Imagine the following: You are driving home late one evening. Maybe you worked late. Maybe you are a college student and you met a study group to prepare for upcoming finals. When you are about half the way home, you see blue lights in your rear view mirror. You pull over, providing your license, registration and insurance as requested. The officer asks if you have been drinking. You tell him respectfully and truthfully that you have not. He asks you to step out of the vehicle. You ask him why. He tells you he suspects you of drinking and driving and provides no other information. He uses a breathalyzer on you and then asks if you have been smoking marijuana. You answer that you have not. He asks about other illegal drugs. You state that you have not taken any illegal substances. He asks you to place your hands behind your back. You ask why he is arresting you and he states, “You’re showing me indicators that you have been smoking marijuana.” Stunned, frightened but also angry, you catch yourself before you say something that may make the situation worse. You were not drinking. You had not smoked marijuana and had never ingested any other illegal drugs.
If the above scenario seems like something that cannot happen, think again. It has – and it does, right here in Georgia. The part that is most upsetting about these arrests is that these individuals were INNOCENT and it took them months for their charges to be dismissed. They each lost something during the time they waited for this to work through the system.
If you should find yourself in a situation such as this, you have the right to an attorney. As an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney, David Crawford will weigh the evidence against you and build a strong case. If you have been wrongly charged, he will fight for you and explore every avenue to help avoid a conviction. We hope you are never in a situation where you have to make a phone call to a DUI attorney, but if you are, make sure you call the best – David Crawford.
Elder abuse and neglect are serious issues facing many elderly people in the Atlanta area as they live out their remaining years. While our senior citizens enter nursing homes, assisted living facilities or even stay in their own homes looking for the support and medical care they need, some of our loved ones are taken advantage of because of their vulnerable situation. Some forms of elder abuse are more obvious, like injuries or bed sores while some can be overlooked, leading to deadly consequences. Silent forms of elder abuse: malnutrition and dehydration can result in severe problems, including death, if not detected and treated.
Elder abuse involving malnutrition and dehydration pose dangerous risks for the elderly. Without proper hydration and nutrition, seniors are more likely to experience a nutrient imbalance and are more susceptible to infections and may be set up for such problems as bedsores. It is a sad reality that many nursing home patients are not able to get their own drinks and food and must rely solely on the institution staff. If the institution is understaffed or neglectful, the basic needs are not met.
Symptoms of Elder Abuse Involving Malnutrition and Dehydration
If you fear that your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect, look for symptoms of dehydration and malnutrition. If your loved one is exhibiting these symptoms please consult their primary physician or get them to the hospital if necessary.
- Sudden weight loss
- Tooth decay
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Increased memory loss or mental decline
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Dry skin
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dry mouth
- Dark colored urine
As soon as you see the signs, report nursing home abuse to the authorities and secure a nursing home neglect attorney. If you or someone you love is suffering or has been suffering from these types of situations, contact us. Attorney David Crawford has the experience and knows exactly where to start. If the initial facts warrants further legal investigation, David and his team will gather information about the patient’s history so that he has a complete understanding of how, and when, this occurred. He will work with you and others to develop a detailed time line to understand what happened to your loved one, any warning signs that were ignored by the nursing home staff and what could have been done to avoid the problem. In essence, David will show you the negligent acts and omissions that may have occurred and help you understand the case prior to filing any lawsuit.
Are you safe at home? It’s a simple question that family members, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists need to ask their older patients every time they visit. Why? Because that simple question could open the door toward identifying elder abuse.
Senior Abuse Does Happen At Home
When we think of elder abuse, we think of nursing homes. But it doesn’t always happen that way. In fact, many of our older family members choose to stay home longer and have care in their own surroundings where they are comfortable. This presents a dilemma because the home is not subject to the scrutiny of a facility such as a hospital or nursing home. The same standard of oversight simply does not exist which makes it easier for a person to be taken advantage of, especially if others are not asking questions or visually checking for abuse.
Elder abuse is a serious, common and sometimes fatal problem that is absolutely preventable. There is no reason our seniors should have to suffer at the hands of anyone, let alone caregivers who are paid to come into our homes and see to their every need because they can no longer do these things for themselves. So, how should you start protecting your loved ones who have caregivers at home?
A Few Facts on Elder Abuse
First, some facts so that you know what you are up against. This will help you prepare when you hire someone to care for your loved ones. Let’s look at the bad news first and then we will discuss how to prepare and prevent.
