I recently spoke with a lady on the telephone who was complaining her aunt had received neglectful care from a home health nurse and suffered severe injuries as a result. The caller concluded that “it is a shame she wasn’t in a nursing home…because now no one can be held responsible.”
For whatever reason, many people believe that home health nurses cannot be held accountable for the neglect and abuse of an elderly person when that person is residing in his/her home. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For example, the city of Seattle and a home health care agency just paid $600,000 to settle a negligence claim arising from neglectful home health care. Doctors diagnosed Patricia Leonard of West Seattle with multiple sclerosis when she was 24. She is now 51 and nearly paralyzed. Patricia resides at home but is in a city-run program that pays contracted caregivers to take care of her. Her care plan spelled out one of her most basic needs – to shift the client’s weight every 15 minutes to prevent pressure ulcers or bedsores.
Unfortunately, the nurse assigned to care for Patricia did not turn or reposition her and had never been trained to do so. The result – Patricia was was neglected in her wheelchair, left for so long that she developed life-threatening bedsores (also know as decubitus ulcers) and was hospitalized for two months. Doctors operated twice on the sores they had cut through to the bone. They were also infected with MRSA, potentially life-threatening bacteria.
Bad care is not just confined to nursing homes…it can happen in your home!