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Medical malpractice: A hidden danger in nursing homes

When you entrust a vulnerable loved one to a nursing home, the last thing you expect is for them to be hurt. Unfortunately, nursing home residents are in danger of various forms of medical malpractice.

Nursing home malpractice isn't always obvious. Sometimes, mistreatment goes unnoticed for a lengthy period of time.

Examples of malpractice include:

  • Medication errors (including failing to administer medication, giving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage)
  • Failure to report health problems or seek appropriate treatment
  • Failure to refer patients to more skilled care facilities or hospitals
  • Failure to identify and treat infections, bedsores and other potentially life-threatening conditions
  • Failure to properly care for wounds, incisions, feeding tubes and other medical needs

Understanding the risks

Think doing a walkthrough of a potential nursing home is enough to protect your loved one? Think again. A quick tour of the facility may not reveal what's really going on.

According to advocacy groups, one out of every ten nursing home residents will face some kind of mistreatment. This issue isn't restricted to a few bad-egg facilities. Some data suggests that 50 percent of nursing home professionals have verbally abused residents. Even more worrying, malpractice cases are drastically underreported.

With elderly populations growing, caregivers may be even more likely to experience job stress and commit harmful errors.

What can families do?

Abuse and malpractice differ, but they may go hand-in-hand at certain facilities. You need to be proactive about investigating incidents.

Elders may not want to admit that they've been mistreated. Always watch for behavioral changes, signs of injury and unexplained health changes.

When your loved one needs a medical procedure, ask questions on their behalf. Keeping yourself informed and involved makes it easier to prevent malpractice. Your knowledge may also help you choose an appropriate course of legal action should your loved one become a victim of malpractice.

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