- Most elder abuse is never discovered. An Institute of Medicine report noted one in 10 older Americans, “experience physical, psychological or sexual abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.” But for every elder mistreatment case that is brought to the attention of authorities, more than a dozen go unreported.
- Home care abuse can be easier to disguise because there are less checks and balances. There is no management oversight in many cases and unless the patient speaks up – most of them do not, this can go on for a very long time.
- Agencies that provide home care workers do not always provide background checks.
- This is a public health issue. Too many people still view it as a private matter such as the way domestic violence was once treated. This may be because we are not sure what to do or how to handle this. Often elder abuse comes from family members so loved ones are reluctant to speak out.
- Patients with dementia or other memory problems may try to speak out and not be taken seriously. Their claims may be seen as “confused” and when the health care workers are confronted, it becomes easy to write it off as “she often says crazy things”.
Now for some good news that will help you prepare and prevent.
- If you have more than one caregiver coming into your home, make sure each person is checking your loved one EACH and EVERY time and reporting back to you. It’s a simple checks and balances and do not feel guilty about this. Remember, you or your loved one is paying for this service. Whether you are writing a check or paying by insurance, he or she deserves excellent care and you deserve to know the status. You can simply ask questions like: “Was Mom/Dad/etc ok today? Anything I need to be aware of?”
- When you visit your loved one, check yourself for bruises that are out of the norm. Older people will bruise more easily but look for the beginnings of bedsores on those who are stationary and do not be afraid to gently ask “are you being treated ok?”
- If you feel there is something going on, ask their physician for a screening on the next visit. Share your concerns privately with the doctor. If frequent trips to the ER have begun to pop up, ask the personnel to flag this and take a look. This is where it can stop and action can be taken immediately.
An Ounce of Prevention
Always hire home health care givers from a reputable company. If insurance is paying, they will have some recommendations and may even make the choice for you from a specific company. Do not be afraid to ask the company if they do background checks. Ask them if the person who is taking care of your family member has ever had any problems or complaints, especially ones such as abuse. If you know someone who has used a company before, ask them for a recommendation. Most of all, if you begin to use someone and things do not feel “right” or you notice something is off with your loved one, dig into it to find out more.
Here is a real life story on how this can play out: Annie needed a caregiver for her mother during the day while she works. Annie contacts a company. She inquires about the backgrounds of anyone they send and is told that the company “screens” all of their nurses and assures her there have been no issues or complaints. After 2 weeks, Annie notices her mother is beginning to get fearful each morning when Annie begins to leave for work. She stays home and observes the caregiver but notices nothing out of the ordinary other than her mother reacting oddly. She dismisses the caregiver early that day and spends the day with her mother. There are no noticeable marks or bruises on her body and her mother will not say anything is wrong. Annie installs a camera into her home. As it turns out, the caregiver is locking the mother into a room with no access to food or water while she watches TV most of the day.
How could Annie have learned about this without a camera? In time, her mother’s lack of food and water, as well as irregular medicines would have landed her in the hospital. But a camera was the way to go for this situation. In the end, Annie not only sought a case against the home health care company and found out that the worker had quite the history but the worker was also arrested on criminal charges.
Always remember, situations change day to day. An older person who was safe at the last visit may not be at future appointments. Vigilance is extremely important to keep your loved one safe.
Discuss Next Steps During A Consultation
If you or someone you love is suffering or has been suffering from these types of situations, contact us. Attorney David Crawford has the experience and knows exactly where to start. If the initial facts warrants further legal investigation, David and his team will gather information about the patient’s history so that he has a complete understanding of how, and when, this occurred. He will work with you and others to develop a detailed time line to understand what happened to your loved one, any warning signs that were ignored by the home health care staff and what could have been done to avoid the problem. In essence, David will show you the negligent acts and omissions that may have occurred and help you understand the case prior to filing any lawsuit.
If you have entrusted an elderly loved one’s care to professionals at a nursing home, you likely did so based on the assumption that a facility would be able to provide better care than you could. Imagine the horror if you were to find out that your loved one had been subjected to abuse and neglect at the hands of those who were committed to their safekeeping. According to ABC News, this is tragically true for as many as one in three nursing home residents. If you suspect such crimes may have been committed, you should pay attention to bedsores and other signs of elder abuse.
Bedsores can indicate elder abuse
Many people misunderstand bed sores or think that they are not that serious. Unfortunately, they are very serious and completely avoidable. Bedsores result from long-term neglect when a person has been confined to their bed or chair for prolonged periods of time without moving. Once bedsores develop, they can cause severe pain and even death if they are left untreated.
