Reports prepared by staff of the federal Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee reveal that thirty percent of the nation’s 5,283 nursing homes had reported instances of abuse over a recent period of two years. While some of the reports simply involved one resident being slapped by another, nearly two thousand of the reports were serious enough to “place the residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury.” Abuse can take many forms, including neglect and poor response times. While instances of neglect and poor care may be less obvious than physical abuse, they can be just as harmful. When an elder care facility’s residents are injured because of the action or inaction of the facility’s staff, they can be held accountable for those injuries.
Recently, a Massachusetts nursing home and elder care facility was sued after one of their residents died. The resident’s family brought a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against the nursing home after the resident had dangerously low levels of oxygen saturation and died as a result. The family alleged that the staff was poorly trained and supervised and that they should have been much more alert to the resident’s condition and sent him to the hospital long before they did. The lawsuit further alleged that if it were not for the faculty’s slow reaction time and inattention, the resident would not have died.
The nursing home argued that they have an expertly trained staff and that there were no immediate signs of harm that would have warranted calling an ambulance. Their argument, however, was reportedly undermined by the subsequent medical report for the resident. Normal pulse oximeter readings usually range from 95 to 100 percent. Values under 90 percent are considered low. Blood oxygen levels below 80 percent may compromise organ function, such as the brain and heart, and should be promptly addressed. The resident’s oxygen saturation level allegedly reached an astonishingly low 20 percent, however, before the facility’s staff called for an ambulance. Before the case could be brought to trial, the nursing home agreed to pay the resident’s family $1.25 million dollars if they dropped their personal injury claim.