The UK is an ageing society with birth rates down and the elderly living longer. Many who can no longer care for themselves now rely on long-term care facilities to provide an assisted living environment or full nursing home care. The care home industry has over recent years seen a boom in demand for residential care however there has also been a corresponding increase in nursing home negligence. Many of the institutions that provide care for the elderly are owned by corporations intent on maximizing profit which often means that there are inadequate numbers of properly qualified staff resulting in elderly or disabled residents receiving inadequate care and attention. A care home solicitor will be able to advise you if you have any concerns.
There are more and more people entering nursing homes and residential care homes these days, especially as the population ages. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes and residential care homes are created equal and while some are completely responsive to the needs of the patient, others are not. It is not always apparent by looking at the nursing home from the outside (or inside) and you need to think about interviewing residents or their families about the kind of care their loved one received. Should you need help in your assessment of a relatives treatment you should take advice and guidance from a specialist care home solicitor.
It is not uncommon to read about vulnerable elderly residents in both NHS and private nursing homes and care homes, being abused. Some instances have been recorded on covert cameras installed by concerned family members, who have been suspicious that their loved one is being abused or neglected. There are numerous possible reasons for abuse and/or neglect. As the UK population ages, more seniors need round the clock nursing care and nursing homes are often full to capacity; the staff who are employed are not always given sufficient background checks; the standards of care differ because of experience, education and culture; the home may have a limited budget, the best staff are not always employed due to salary demands; the manager may not devote sufficient time to supervision and training; staff may be forced to work long hours with difficult shifts and in a minority of cases, some staff do not have any compassion or respect for the work they are doing, or for those in their care.
Care home solicitors deal with applications for damages for medical negligence against healthcare professionals for personal injury and loss. It is to your advantage, in order to preserve your legal right to compensation, to make contact with a medical negligence solicitor as soon as possible after the event that caused the injury.
A care home solicitor deals with elder abuse and will take legal action for any intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult including physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological harm. A vulnerable adult refers to any person aged over 18 years who :
Abuse, neglect, critical omissions and negligent errors, can result in emotional and/or physical injuries. Some of these can be very serious. To that end, all seniors who have suffered abuse/neglect or are the victims of negligence need to be fairly compensated for their losses and injuries. Our nursing home neglect solicitors have years of experience in legal claims for personal injury. We offer a no win no fee service which means that in the event that you lose the case, you will not pay anything to our care home solicitors for the legal work that we undertake.
Although it must be said that receiving a financial settlement from a court cannot take away the terrible experience that a resident has gone through, it can at least, go some way to putting the nursing home on notice to ensure that it never happens again. It can also help the abused senior feel some sense of achievement, and they will also be able to do something they would like to do with the compensation.
There are contractual obligations between nursing establishments and residents. Our solicitors conduct a stringent review of the contract, in addition to the initial advertisement on the internet or in a magazine or newspaper, that persuaded the senior to go to live in that particular care home. Both the advertisement and the contract will have expressed, or implied duties and obligations and these elements will be put under the spotlight by our nursing home neglect solicitors. They will also look at errors of commission which relate to actions that deviate from accepted practice and standards; and errors of omission, which involves failure to provide adequate treatment and services. Naturally, they will also request the full documentation that the care home has on the patient.
Basic nursing home care standard contractual obligations comprise: -
The elderly are at risk of residential care home negligence, elder abuse and neglect due to many different issues including failure to feed properly, failure to prevent falls, misuse of restraints, failure to prevent bed sores, assault by a caregiver or relative and failing to give the resident adequate emotional attention. Those who are living in residential care homes are often individuals who have mobility difficulties, poor mental capabilities, limited speech and emotional restraints on their ability to state whether or not they were injured by the actions of another person.
Sometimes residential care home negligence or abuse is discovered by health authorities, by family members who note bruising or weight loss or by nurses who may find evidence of abuse or neglect. In all cases these findings must be reported to the appropriate authority by the management or staff at the residential home. In other situations, the elderly individual might report injury or neglect related to them. In more minor cases, an individual member of staff may be reprimanded or their employment may be terminated because of an unacceptable incident. Serious cases should be reported to the appropriate authority and ultimately should be reported to the police or legal authorities with a view to criminal prosecution. Even if the matter is the subject of a criminal investigation, a civil legal action for damages may be still taken against the party who injured the elderly person.
Nursing homes must conform to the law regarding the treatment of those in residential care. It is expected that all nursing home residents will be treated with a reasonable degree of skill and expertise. There are means to determine how many staff members should be on duty on any given day to maximize the care of nursing home residents who must have a reasonable quality of care at all times. If a resident falls or is injured in some other way and not enough staff are working at that time, the nursing home may be found to be negligent. There are protocols defining what care is appropriate and what care is not appropriate. If a nursing home fails to comply with the protocols, they can be found negligent in the care of residents.
