Articles Posted in Bed Sores

Walton Law Firm recently settled the case of A.Q., a 78-year-old woman who died tragically after acquiring multiple bedsores that developed and worsened while she was under the care and treatment of a San Diego home health care agency.  Ms. Q was survived by her three children who brought a legal action for both wrongful death and elder abuse and neglect, contending that the result of careless and reckless conduct committed by a license vocational nurse (LVN) who ignored the development and worsening of Ms. Q’s wounds, and failed to notify a physician of the severity of the wounds or make a request for Ms. Q to be sent to the hospital.

Walton Law Firm initially argued that the pressure sores suffered by Ms. Q were the result of negligence, and that such negligence was a substantial factor in her premature death. The home health provider, it was argued, failed Ms. Q when it 1.) failed to obtain an air mattress for Ms. Q as requested by caregivers, 2.) failed to obtain additional nursing care for her when it was obviously needed, 3.) failed to have Ms. Q seen by a registered nurse or mobile physician, and 4.) failing to have Ms. Q transferred to a hospital where she so obviously need to go. 

In addition, Mr. Walton also contended that the treatment of Ms. Q was so egregious, that it rose to the level of elder neglect under California law. In order to show neglect, Ms. Q (through Walton Law Firm) had to show that the home health agency either failed to use the degree of care a reasonable person would have and/or failed to protect Ms. Q from health and safety hazards.  It has had to show these failures were done with the conscious disregard for the rights and safety of Mr. Q.

file0001370155977According to a pamphlet from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one of the most prominent “red flags” of nursing home neglect is the presence of untreated pressure ulcers, which are also known as “bedsores.” According to a news release from the University of California, Berkeley, engineers at the university are working to develop a type of bandage technology that actually might make the presence of bedsores known to a patient and/or her family before they become visible to healthcare professionals.

While we want to take steps to prevent nursing home abuse from happening in the first place, being able to quickly spot the signs of neglect might be able to help California seniors in these facilities to avoid severe and even life-threatening injuries. What should we learn about the developing bandage technology?

“Smart Bandages” Can Detect Tissue Damage Caused by Bedsores

Earlier this summer, we told you about a $23 million jury verdict in a bed sore case from northern California. The victim, Joan Boice, had been a resident at the Emeritus at Emerald Hills in Auburn, California before she suffered from painful bed sores and died as a result of nursing home negligence. After this case made national news, PBS Frontline and Propublica took a closer look into the story and expanded an investigation into nursing home practices across the country. The project began airing late last month on PBS, entitled “Life and Death in Assisted Living.”

Confused%20Old%20Man.jpgDetails of the Documentary Series

The documentary is made up of four parts, and it depicts the abuse and neglect that is often overlooked or covered up at various nursing facilities. The series takes a close look at the death of Boice in the Emeritus assisted living facility in northern California, and from there it moves out to other issues of nursing home abuse and neglect across the country.

Earlier this month in Sacramento, a judge upheld a $23 million jury award in a case where an elderly woman died from bedsores, reported UT San Diego. This nursing home abuse occurred at a Northern California assisted living facility owned by the Emeritus senior living corporation. In addition to the original verdict, the judge actually added an additional $4.3 million in legal costs and fees, according to the Sacramento Bee.

This recent decision will have important implications in nursing home abuses cases in California. The high verdict sends a message to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in our state that they need to take better care of residents if they want to avoid lawsuits for nursing home abuse and neglect. If they don’t, they’ll have to pay. If you are concerned about an elderly loved in in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it’s important to speak to an elder justice advocate. Your loved one and your family may be eligible for compensation.

The Victim’s Story

NBC San Diego recently did a story about the ProPublica online research tool that allows prospective nursing home residents and their families to investigate local nursing homes. As part of the story, two legal cases of nursing home abuse were profiled, including one from Walton Law Firm. Attorney Randy Walton, whom NBC San Diego describes as “an expert in nursing home abuse,” advises nursing home residents and their families to trust their “intuition”, and to be a “squeaky wheel” when necessary to ensure proper care.

The story can be watched here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhtGRfxI8bQ

The giant nursing home neglect verdicts continue to come in around the country. Last week, a jury in Kentucky awarded the family of a neglected nursing home resident $42.75 million after the resident became lethally dehydrated and malnourished, and arrived at the hospital covered in bed sores. The resident died as a result.