1. Inexplicable injuries
If you notice that your loved one has suffered injuries, such as broken bones, fractures, bruises or cuts, there are only so many reasonable explanations that can be offered. When such injuries seem to recur and become consistent, you should certainly be suspect of whatever is going on. Needless to say, these can be signs that your loved one is being deliberately abused at worst or carelessly neglected at best.
2. Rage or mood swings
Sudden changes in the mood and disposition of your loved one can be caused by any number of phenomena, but abuse is one of the most common triggers. Aging tends to spur psychological changes, but if you sense hostility or depression you should not ignore these signs. Mistreatment can cause these and other behavioral problems to appear.
3. Signs they may be dehydrated
Like bedsores, dehydration is a problem that people often underestimate. This is especially true for elderly people. Signs of dehydration include tiredness, dry mouth and skin, headache, and dizziness. These symptoms can indicate that your loved one is not receiving the nutrition and hydration they need.
These are just some of the signs you might notice if elder abuse is taking place in a nursing home. If you have noticed these or any other concerns, contacting a lawyer may help you understand your family’s legal options.
Discuss Next Steps During A Consultation
If you or someone you love is suffering or has been suffering from these types of situations, contact us. Attorney David Crawford has the experience and knows exactly where to start. If the initial facts warrants further legal investigation, David and his team will gather information about the patient’s history so that he has a complete understanding of how, and when, this occurred. He will work with you and others to develop a detailed time line to understand what happened to your loved one, any warning signs that were ignored by the nursing home staff and what could have been done to avoid the problem. In essence, David will show you the negligent acts and omissions that may have occurred and help you understand the case prior to filing any lawsuit.
Have you ever missed a doctor’s appointment only to find that you have been billed for not cancelling within a period of time prior to the appointment? This is a charge that your insurance company will not pay but you are expected to pay. The theory behind this is that the missed appointment cost the doctor and his staff time that could have gone to another patient. Time means money. Makes sense, right? We can all understand a sound and logical business practice. However, let’s suppose you kept that appointment, needed surgery, had your surgery and during surgery, or following surgery, a mistake was made by the hospital, doctor or surgical team which required you to need ANOTHER surgery to correct the mistake. Should you be billed for the first surgery AND the surgery necessary to “fix” the “never event” surgery? Still make sense? Of course not! This situation is considered a “never event”, one that NEVER should have happened in the first place. So, who pays for never events?
Understanding Never Events
Never Events are serious incidents that are wholly preventable with guidance or safety recommendations that should have been implemented by all healthcare providers. Never Events include incidents such as: wrong site surgery (worked on the wrong area of the body), retained instrument surgery (that means something was left inside the body), pressure sores (ulcers), incorrect medications, or mismatched blood transfusions. These errors are not only costly and time consuming. In fact, most can be deadly if not caught in time or left untreated.
Can A Never Event Happen To You?
Now that you know what types of things are considered never events, are they realistic? Do they really happen? To answer that, let’s look at a real life scenario. Patient goes in to have surgery. Surgery appears to go well until 3 days after patient arrives back home and begins to have signs of infection near the surgical site. A call to the physician’s office asks patient if he has finished his antibiotics and to call back when he has done so, 2 days later. By this time, patient’s pain has increased, the site of surgery is inflamed and hot to the touch and he has been admitted to the hospital. Emergency surgery learns that a foreign object was left behind during the first surgery and has now caused infection requiring a much more extensive surgery.
The good news with this scenario is that the patient’s first surgery was successful. However, it did require more surgery he was not expecting which led to a new hospital bill. Hence, the charges that never should have occurred from a surgery that NEVER should have been necessary. In this scenario, patient recovers, and is surprised to receive an EOB (“explanation of benefits”) from his insurance carrier refusing payment on many of the charges. In the column, “Patient Responsibility”, he is left with a bill in the amount of several thousand dollars.
Yes, it can happen to anyone. Although it is rare and there are precautions in place to prevent this type of situation. A more common type that happens are pressure sores, also known as bed sores. When a person is confined to a bed or chair for a lengthy period of time, such as recovery from surgery or other illness, the pressure on parts of their body weakens the skin and tissue, causing it to break down. This can cause sores if precautions are not taken to prevent this. This is considered a never event because medical staff should be following a regimen to prevent this very thing from happening.
If this happens, what happens with the bill?