Records of falls must be kept for each resident. If restraints are considered necessary, the need must be established and justified and the exact use of restraints must be well documented. By law it is necessary to use the least restraint possible on a resident as restraints themselves can cause injuries and the use of a restraint is in any event an imposition on civil liberty which may be unlawful if excessive. Policies around each facilities use of the various restraints should be documented in the nursing care plans. If a resident who is in restraints falls, this can be considered as a neglectful situation because the restraint if properly applied should have diminished the chance of the resident being injured. A nursing home must bear in mind the individuals civil rights when applying restraints which must be used reasonably and in a lawful manner.
Each resident should be thoroughly assessed at the time of their admission to determine their level of eating, drinking, communication, ambulation, ability to look after themselves and mental capacity. These considerations are used to determine what care the resident needs and a care plan is constructed from the assessment. Failure to properly assess an incoming patient for risk can mean that the person carrying out the assessment was negligent.
Errors of commission include improperly carrying out a procedure, falls during transfers, medication errors or failure to give medication, improper tube feeding or giving a harmful medication or treatment. Physical, mental or sexual abuse is also considered to be an act of commission.
Acts of omission include not creating or following a good care plan, failing to note a change in the residents condition, failure to wash hands adequately, failing to give the patient enough to eat or drink and failing to observe bed sores.
Common injuries that might involve a personal injury solicitor are head trauma or haemorrhage to the brain, fractures of the hip or other bones, pressure sores from inactivity, pleurisy, pneumonia or severe pulmonary embolism that occur when blood clots from the lower legs travel to the lungs, interfering with oxygen exchange in the lungs, dehydration and malnutrition. Solicitors may also be involved in actions for damages after death and may deal with coroners courts.
The most dangerous incidents that result in injury include falls and wandering behaviour, depression or anxiety, pressure sores or skin breakdown, infection in the skin, physical, sexual or emotional abuse on the part of the caregiver, dehydration or malnutrition, deep vein thromboses and food aspiration.
Our specialist medical negligence solicitors offer free impartial advice on clinical compensation claims. In most cases our care home solicitors are able to deal with all of the legal work at no cost to you. If you would like free advice with no further obligation use the contract form or email our offices and a specialist lawyer will tell you how best to proceed to protect your right to claim compensation for personal injury. If after speaking to us you decide not to take matters further then that is your right and we will not thereafter pursue you to proceed. The most common issues arising in care homes are as follows :-
One area of neglect is in toileting. Some nursing homes and residential care homes have regular schedules for toileting their residents and will toilet them on demand with little time between the request to void and the response from the nursing home aide. Others take too long to take the patient to the toilet, resulting in 'accidents'. Too many accidents and the resident ends up in nappies that are left on the resident in a soiled condition, leading to rashes and urine damage to the skin.
Another area of negligence is the provision of liquids to the resident. While most nursing homes and residential care homes can bring themselves to leave water by the bedside, many aides forget that residents have a decreased drive for thirst when compared to young people and they also have a decreased ability to get to the water and drink it. Residents must be offered water and if they arenít, they are prone to become dehydrated. This can lead to low blood pressure, falls and urinary tract infections, which can become severe.
Negligence can occur in feeding a resident. For example, food can be prepared which is not nutritious and will lead to nutritional deficiencies. Food can be prepared in such a way that the patient chokes on it because the food was not pureed to the degree it needed to be. Food does not usually jump to the residentís mouth. If a resident cannot feed him or herself, the resident needs to be fed by a staff member. This needs to be given to such a degree, three times a day, so that the residentís caloric intake and weight do not suffer. Failure to feed a resident adequate nutrition results in a neglectful loss of weight and nutrition.
Medication errors can be neglectful in a nursing home or residential care home. Medications are usually given in large numbers to many different residents, leaving a lot of room for error. A cupful of medications can be given to the wrong resident, leading to allergies and adverse side effects. Giving too much of a medication can lead to side effects that can be deadly and failing to give a medication or series of medications to a resident can result in under-treatment of a medical condition and series after-effects.
Residents can be socially neglected by leaving them in bed or in a wheelchair in their room where they donít have access to the environmental milieu or people to talk to. They need staff members to read to them or to take them to listen to music, do activities or even watch television. The lack of social interaction can lead to episodes of depression that can lead to further isolation and death.
Perhaps one of the worst signs of nursing home neglect is the development of bedsores otherwise known as pressure sores. Some patients do not actively turn themselves in bed. Instead they lie all day long in the same position, leading to bedsores, particularly on the heels, the elbows and the coccygeal area or hip. Pressure sores are easily preventable with the use of cushioning to protect the joints or by frequently changing position, especially when evidence of rubbing the tissues is seen. The staff members need to be careful to check for evidence of increased bed sores and use whatever protection is necessary to make sure bedsores do not happen.
These following actions may not only breach criminal law but can give rise to civil legal action for negligence. Examples of this behavior include :