According to news accounts, 92-year-old Joseph Offut had been a resident of Harborside nursing home for only nine days prior to his death. The World War II veteran had been very active up until the age of 90, when he suffered a stroke and was cared for by his wife of 58 years. Like many, after some difficult conversations the family ultimately decided that Mr. Offut needed professional care and placed him in a nursing home.

After his death, Offutt’s family filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against the nursing home’s parent company, Sunbridge Healthcare Corp. The lawsuit alleged that caregivers at the nursing home neglect Offut, causing him to suffer severe dehydration, malnutrition, decubitus ulcers, and ultimately death.

At Walton Law Firm, we have handled numerous cases involving decubitus ulcers or bed sores, many of them resulting in the death of the patient. But the cases we handle are civil cases; a prosecution of the nursing home or other caregiver to seek money damages. We have never seen any caregiver prosecuted criminally for such neglect.

090903_jean_rudolph.jpgIn Washington State, however, the owner of an assisted living facility and an employee were charged with crimes for the neglect of Jean Rudolph, who died under their care. When Rudolph died in 2008 at the age of 87, she weighed only 68 pounds. The cause of death was related to infections that were caused by bed sores so severe that they exposed her bones, including a hip sore so severe that her hip bone jutted out of her body.

Her son, who visited her twice a week, never knew of the sores. His mother suffered from end-stage dementia and couldn’t speak or express her needs, and each time the son visited she was always under covers.

This story makes one wonder what would happen if a hidden camera sting was done in every nursing home. The attorney general of New York placed a hidden camera in a single room of a long-term care facility, which resulted in an indictment against nine nurses, the nursing home, for a whopping 169 separate crimes.

The indictment filed in the case alleges 57 instances of neglect during a three-month period in 2009. With the family’s permission, a hidden camera was placed in the room of a 53-year-old resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis and other mental and physical illnesses. The video revealed that the nurses failed, on several occasions, to turn the patient regularly as required, failed to medicate as needed, treat his pressure ulcers, or even change the resident’s clothing. Of course, in the medical chart, these nurses stated that all this care had been provided. The fraudulent medical charting resulted in further criminal charges.

In interesting footnote to the story, when the alleged abuse revealed, several people came to The Record newspaper to tell their stories of abuse or neglect inside the facility, including unanswered call lights and untreated infections and bed sores.

A Sacramento jury slammed an area nursing home with a $28 million verdict last week after it found the home liable for elder abuse and neglect. Before deliberations, attorney Ed Dudensing told the jury to, “make them feel it.” It did. The nursing home, as expected, will appeal.

What is believed to be the largest verdict of its kind, the jury hoped to send a message that if you’re going to run a nursing home, you better do it in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the health and welfare of its residents.

The jury came back with the huge punitive damages award the day after it found that the corporation Horizon West Healthcare and its nursing homes Colonial Healthcare committed elder abuse upon 79-year-old Frances Tanner. Tanner, a government worker who at one time worked for the FBI and Internal Revenue Service, was admitted into Colonial in March of 2005. After suffering a fall that went undiagnosed for days, she died seven months later for an infected bed sore.

When Georgia Fitsos was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in 2006, her family came to the sad realization that Georgia could no longer live alone. Too healthy for skilled nursing care, the family chose to place their mother in Broadstone Residential Facility after reading a fancy brochure that promised Georgia “can enjoy a lifestyle of elegance.”

Less than a year after her admission, Georgia’s son found his mother with a big black eye. She told him that someone hit her, but when confronted, the facility said she accidentally hit her face on the table after falling asleep in her wheelchair (Walton Law Firm currently has a very similar case). Only a month later, Georgia’s son found his mother suffering from a shortness of breath. He called 911 because the on-site Broadstone caregiver didn’t speak enough English to make the call.

When Georgia arrived at the Emergency Room doctors were stunned by what they found. A huge, Stage 4 bed sore the size of a “turkey platter” was found on her backside. It had eaten deeply into her flesh, and became infected. The infection quickly turned into sepsis, and Georgia died less than a month later.