My Focus

Based in Philadelphia, Churchill H. Huston is a lawyer for nursing home neglect and elderly abuse, serving clients across Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.

Common warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect :

BedSores

  • “Pressure sores are graphic, ugly, smelly evidence of health care providers’ failure to take good enough care of the elderly.”
  • Bedsores are caused by a combination of several well-known and understood factors: Immobility, moisture, poor nutrition, limited sensory perception, and friction and shear. The easiest of these risk factors for family members to identify are immobility, moisture, usually from urine or feces, and inadequate nutrition.
  • Bedsores are described using a staging system from I to IV with IV being the most serious.
  • Wounds can cause infection of the blood, tissue and bone which cause the body to fail and can result in death.

Broken Bones

  • Broken bones are catastrophic injuries for nursing home residents.
  • According to a recent study by Dr. Mark Neuman, at the University of Pennsylvania, 1/3 of the nursing home residents studied died within six months of being hospitalized with a fractured hip. 1/3.
  • Typically fractures occur as a result of falls.
  • Nursing home residents suffer not just from the broken bone and its associated medical treatment but from an increased risk of bedsores, declining quality of life and death.

Falls And Head Injuries

  • Falls in nursing homes place residents at risk for catastrophic injury and death.
  • Falls result in harms such as traumatic brain injuries, broken bones and even death.
  • Residents who suffer brain injury and broken bones are placed at greater risk of developing bedsores and dying prematurely.
  • Taking multiple medications, suffering from degenerative joint disease, and natural changes associated with aging all increase the risk that your loved one may fall.

Unexplained Injuries

  • Nursing homes are required by federal law to accommodate the needs of all residents and to provide adequate supervision of residents so they are safe.
  • Like many detrimental events that occur in a nursing home, understaffing frequently play a roll in unexplained injuries.
  • If there is not enough staff they cannot provide supervision and your family member is at risk.
  • These injuries may also be a sign of something more sinister, physical abuse.

Infections

  • Urinary tract infections, C-Diff, Cellulitis, Sepsis and MRSA are infections suffered by a large number of nursing home residents.
  • In addition to fever and other more typical symptoms, infections in the elderly cause loss of appetite, reduced ability to function, changes in mental status, falls and increase the risk of bedsores.
  • The risks for infection are numerous and varied and can be fatal.

Dehydration

  • Dehydration increases the resident’s risk for falls, kidney failure, bedsores, swelling of the brain, shock, coma and even death.
  • Dehydration is an easily preventable but potentially fatal medical condition that happens when nursing home residents do not get enough fluids.
  • Signs and symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth or lips, a swollen tongue, fatigue, dizziness and confusion.
  • Dehydration is often just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect.

Malnutrition

  • Signs and symptoms - unintentional weight loss, lethargy, weakness, memory loss, and change in mental status.
  • Malnutrition is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition that occurs when people do not get sufficient nutrients to meet their daily needs.
  • Malnutrition increases your family member’s risk of bedsores, falls, depression, infection and death.
  • The nursing home is required by federal law to offer snacks and supplements, healthier food choices, serving cold dishes cold and hot dishes hot.

Abuse And Neglect

  • Under federal law “Abuse” is defined as t ”the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish” or “deprivation by an individual, including a caretaker, of goods or services that are necessary to attain or maintain physical, mental and psycho social well-being.
  • “Sexual abuse” includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual coercion, or sexual assault.
  • “Physical abuse” includes hitting, slapping, pinching and kicking. It also includes controlling behavior through corporal punishment.
  • “Mental abuse” includes, but is not limited to, humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment or deprivation.
  • “Neglect” in a nursing home as “the deprivation by a caretaker of goods or services which are necessary to maintain physical or mental health.”

Choking and Aspiration

  • Choking on or aspirating food or liquids is a source of danger for nursing home residents.
  • The risks of choking or aspirating include death and aspiration pneumonia.
  • If your loved one has suffered a stroke, has Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or Dementia they can be at increased risk for choking or aspiration.
  • Nursing homes must conduct appropriate screening, assessments and treatments to prevent your loved one from choking or aspirating.
  • In addition, the facility must have enough staff to properly assist and supervise residents during meal times.

Over - Medication

  • A nursing home is not allowed to medicate residents so they are easier for the staff to deal with. This practice is known as a chemical restraint.
  • Overmedication of older people has been described as, “a public health crisis” by Jane Brody of the New York Times.
  • Falls, bedsores, adverse drug interactions and death are but a few of the potentially cataclysmic results of overmedicating nursing home residents.
  • The first signs and symptoms of overmedication can be subtle and include a lack of energy and confusion.

Under - Staffing

  • Unanswered call bells, residents left sitting in urine or feces, falls, weight loss, bedsores and unexplained injuries. These are a few of the warning signs that your loved one’s nursing home simply does not have enough staff to provide proper resident care.
  • A nursing home is required to have sufficient staff to meet the needs of the residents. If they do not have enough staff, they are violating the law and endangering your loved one.
  • Each task to which your loved one is entitled, feeding assistance, turning and positioning, bathing, takes time.
  • If there are not enough nurses and certified nursing assistance in the facility then care suffers.

Fractures

  • According to a recent study by Dr. Mark Neuman, at the University of Pennsylvania, 1/3 of the nursing home residents studied died within six months of being hospitalized with a fractured hip. 1/3. Of those who did not die, 28 percent suffered declines in their mobility and ability to engage in activities of daily living. Broken bones are catastrophic injuries for nursing home residents.
  • Typically fractures occur as a result of falls. Sometimes fractures are the result of rough treatment by staff. However the fracture occurred, nursing home residents suffer not just from the broken bone and its associated medical treatment but from an increased risk in bedsores, declining quality of life and death.

Assault

  • A recent study by Karl Pillemer and Dr. Mark Lachs at Cornell University found “altercations are widespread and common in everyday nursing-home life.”
  • Further, this problem is often swept under the rug to the point “staff members seem almost unaware.”
  • The physical damages caused by resident on resident assault, death, fractures, cuts bruises, are not the only results.
  • Dr. Mark Lachs also noted that victims of resident on resident assault suffered psychological harm such as depression which significantly decreases a resident’s quality of life.

Power Of Attorney

  • A Power of Attorney is an important legal document which gives another person the ability and duty to act in the best interests of another.
  • A Power of Attorney can permit another to act in a number of areas including healthcare decision making, retention of counsel, banking transactions, and real estate transactions to name a few.
  • Before you make the difficult decision to entrust your loved one to the care of a nursing home it is essential that a Power of Attorney be completed.
  • The purpose of a Power of Attorney is to avoid any confusion about who is authorized to act on behalf of the nursing home resident.

Arbitration Clauses

  • Making the decision to entrust your loved on to the care of a nursing home is often painful, emotional and confusing.
  • As part of the process the family is asked to sign document after document with little or no explanation of what they are or what they mean. Increasingly nursing homes have included documents limiting their access to the courts.
  • These documents are called Arbitration Clauses and does not allow your case to be heard by a jury.
  • In Pennsylvania, you do not have to sign an Arbitration Clause to have your loved one admitted to the nursing home.