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South Carolina Medical Malpractice Law Blog

What are the potential physical signs of nursing home abuse?

Moving a loved one into a nursing home is a big decision on many fronts, as it will change the both of your lives. While you need to do what's best for them from a health and care perspective, don't lose sight of the fact that no two nursing facilities provide the same experience.

Nursing home abuse remains a major problem, with many residents falling victim every year. As a concerned family member, it's critical to keep your eyes open for any potential physical signs of nursing home abuse. And if you have concerns, contact the facility immediately to better understand what's happening and to decide if you need to take action.

Falling while in a medical facility can be the result of neglect

There are many different physical issues associated with aging that contribute to an older adult's increased risk for a fall. People tend to lose both strength and flexibility as they get older. Combine that with slower reaction times, vision issues that may prevent someone from noticing something in their path that poses a risk and the confusion or forgetfulness that can come with cognitive decline, and you have a perfect recipe for a terrible fall.

In any given year, roughly one in four older adults (age 65 or older) will experience a fall. According to the National Council on Aging, that means that every 11 seconds, an older adult has to seek emergency treatments for injuries relating to a fall. How common and dangerous falls actually are for older adults can be a reason why people choose to place a loved one in a nursing home.

You have the right to ask another doctor for a second opinion

Going to the doctor can be a stressful experience, especially if you find yourself disagreeing with your doctor's analysis of your symptoms. If you express concern about something, only to have your doctor brush it off without testing or even real consideration, it can be a very disempowering experience.

The rise in digital medical information has made it easier for patients to research their symptoms and educate themselves about their health. Instead of viewing this new desire to know and understand health issues as a positive thing, many doctors have a knee-jerk, negative response to patients who arrive for an appointment with a preconceived notion of what the diagnosis might be or why they have experienced certain symptoms.

Can you get more time with your doctor?

Patients often complain that they simply did not have enough time with the doctor. The whole visit felt rushed. Maybe you went to the office, waited for 20 minutes to get called back, spent 10 minutes with a nurse, and then finally saw the doctor. Sixty seconds later, he or she headed out the door, barely acknowledging you, already moving on to the next appointment.

If you have been there, you know it's frustrating. How long have you worried about your health issues? They consume your thoughts. They cause you stress. You just want answers. That's what you're paying the doctor for, but the doctor doesn't have time for you. What should you do?

Potential birth injury signs young mothers should watch for

Most of the time, the hospital is the safest place to have a baby. You have world-class facilities and trained professionals on hand in case anything goes wrong. They can coach you through the process and physically help you as needed. Giving birth is not easy, but this can help both you and your baby avoid injuries and other complications.

However, the hospital staff may make mistakes. Doctors make errors. They experience oversights. They act carelessly, perhaps due to fatigue or distractions. When these mistakes occur, it can lead to birth injuries. What signs should you look for if the injuries are not immediately obvious after birth?

Can you make a claim over a delayed diagnosis?

You had been coughing for weeks, so you finally went to the doctor to find out what the problem was. After a number of tests, they tell you to go home and wait for lab results. Those results never come. Several weeks later, you remember that you had tests performed and call to find out what they said.

You learn that your doctor knew for the last several weeks that you had an unusual appearance on the X-ray. You could have pneumonia, or it could be something much worse. Regardless, you didn't get any information about it for several weeks past when the results came back.

Dehydration is unacceptable in a medical setting: Learn more

When you place a loved one in a nursing home for care, you expect that the staff will take care of them accordingly. Part of the plan of care will always be to make sure your loved one is getting enough to drink during the day. Failing to do so can significantly impact the way an elderly person feels.

Dehydration has many symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness

Behavioral changes could indicate nursing home abuse

Your mother lives in a nursing home. Your father passed away a few years ago, and it was hard for her, but you all pulled together around her and she really did seem to bounce back. She started to seem like herself again: happy, engaging, loving and excited to see her family.

Unfortunately, due to her age and some physical limitations, she had to move into a nursing home. She simply could not live on her own, without your father around to help out, and you and your siblings could not move in with her because you have your own families.

Frailty makes the elderly more vulnerable

One of the natural impacts of aging is an increase in frailty. Injuries do not heal as quickly as they once did. People do not recover quite as fast. Injuries that they once would have considered minor now take a larger toll.

There is nothing that can be done to avoid this process entirely; even someone who works hard to stay in excellent shape is eventually going to see an increase in frailty and vulnerability. Experts note that this is because of a "cumulative decline in multiple physiological systems over a lifespan." This means that a relatively minor event can "trigger disproportionate changes in health status."

What happens when your doctor doesn't listen to you?

You know your own body better than anyone else ever could. You live with it 24/7. While you may not have an intimate understanding of the various biological processes that keep you alive, you know what is normal for you and what is not.

Unfortunately, medicine is, in many ways, a study of averages. Doctors spend a long time learning about the most common causes of various symptoms, but they also learn extreme and rare causes of them as well. Proper diagnosis involves taking the time to determine the exact symptoms and then ruling out certain causes until you only have one potential reason for the patient's issues.

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