I recently read about an 82-year-old man who died from a heart attack caused by sepsis, a life-threatening inflammatory response to a serious infection.
At first glance, many people would think that this elderly man died of natural causes or it was just his time to go. According to a lawsuit, nothing could be further from the truth.
It turns out that he had been admitted to a hospital and treated for a stroke. He was discharged to a nursing home for rehabilitation. When he was admitted to the nursing home, the staff filled out documentation showing that his skin condition was fine—he didn’t have any bedsores.
Bedsores are also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. As the names suggest, they’re caused by unrelieved pressure, particularly on the bony prominences of the body, like the buttocks and ankles.
This patient was kept in the nursing home for four months and then was returned to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with sepsis. According to the lawsuit, healthcare providers at the hospital told the patient’s son that his dad had the worst case of bedsores he’d ever seen from the nursing home. He described the sores as black.
Physicians believe that the patient developed bedsores that got infected, leading to sepsis, which caused him to have a fatal heart attack.
Unfortunately, from my experience as a Houston, Texas, medical malpractice attorney, I know that this type of avoidable tragedy happens all the time. There are several reasons for this.
First, Texas law doesn’t value elderly people. For that matter, it also doesn’t value stay-at-home moms or dads, or those who are unemployed. Tort reform caps limit the liability of nursing homes, hospitals, and doctors for non-economic harms and losses like pain and suffering and mental anguish. For unemployed or retired individuals, that may be the only type of damages that they have. In my opinion, tort reform considerations influence the second factor that allows this type of poor care to be repeated.
Second, many nursing homes are chronically under-staffed. In my opinion, administrators and “bean counters” at some facilities make a conscious decision that it’s easier to settle occasional medical malpractice lawsuits than to invest in hiring an adequate number of nurses to take care of patients.
Third, for patients who are immobilized, healthcare providers need to stay on top of things to prevent a skin breakdown. This includes providing a pressure-relieving mattress, making sure that the patient is turned every two hours to reduce pressure, and that the patient has a healthy diet. Of course, if a pressure sore develops, even further interventions are necessary—and the sooner proper treatment begins, the better the likely outcome.
What you can do
Occasionally friends from church or the community will ask me for a recommendation for a good nursing home. I usually say something like, “I’ll let you know if I ever find one.”
With that said, some nursing homes are better than others. You can use this searchable map to investigate reported staffing levels at nursing homes around the country. It really pays to do your research before selecting a skilled nursing facility.
Additionally, once a patient or resident is admitted to a nursing home, it’s a good idea for family and friends to check on them regularly. By doing this at different times of the day, staff doesn’t know when someone is going to show up, and this may make it more likely that the patient will get proper care. There’s also some truth to the adage that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” so don’t be afraid to speak up and politely asked for help or care when it’s needed.
We are here to help
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a nursing home, hospital, or physician, then the experienced medical malpractice nursing home and bedsore attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, are here to help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.
All consultations are free and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2017, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. In May 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.