Articles Posted in Bed Sores

If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility in Los Angeles County, you might have learned at some point that your loved one developed a bed sore. When bed sores are identified very early on, they are treatable and do not often have long-term or severe consequences. However, when bed sores are not properly identified and treated, they can become so serious that they can actually result in life-threatening medical emergencies. You might be wondering: is the presence of a bed sore always a sign of nursing home neglect or abuse, or are there situations in which a relatively minor bed sore can occur and be treated without the presence of abuse or neglect? And are all serious bed sores the result of abuse or neglect? These are critical questions to consider, and our Los Angeles County nursing home neglect lawyers are here to help.

Understanding Bed Sores

In order to understand when bed sores can be a result of nursing home neglect or abuse, it is essential to be clear about what bed sores are and how they form. According to the Cleveland Clinic, bed sores are, quite simply, “wounds that occur from prolonged pressure on your skin.” They occur most frequently among “people who are immobile for long periods, such as those who are bedridden or use a wheelchair.” They can be extremely painful and can result in significant and life-threatening infections if untreated. Bed sores are staged according to severity, with Stage 1 bed sores being the least severe and Stage 4 bed sores being the most severe.

As a law firm who specializes in the abuse and neglect of seniors, it’s important to stay informed about cases involving elder abuse. Unfortunately, these cases occur far too often, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Neglect, in particular, is a type of elder abuse that can be difficult to detect, but can have devastating consequences.

Recently, a registered nurse who worked at a Riverside assisted living facility was charged with abuse by neglect of a 69-year-old woman who died after she developed gangrene. Emily Jones, 40, of Riverside, has pleaded not guilty to elder abuse that caused great bodily injury and remains free on $50,000 bail.

According to prosecutors, Jones was a case manager for a resident at Brookdale Senior Living in 2017 when she failed to properly assess an ulcer on the woman’s right heel. As a result, a Plan of Care was never developed, and the ulcer worsened into a wound that required the resident to undergo emergency surgery to her right foot, which had become septic and gangrenous. Jones also failed to notify a doctor and the woman’s family that her health was declining as a result of the lack of care, and she eventually died.

Walton Law Firm represented the interests of the family of M.E. (confidential), and elderly woman who suffered from dementia and needed the help with her activities of daily living. She was admitted to a small 12-bed San Diego area assisted living facility in April of 2017. Upon admission, M.E. did not have any bedsores.

M.E’s children began to notice that their mother was never out of her bed when they would visit (which was often). Worse, the family would find M.E. alone in her room with all of the lights turned out, even in the middle of the day. The facility’s administrator first lied to the family, telling the children that their mother was helped out of bed every day. Later, she testified in a deposition that M.E. had experienced a “health crisis” during that time frame and needed to stay in bed (even though the family was unaware of any crisis).

As a result of being left in bed, M.E. developed a bedsore on her coccyx. Within a month, the sore was sized as a Stage III, which disqualified M.E. for assisted living care, and required the facility to discharge her or contact the state for permission to retain her with proper care. Instead of taking action, the administrator actively discouraged the family from taking appropriate action with regard to their mother’s health.

Walton Law Firm recently settled the case of A.Q., a 78-year-old woman who died tragically after acquiring multiple bedsores that developed and worsened while she was under the care and treatment of a San Diego home health care agency.  Ms. Q was survived by her three children who brought a legal action for both wrongful death and elder abuse and neglect, contending that the result of careless and reckless conduct committed by a license vocational nurse (LVN) who ignored the development and worsening of Ms. Q’s wounds, and failed to notify a physician of the severity of the wounds or make a request for Ms. Q to be sent to the hospital.

Walton Law Firm initially argued that the pressure sores suffered by Ms. Q were the result of negligence, and that such negligence was a substantial factor in her premature death. The home health provider, it was argued, failed Ms. Q when it 1.) failed to obtain an air mattress for Ms. Q as requested by caregivers, 2.) failed to obtain additional nursing care for her when it was obviously needed, 3.) failed to have Ms. Q seen by a registered nurse or mobile physician, and 4.) failing to have Ms. Q transferred to a hospital where she so obviously need to go. 

