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One-Third of Nursing Home Patients Are Injured Due to Medical Errors

A recent study reveals that one in three nursing home patients will suffer injury or death from medical errors made during the patient’s treatment.

Many of us have elderly loved ones being cared for in a nursing home or an assisted care facility. Concerns often arise when we read news articles detailing problems that plague the quality of care in certain nursing homes and adult care facilities. Earlier this year, for example, the Wilmington Star News published a troubling story about certain nursing homes that were fined by the State of North Carolina for a "variety of infractions that put residents at risk of injury or even death." Many nursing homes and assisted care facilities are well run and provide a good quality of care for patients. Unfortunately, some facilities are poorly operated thereby resulting in the needless injury and death of significant numbers of patients each year due to nursing home abuse and negligence.

North Carolina Health News reports that a study conducted by Medicare's inspector general reveals that one in three patients in a skilled nursing facility will suffer injury or death from medical errors made in the course of the patient's treatment in the facility. During a one-month period scrutinized by the inspector general, 22,000 patients were injured and more than 1,500 died as a result of medical errors. The report found that the deaths and injuries were typically due to substandard treatment, inadequate monitoring and delays or failure to provide necessary care.

The inspector general's findings noted that medication errors in nursing homes are "common," with the majority being preventable if due care had been exercised. According to the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, the majority of prescribing errors involve a lack of thorough patient assessment coupled with inadequate monitoring by the nursing home staff for adverse drug reactions.

Infections are also a significant nursing home problem and typically result from contaminated equipment or because health-care workers do not wash their hands. Infections-the majority of which are preventable-can lead to pneumonia, sepsis and urinary tract infections. Many of the infections acquired in a nursing home are serious and life threatening if not diagnosed and treated quickly.

In addition to negligent medical errors, neglect of patients is a common occurrence in some nursing homes. The National Consumer Voice for Long-Term Quality Care observes that the most common type of neglect of patients by nursing home staff is in allowing patients to become malnourished or dehydrated due a lack of assistance in helping patients eat or drink. Another serious form of neglect occurs when the nursing home staff does not properly tend to patients' personal grooming and hygiene needs. This manifests itself in bedsores, lice on the person and a loss of personal dignity.

Making Good Choices

A Place for Mom suggests that if you are considering placing a loved one in a nursing home, you should visit the facility in order to personally evaluate it. While visiting, you should observe the level of cleanliness in the facility and note staff friendliness and attitudes. Do not hesitate to ask questions about staffing levels and how many registered nurses are on-site during the day and at night. One crucial observation you can make is how residents are groomed and dressed and whether they are in good spirits.

Seeking Assistance

If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has been injured due to nursing home negligence, you should contact a North Carolina attorney experienced in handling nursing home injury cases. Do not allow a loved one to be an uncompensated victim of nursing home negligence.

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