If you, or a loved one find yourself in a situation where a medical event has taken place that should NEVER have, and you feel you have suffered injuries and damages from that event due to no fault of your own, contact our office. If the initial facts warrant further legal investigation, David and his team will gather information about the patient’s history so that he has a complete understanding of how, and when, this occurred. He will work with you and others to develop a detailed time line to understand what happened to you or your loved one, any warning signs that were ignored by the hospital or doctor and what could have been done to avoid the problem. In essence, David will show you the negligent acts and omissions that may have occurred and help you understand the case prior to filing any lawsuit.
What is a Bed Sore or Pressure Sore?
Bedsores (also known as Pressure Sores) are areas of damage to the skin and underlying tissue which develops due to prolonged pressure or friction on vulnerable areas of the body. Typical areas include, the tail bone, sacrum, hips, heels and elbows. These can develop quickly in a person with reduced mobility, such as a person confined to a chair or bed. Elderly persons are especially at risk which is why this tends to happen more at nursing homes.
Pressure sores, once developed, can be difficult to treat. Bedsores with red irritated skin left untreated will breakdown, leading to tissue death, then the skin will break open and become infected, and ultimately and tragically leading to death in some cases. Bedsores can also trigger other ailments, such as bladder distension, anemia, and sepsis resulting in an untimely wrongful death.
Grades or Stages of Bed Sores
- The skin is not yet broken.
- The skin appears red or discolored.
- The skin doesn’t blanch when touched.
- The site may be tender, painful, firm, soft, warm or cool compared with the surrounding skin.
At stage II:
- The outer layer of skin (epidermis) and part of the underlying layer of skin (dermis) is damaged or lost.
- The wound may be shallow and pinkish or red.
- The wound may look like a fluid-filled blister or a ruptured blister.
- It will be very painful to the touch and difficult to keep clean.
At stage III, the ulcer is a deep wound:
- The loss of skin usually exposes some fat.
- The ulcer looks crater-like.
- The bottom of the wound may have some yellowish dead tissue.
- The damage may extend beyond the primary wound below layers of healthy skin.
- Patient will experience extreme pain to the site and areas around the site.
A stage IV ulcer shows large-scale loss of tissue:
- The wound may expose muscle, bone or tendons.
- The bottom of the wound likely contains dead tissue that’s yellowish or dark and crusty.
- The damage often extends beyond the primary wound below layers of healthy skin.
- Damage may extend to joint, tendon and bone.
Complications of Pressure Sores
Bedsores with red irritated skin left untreated will breakdown, leading to tissue death, then the skin will break open and become infected, and ultimately and tragically leading to death in some cases. Bedsores can also trigger other ailments, such as:
- bladder distension (inability to urinate)
- abscess (collection of pus in the skin and tissue)
- sepsis (a build up of bacteria entering the bloodstream and can be fatal)
- anemia (lack of red blood cells)
Pressure sores and bed sores are caused by constant pressure being applied to a particular area of skin over a sustained period of time. The skin of older and weaker people tends to be thinner which means they are at an increased risk if confined to a chair or bed for a prolonged stay.
Areas Most at Risk
People confined to a bed or chair are likely to develop sores in the following areas:
- tail bone
Prevention of Pressure Sores
Those in the position or capacity of caring for someone who is confined to a chair or bed for any period of time, should be aware that there is a risk of pressure sores. Relieving pressure by reducing the amount of time that the pressure is applied to that area is paramount. There must be a plan that includes the following:
- position changes
- supportive devices
- skin care
- regular checks for any warning signs
- proper dietary and hygiene habits
Warning Signs of Pressure Sores
When a person is bedridden or confined to a chair, it is necessary to check daily for early warning signs. Prevention is key. These signs include:
- Red/blue/purple or other discoloration in the skin especially in the high risk areas.
- Torn or swollen skin in those same areas
- Signs of infection such as skin heat, cracks, wrinkles, swelling, redness, etc.
Treating Pressure Sores
Treatment from the onset of pressure sores is critical. If treatment can begin during the initial stage, there is a great change that it will not advance further and develop into a potential life threatening situation.
- position changes
- special cushions, bedding or mattresses that help reduce pressure
- dressings and bandages on the affected areas
- regular and thorough cleaning of damaged areas
- lotions, medications or creams to help any damage to the skin
- surgery, if necessary
Where to Get Help
If your loved one is in a place where they are suffering from bed sores or pressure sores, reach out to your own doctor. If the wound is severe, you may need to get the patient to the hospital for immediate care and treatment.
There are Federal and State laws to protect patients at hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities. A victim or family may initiate a lawsuit. There are a variety of causes of action to pursue a lawsuit, including post-mortem, based upon negligent acts and omissions, nursing home abuse and neglect, wrongful death and/or medical malpractice.
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