When a loved one is no longer able to live independently due to age or illness, many families decide to place them in the care of a nursing home. According to the Center for Medicare Services, approximately 3.3 million Americans will live in an elder care facility in 2013.
In the over 16,000 facilities nationwide, federal and state regulations are in place to protect nursing home residents from harm and ensure they are receiving proper care. However, a National Center for Elderly Abuse study of 2,000 nursing home residents in 2000 reported that 44% said they had been abused in some way and 95% reported witnessing or experiencing neglect. Instances of mistreatment may involve extreme abuse, including physical or sexual assault. However in many cases, neglecting personal hygiene and facility sanitation are the cause of illness, injury or even the death of a resident. Because many elderly patients are unable to take care of personal grooming without assistance, failure to maintain a consistent hygiene routine with residents — including not bathing them or changing dirty clothes/bed linens for hours or days at a time — can lead to serious physical and emotional problems.
Poor hygiene and inadequate care in nursing homes can result in:
• Bed sores
• Skin and eye infections
• Internal parasites
• Ingrown fingernails/toenails
• Kidney infections
• Oral pain and gum infections
• Lowered sense of well-being and self-esteem
Because their immune systems may already be compromised by preexisting medical conditions or advanced age, elderly people are more likely to develop infections from germs spread by poor hygiene. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that infections are a leading cause of death in long term care patients, with an average of 1.5 to 2 million infections occurring in nursing homes each year. The risk of infectious and bacterial diseases such as colds and influenza can be significantly diminished by hygienic practices such as proper bathing, hand washing and oral care. Instead, these infections impact the health of thousands of people and cost billions of dollars in medical costs, with an estimated $1.4 billion spent each year.
While poor personal hygiene may seem minor compared to more egregious forms of neglect in nursing homes, it is a serious hazard that can result in severe medical conditions and even death. Nursing homes are required by law to maintain good hygiene for their residents.
If a resident has been injured or suffers premature death as a result of improper hygiene at a nursing home facility, a lawsuit may be the logical next step and can result in compensation awarded to the victim and/or their family. Contact Okun, Oddo & Babbat to arrange a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
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Article by Shea Bergesen for Lavery Design Associates, Ltd.
copyright 2013. This article may not be reproduced without permission from the author.