the full account of an error or accident that occurred to a patient under their care. When it came to the study of actual disclosure to parents or family of the patient, only around 18% of nurses were actually willing to disclose any mistake or condition fully.
They gave various reasons for the inexperience or lack of professionalism shown, including:
- High nursing home staff turnover
- Lack of adequate nursing supervision
- Poor communication among staff
- Poor teamwork between staff and managers
- Frequent changes in nursing administration
- Lack of proper education or training among staff
The study concluded that that overall improvements are necessary to increase the disclosure process.
Regulations and Law
A common rumor about the lack of nursing home staff reporting medical conditions to a hospital or doctor says that because the patients at a nursing home are not actual patients, but residents, it means there are more legal complications around disclosing the declining health of the patient. However, this is not actually true. Certain provisions allow nursing home caregivers to disclose the information.
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)’s Privacy Rule allows any health provider, such as a nursing home, to disclose protected health information to another health care provider, such as a hospital or doctor, in order to continue the treatment of the patient or for payment reasons.
- The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center provides a Nursing Home Residents’ Rights document. One of these rights consists of the resident having control over the release his or her protected medical information by the nursing home to other health providers or any other outside individual.
Nursing home staff has permission to release the information to the appropriate channels, and has the responsibility to report any health issues with the patient to others.
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores and decubitus ulcers are skin wounds that develop when a specific part of the body has pressure placed on it, which cuts off the blood flow and weakens the skin and nearby tissues. Patients with no mobility (confined to a wheelchair or bed as many of the elderly are) are the most vulnerable to bedsores since they cannot move and prevent the pressure from building on that part of the body.
Nursing staff can prevent, detect, and treat a patient’s bedsores. Bedsore prevention includes easy repositioning and hygiene practices. Some of these suggestions to preventing bedsores include:
- Shifting the patient’s weight and assisting with any repositioning efforts
- Changing the elevation of the patient’s bed to prevent shear from injuring him or her
- Using special cushions or mattresses to relieve the patient from further pressure
- Keeping the patient and his or her clothes and bedding clean
- Protecting the patient’s skins by keeping it clean, dry, and protected
- Providing the patient with a diet rich in nutrients and fluids
With these measures, a caregiver can make a difference in preventing bedsores on a nursing home resident.
A careful caregiver can detect the possible emergence of bedsores by observing the patient and looking for the following qualities in a specific area:
- Changes in skin texture or color
- Pus-like liquid draining
- Cooler or warmer to touch than other areas
In case a bedsore occurs, the caregiver can treat the wound if it is at a stage I or II. Stage III and IV sores require medical intervention. Some of the treatment practices include:
- Cleaning the wound with mild soap or water if stage I, or saline with stage II
- Keeping the sore covered with a special dressing or bandage
- Placing the patient on a healthy diet to encourage healing of the wound
- Using antibiotics to fight infection, if necessary
What to do if You Suspect Neglect?
Bedsores are easily preventable and treatable by a nursing home staff. Even if a sore develops, it is crucial to report the injury to family, doctors, or the hospital. If left untreated, bedsores can become infected and lead to skin cancer, sepsis, or cellulitis.
If you suspect your loved one developed a condition such as bedsores at his or her nursing home, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer to take legal action. Contact Nursing Law Center LLC for a free consultation.