In addition, Mr. Walton also contended that the treatment of Ms. Q was so egregious, that it rose to the level of elder neglect under California law. In order to show neglect, Ms. Q (through Walton Law Firm) had to show that the home health agency either failed to use the degree of care a reasonable person would have and/or failed to protect Ms. Q from health and safety hazards.  It has had to show these failures were done with the conscious disregard for the rights and safety of Mr. Q.

file0001370155977According to a pamphlet from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one of the most prominent “red flags” of nursing home neglect is the presence of untreated pressure ulcers, which are also known as “bedsores.” According to a news release from the University of California, Berkeley, engineers at the university are working to develop a type of bandage technology that actually might make the presence of bedsores known to a patient and/or her family before they become visible to healthcare professionals.

While we want to take steps to prevent nursing home abuse from happening in the first place, being able to quickly spot the signs of neglect might be able to help California seniors in these facilities to avoid severe and even life-threatening injuries. What should we learn about the developing bandage technology?

“Smart Bandages” Can Detect Tissue Damage Caused by Bedsores

Earlier this summer, we told you about a $23 million jury verdict in a bed sore case from northern California. The victim, Joan Boice, had been a resident at the Emeritus at Emerald Hills in Auburn, California before she suffered from painful bed sores and died as a result of nursing home negligence. After this case made national news, PBS Frontline and Propublica took a closer look into the story and expanded an investigation into nursing home practices across the country. The project began airing late last month on PBS, entitled “Life and Death in Assisted Living.”

Confused%20Old%20Man.jpgDetails of the Documentary Series

The documentary is made up of four parts, and it depicts the abuse and neglect that is often overlooked or covered up at various nursing facilities. The series takes a close look at the death of Boice in the Emeritus assisted living facility in northern California, and from there it moves out to other issues of nursing home abuse and neglect across the country.

Earlier this month in Sacramento, a judge upheld a $23 million jury award in a case where an elderly woman died from bedsores, reported UT San Diego. This nursing home abuse occurred at a Northern California assisted living facility owned by the Emeritus senior living corporation. In addition to the original verdict, the judge actually added an additional $4.3 million in legal costs and fees, according to the Sacramento Bee.

This recent decision will have important implications in nursing home abuses cases in California. The high verdict sends a message to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in our state that they need to take better care of residents if they want to avoid lawsuits for nursing home abuse and neglect. If they don’t, they’ll have to pay. If you are concerned about an elderly loved in in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it’s important to speak to an elder justice advocate. Your loved one and your family may be eligible for compensation.

The Victim’s Story

NBC San Diego recently did a story about the ProPublica online research tool that allows prospective nursing home residents and their families to investigate local nursing homes. As part of the story, two legal cases of nursing home abuse were profiled, including one from Walton Law Firm. Attorney Randy Walton, whom NBC San Diego describes as “an expert in nursing home abuse,” advises nursing home residents and their families to trust their “intuition”, and to be a “squeaky wheel” when necessary to ensure proper care.

The story can be watched here:

The giant nursing home neglect verdicts continue to come in around the country. Last week, a jury in Kentucky awarded the family of a neglected nursing home resident $42.75 million after the resident became lethally dehydrated and malnourished, and arrived at the hospital covered in bed sores. The resident died as a result.

According to news accounts, 92-year-old Joseph Offut had been a resident of Harborside nursing home for only nine days prior to his death. The World War II veteran had been very active up until the age of 90, when he suffered a stroke and was cared for by his wife of 58 years. Like many, after some difficult conversations the family ultimately decided that Mr. Offut needed professional care and placed him in a nursing home.

After his death, Offutt’s family filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against the nursing home’s parent company, Sunbridge Healthcare Corp. The lawsuit alleged that caregivers at the nursing home neglect Offut, causing him to suffer severe dehydration, malnutrition, decubitus ulcers, and ultimately death.

At Walton Law Firm, we have handled numerous cases involving decubitus ulcers or bed sores, many of them resulting in the death of the patient. But the cases we handle are civil cases; a prosecution of the nursing home or other caregiver to seek money damages. We have never seen any caregiver prosecuted criminally for such neglect.

090903_jean_rudolph.jpgIn Washington State, however, the owner of an assisted living facility and an employee were charged with crimes for the neglect of Jean Rudolph, who died under their care. When Rudolph died in 2008 at the age of 87, she weighed only 68 pounds. The cause of death was related to infections that were caused by bed sores so severe that they exposed her bones, including a hip sore so severe that her hip bone jutted out of her body.

Her son, who visited her twice a week, never knew of the sores. His mother suffered from end-stage dementia and couldn’t speak or express her needs, and each time the son visited she was always under covers.

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