A recent news article tells the story of a tragic nursing home death. An elderly resident was found dead in a wooded area near the facility. How did it happen? How could a nursing home lose a resident?
The elderly assisted living resident had been absent from the facility for several days. You would think one of the nurses would have noticed? The facility now claims it thought the resident was on an outing with family. Instead, the elderly resident had wandered from the home. Nobody saw her leave. Nobody signed her out. You would think the nursing home followed a sign-out procedure for residents leaving with family???
The nursing home failed to monitor its elderly residents. A simple check-in / check-out procedure (if followed) would have prevented this death. How can a nursing home fail to follow such a basic procedure? While that nursing home was not in Alabama, we have plenty of facilities in our state that also fail to monitor their elderly residents.
Are some nursing homes simply failing to monitor their own residents? Are some nursing homes so careless that they lose residents, fail to notice serious health issues, or ignore obvious health warning signs? These questions have been on mind in recent weeks. I’ve been busy taking depositions in a couple different Alabama nursing home cases. In one case, a resident suffered a terrible hip fracture. The facility claims the fracture must have been “spontaneous” but the records for that time period are mysteriously missing? And, that fracture is one that occurs in traumatic falls. In the other case, the resident died after developing a deadly infection. According to the records, the facility simply failed to monitor him for obvious signs of infection despite a well-known medical history. These residents deserved better. Their families deserved better. A few simple steps would have prevented these tragedies.
In one case, we heard some really troubling testimony from the nursing home administrators and caregivers. I still find it difficult to believe:
We only have written policies to get our Alabama license.
Yes, you read that correctly. We were taking the facility Administrator’s deposition. We asked about the facility’s own policy manual. You would think the Administrator who managed the facility would know their own rules!
But, when asked about their rules, the witness told a different story. She had no idea what was in their own rulebook. She testified the facility does not follow its own policies. Instead, the witness claimed the facility purchased a manual from a consultant years ago only to get its Alabama license. In other words, Alabama requires rules so they bought some. Since then, these “policies” have not been studied, read, reviewed or followed. They sat on the shelf gathering dust. Used to get a license but not for care.
Next, we took the deposition of the facility’s Director of Nursing. That’s the person in charge of nursing care for all the elderly residents. When we asked her about the same policies, she testified she did not know them. Then, she told us she did not need to know them because of her own expertise.
How can a nursing home or assisted living facility keep our elderly family members safe if it has no real policies? How can a nursing home or assisted living facility keep our elderly family members safe if all its employees are acting independently without common procedures? It cannot. This was shocking testimony. But, it was not all we heard.
We also took the deposition of the Charge Nurse responsible for the elderly resident’s direct care in our case. He suffered a chronic disease that should have been monitored. She was facility employee in charge of monitoring him. The doctor ordered the facility to monitor this resident closely for any health changes. How did the facility allow him to decline without medical intervention? Why did the facility do nothing for his health?
We obtained the resident’s medical chart. It mentions nothing during the last three weeks of his life. No monitoring at all. No vital signs at all. No checks at all. It’s like the resident simply did not exist. What did the Charge Nurse say about this patient and the doctor’s order he be monitored closely?
We only chart by exception.
That’s right. The facility does not monitor and chart the results. It simply trusts a random caregiver to think an observation is worthy of charting. No rules related to charting. No requirements to chart. And, no requirements for any specific vital sign testing. Let’s simply check on the guy when we think about him. Then, let’s only note something if we feel like it. That’s no way to care for our elderly.
Our elderly family members, friends, and neighbors, deserve better. The deserve to live in a facility that follows important safety procedures. They deserve nurses who actually care for them. Their families deserve to know that they can trust the nursing home to provide the best care possible.
We are Alabama serious injury and accident lawyers. From our office in Huntsville, we represent families statewide with serious personal injury claims. Our focus in every case is preparing the case fully for our clients.