For many elderly or incapacitated adults, nursing homes are the final destination after a long and fulfilling life. We expect our loved ones to be adequately cared for and that their daily living needs be met. So, when a Massachusetts nursing home staff person reports that your loved one suddenly died or has suffered a fall or unexpected illness or condition that turns out to be fatal, you should question the circumstances that led to the individual’s untimely death.
Nursing homes are notoriously understaffed and lack trained personnel. Dedicated attendants are often difficult to find or maintain because the position is low-paying, places difficult demands on staff who often have to deal with demented and unruly residents, are overworked, and who are poorly trained. Despite these obstacles, nursing home are held to high standards and must comply with strict guidelines on care, hiring, training, staffing, and oversight of financial and medical records.
While many residents are of advanced age or have cognitive and physical difficulties, nursing home facilities are obligated to treat residents with dignity and to provide them adequate nutrition, hygiene, and a safe and comfortable living environment. Regardless of their obligations, untimely and unnecessary deaths occur because of the negligence of staff.
Examples of how deaths in nursing homes can and do occur include:
- Medication errors—improper dosing, not administering medications, or giving the wrong medications
- Assault—frustrated and poorly trained staff may assault a resident, push the person to the ground, slap or punch them in the head or chest, or terrorize a resident who then suffers a stroke or heart attack
- Neglecting a resident’s health needs
- Failing to call 911 or a physician if the resident is suffering
- Altering or modifying medical or other records to cover up abuse
- Failing to report injuries or illnesses or fabricating an incident
- Failing to report or adequately handle resident-on-resident assault
- Misdiagnosis by medical staff or inadequate treatment
- Failing to protect residents or to follow their medical plan
Any of these occurrences can lead to wrongful death. But obtaining the assistance of nursing home administrative staff to investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death is not easy. If you suspect that your loved one needlessly suffered or did not receive the care to which he/she was entitled, call nursing home abuse lawyer Paul Tetzel.
Holding Nursing Homes Liable
Nursing homes must abide by certain state and federal guidelines. This includes proper staffing requirements, reporting, adhering to the medical care and needs of each resident, following a detailed medical plan, and ensuring the safety and health of the resident. Even though many facilities are understaffed, this does not excuse them from being responsible for the negligent or unlawful acts of its staff.
Signs of Physical Abuse in a Nursing Home
In some cases, relatives notice that their loved ones are suffering from unusual injuries or are not receiving the care detailed in the resident’s medical plan. Despite complaints to staff or to the administration and promises of remedying the problem, the abuse continues until the resident suffers a heart attack or fatal injury. Signs of possible abuse may include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Poor hygiene
- Signs of malnutrition or dehydration
- A room that is not being cleaned or maintained
- Sudden depression or anxiety by the resident; changes in mood and demeanor
- Expressions of fear when certain staff persons appear
- Unexplained injuries
- Appearance of bruises
- Developing conditions that medications were supposed to address
- Inadequate medical documentation
- Failure to protect residents during the pandemic
If some of these conditions or circumstances persist, it can lead to a fatal condition that should never have occurred. Only an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can adequately investigate such cases to determine what steps the facility took to ensure that your loved one’s health and safety was considered.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death and for What Damages?
In Massachusetts, the executor or administrator for the decedent’s estate can sue on behalf of the deceased family member. This includes a spouse, children, or parents. The damages that can be recovered include:
- Medical expenses incurred for final illness or fatal injury
- Financial compensation for those dependent on decedent
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the decedent’s love, care, guidance, and counsel
- Pain and suffering if the decedent visibly suffered before dying
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent
Each case is unique and damages vary widely depending on the economic circumstances of the decedent, the reasons for the resident’s demise, if the decedent was already suffering from dementia or physical incapacity, and the conduct of the nursing home or its staff that caused or substantially contributed to the resident’s death.
Retain Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Paul Tetzel
Nursing homes are expected to adequately care for our loved ones during their final years. When they fail to do so, they must be held accountable. If you suspect that your loved ones’ death should never have occurred in the manner it did, contact nursing home abuse lawyer Paul Tetzel at (617) 742-1700 for a free consultation about a possible wrongful death claim.