In the Beginning (and why most long term care malpractice happens in the first two weeks)

In the Beginning (and why most long term care malpractice happens in the first two weeks)

In the Beginning (and why most long term care malpractice happens in the first two weeks) 533 800 Lauren Ellerman

No, I don’t have a statistic from a Center for Medicare Medicaid Services to support the following statement, but I do have my 2023 long term care cases that support it 100%:

Most malpractice occurs in a long term care facility, within two weeks of admission or re-admission.

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • A patient is admitted for rehab, but the doctor and nurses copy the hospital discharge medication records down incorrectly – leaving out important life saving medication like blood thinner, or insulin.
  • A patient is admitted for rehab and requires a special diet, but new staff fails to read the diet book and serves patient a regular meal.
  • A patient is admitted to a facility, wanders into a patients room and staff immediately calls physician asking for medication to calm the patient. Within weeks patient is losing weight, bed bound, weak and has developed a pressure ulcer.

Just yesterday while getting my 5th COVID shot, the pharmacy tech told me her Mom was recently placed in a new facility and while the first three weeks were really rough (mistakes, medication errors, etc.) they are finally in a spot where the care meets her mother’s needs. While waiting for the shot, I overheard another woman explain her father had just been released from the nursing home but they didn’t have a complete medication list and she wasn’t sure whether to follow the NH orders, or his internal medicine doctor who hadn’t seen him in 4 weeks.

These experiences line up with that of the many people who call our office looking for advice, assistance and direction regarding their own family in long term care. Hospital says “you need rehab” – you go to rehab. You assume the facility is prepared, has seen records, had facility meetings about your loved one’s unique needs. That records are created to reflect those needs and that all staff has access to those records and can follow them.

But sadly, that is not reality.

The reality is – records are not available to all staff. Records are not always copied correctly. Orders and medications are not always followed. Errors and mistake often occur, and most often within a few weeks of admission.

The best advice I can share, is treat those first two – three weeks at a Nursing Home / Memory Care Unit like a child’s first two-three weeks in school: Be present. Ask questions. Be curious and involved with care. Ask to see records. Make sure medications and orders are being followed. Don’t trust – verify.

I would much rather you not have a case because your loved one got good care, than have suffered the preventable loss that malpractice can often cause.

I would rather you be a kind nag to a facility, than have to call me after the unthinkable happens.

Oh wait – there is medical literature to support this sad fact – beyond my observations and experience. Tragic and telling as it is.

grayscale photography of human hands

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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