Families work through the difficult decision to place a loved one in a nursing home…a decision not undertaken lightly and not without some reservations. But, there comes a point in time when family members can no longer provide the type of skilled around-the-clock care which is sometimes needed. These facts are what make this report so disturbing.
A 61 year old Ohio gentleman suffered an aneurysm, which damaged his hypothalamus. This caused an absence of thirst, which put him at high risk for dehydration and renal failure. He therefore needed to drink a lot of water. Additionally, because of his cognitive deficits, he required assistance in doing so. His wife, who was his primary caretaker, had him admitted to a nursing home (Whetstone Gardens & Care Center) on a short-term basis. At the time of the admission, she told the home’s social worker (1) that her husband required two to three glasses of water at every meal, (2) about the consequences if he did not get enough water, and (3) that he needed to be monitored and assisted while drinking water. The social worker noted these things, put the information in his file, and told his caregivers that he “required lots of water.”
When the gentleman was released from the nursing home about two weeks later, he complained that he was not feeling well. His wife subsequently took him to a hospital emergency room, where he later died of cardiac arrhythmia or pulmonary embolism secondary to dehydration.
The wife, individually and on behalf of his estate, filed suit against the nursing home’s owner and operator, alleging failure to properly hydrate her husband while he was admitted to the home. Among other things, she alleged the home’s social worker failed to communicate her specific instructions about her husband’s critical water requirements and his need for help in this regard to the nursing staff, who simply left water by his nightstand.
The jury awarded the family $6.5 million…and I’ll defend that award to any proponent of “tort reform.”