One of the reasons that nursing home neglect can continue for an extended period before anyone on the outside notices is that many nursing home patients are too ill to speak up about it. Often, nursing home abuse is only detected and reported after relatives who visit the patient in the nursing home notice that the patient has pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, or is generally less active, healthy, and mobile than he or she was at the last visit. Not all declines in a patient’s health can be attributed to errors or negligence on the part of nursing home staff; as a rule, the patient would not be in the nursing home if he or she were well enough to live independently. Although it is upsetting to see your elderly relative suffering declining health, it is even more upsetting to find out that his or her suffering could have been reduced or prevented if the nursing home staff had adhered to the legally determined standard of care. Specifically, relatives sometimes arrive at the nursing home to find patients in a medication-induced stupor; sometimes this can be a sign of negligence. Overmedication is widespread in nursing homes, and it can be grounds for nursing home abuse lawsuits.
Overmedicating Patients is a Violation of Title 22
Title 22 is the California law that regulates patient care in nursing homes. It stipulates that nursing home employees should only perform treatments and interventions that are medically necessary; assisting a patient to perform daily activities, such as feeding, toileting, and walking, is always to be preferred over faster solutions, like liquid diets, adult diapers, and wheelchairs. Unfortunately, overworked nursing home staff sometimes resort to overmedicating patients so that they cannot perform basic functions without assistance. Additionally, nursing homes sometimes overuse psychiatric medications to deal with patient behaviors that consume employees’ time, even when these drugs are not medically necessary.
The Watsonville Case Exposes Overmedication in California Nursing Homes
In 2015, the operators of two nursing homes in Watsonville, California paid a $3.8 million settlement after they were sued for violations of the Federal False Claims Act. A whistleblower had alerted authorities to the widespread overuse and inappropriate prescribing of medication for patients in the two nursing homes between 2007 and 2012. As a result of being overmedicated, patients suffered the following complications:
- Pressure ulcers
- Sepsis (a severe inflammatory response to infection)
Several patients in the nursing homes died from complications caused by overmedication. As a result of the lawsuit, the defendants were required to pay the settlement and enter a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA), in which their compliance with patient care regulations is closely monitored.
Contact Case Barnett About Nursing Home Abuse Cases
If your relative seems to be getting sicker in a nursing home, ask questions. Overmedication could be contributing to the problem. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California to discuss your case and to see if you have grounds for a nursing home neglect lawsuit.