Negligence is defined as the “failure to act with the prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances; the trait of neglecting responsibilities and lacking concern.”
When you claim a doctor or nurse was negligent, you must prove to the jury their actions or the care they provided ‘fell below the standard of care.’ More simply put, you have to prove that their actions (or failure to act) were not what a reasonable doctor or nurse in Virginia would have done under the same circumstances.
In other words, if a nursing home were being graded you would have to convince the jury that the doctor or nurse received a D or an F, with C being the ‘standard of care’ grade.
How do nursing homes fail to provide the level of care?
This is the sad part of my job – learning about the many ways that loved ones have been neglected in local nursing homes. In the last two years alone, we have received, tried, settled, or heard about cases which involve the following:
- Elopement – when residents have left the facility alone, unattended, often times wandering away from the nursing home into dangerous situations, like traffic, into parking lots, etc.
- Pressure Ulcers – when residents have not received proper skin care, nutrition, hydration, and turning resulting in large bed sores or pressure ulcers begin to form. These ulcers/sores most often develop on heels and the sacrum (bottom) of elderly residents and can allow infection to directly enter blood stream;
- Resident on Resident Abuse – from physical to sexual assaults, we have seen too many cases where residents have caused harm to other residents;
- Malnutrition – failing to provide proper nutrition and sufficient protein in the resident’s diet;
- Dehydration – failing to provide sufficient water for body and organ systems to work;
- Medication Errors – too much…too little… wrong medication – any way you can imagine mistakes being made, we have seen them;
- Falls – Falls can be from a wheelchair, walker, bed, or while walking. Brittle bones make falls very dangerous and the resulting injuries can be life-threatening. Even one fall can cause permanent injury and or death;
- Bed Rails – it is a little known fact but every year residents get caught in, and strangled by, bed rails;
- Infection Control – in a 110 bed facility with nurses going from room to room, infection can spread like wild fire!
- Failure to Diagnose – You rarely have doctors walking around the nursing home so nurses serve as their eyes and ears… overworked nurses mean we see cases where serious medical conditions have been overlooked by staff, and physicians not notified.
- Staff Abuse – although I have never had a case of outward abuse by a staff person, I know nurses in Virginia have lost licenses for verbally or physically attacking residents.
Conclusion: I don’t believe nursing homes purposefully abuse, mistreat or neglect the residents. However, I do think most employees are over worked, underpaid, and without higher staffing levels and qualified care providers, many of our loved ones in Virginia nursing homes may fall victim to nursing home neglect.