Workers at a nursing home in Ohio have been charged in connection with the mistreatment of two patients in their care. Infected bed sores contributed to the injury of 1 patient and the death of another. A subsequent investigation revealed that the patient’s death was preventable, and that the nurses had falsified information in an effort to cover it up.
“This case goes to the heart of protecting the unprotected,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. In his public statement about the investigation, Yost decried the actions of the nurses who “forced the victims to endure awful mistreatment and then lied about it.”
In total, 6 employees of the nursing home and 1 contracted certified nurse practitioner are facing 34 charges. A grand jury indicted three of the employees on involuntary manslaughter, gross patient neglect, and patient neglect. Other charges included tampering with evidence and multiple counts of forgery.
Nursing homes are set up to deliver special care to those who need it. Quality care cannot be faked. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), bed sores are one of the important measures of quality of clinical care in nursing homes. They are preventable wounds, and if bed sores are not monitored and cared for, they can be deadly.
Why Are Bed Sores So Dangerous?
Bed sores, also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers are wounds caused by constant pressure on the skin. They often develop in bony areas of people who spend most of their time in a bed or a chair and have a limited ability to change their position. Bedsores can develop quickly and may get infected if not treated.
This is what happened to the patients in Ohio. Due to a lack of quality care, they developed bed sores. Then, as a result of additional neglect, those bed sores were allowed to become infected. By the time the injured patients were transferred to a hospital, it was too late. One of the patients died from septic shock as a direct result of their preventable infection.
Ohio Nursing Home Employees Neglect Medical Emergency
According to the investigation, the first patient developed serious wounds, which turned into gangrenous and necrotic tissue. Instead of taking proper steps, which could have saved the patient’s life, the nurses allowed his situation to worsen. The man showed symptoms in February — by March he was dead.
“Experts say he could have survived had he received timely medical treatment,” said Attorney General Yost. Instead, “this man literally rotted to death.”
This is why patient neglect in a nursing home is unacceptable. Families are completely dependent on nursing homes for the care of their loved ones. In the face of a clear medical emergency, these nurses delayed treatment that would have made a difference.
In the words of Yost, “This is gut-wrenching for anyone who has entrusted a care facility with the well-being and safety of a loved one.”
Why Is Nursing Home Abuse So Prevalent?
As disturbing as this case is, it’s worse to consider the many instances of nursing home abuse that are not investigated. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 2 in 3 staff members at nursing homes and long-term care facilities have committed abuse in the past year. It’s sad, but in such a vulnerable population, abuse and neglect can be hard to recognize.
Sometimes nursing home abuse is the result of nurse burnout or understaffing. This can happen when profit-hungry groups take control of nursing homes. Funds are moved around, jobs are cut, and suddenly there is a spike in overdoses, bed sores, and broken bones.
Structural issues may contribute to the problem. Background checks are rushed or not done at all. Policies are not put in place to prevent abuse. Staff are not properly educated. Caring for patients in nursing homes is a tough task – facilities need to make sure that their staff are qualified, monitored, and given the resources the need to deliver quality care.
VA Nursing Homes Put Veterans at Risk of Abuse
Tragically, 1 of the most at-risk populations for nursing home abuse are veterans. Veterans Affairs (VA) nursing homes are often poorly rated, and little has been done in spite of calls for reform. A Boston Globe analysis revealed that bed sores are much more common at VA nursing homes than they are at private facilities.
Everyone who checks into a nursing home or long-term care facility should have the peace of mind knowing they are in a safe place. Anything less is intolerable. Nursing homes need to live up to their promises to provide care – if they don’t, the consequences are immediate and devastating.