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Betty Fell Out of Bed. Was It an Accident or Neglect?

Betty, 86, resides at a community nursing home. Because of her health condition, she needs to have assistance when getting in and out of bed. One day, the nurse assigned to her care was careless and Betty fell off the bed and hit her head.

A few weeks later, the same thing happened: Betty was not watched over by the nurse, causing her to again roll out of the bed and fall onto the hard floor. This time, the blow to her head was fatal. Betty eventually died from the injury she sustained in the fall.

This scenario shouldn’t have happened. According to the nursing home’s procedure, bed lifts are supposed to be used when helping patients in and out of bed. In both of Betty’s situations, a lift was not used.

What happened to Betty is considered “nursing home neglect.” It is similar but not the same thing as “nursing home abuse.” If Betty’s situation were one of abuse, there would have been a specific intent to harm her, like maybe the nurse would have deliberately pushed her out of the bed.

Neglect is defined as a breach of duty or a form of sub-standard care that results in harm to the patient. That harm can be emotional (consistently ignoring the person, for example), personal hygiene-related (never bathing the person) or medical (not treating infections or cognitive diseases). It can also simply be not tending to the resident’s basic need, like providing adequate food and water.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

So how would you know that this is happening to your loved one? Here are some things to watch out for: sudden weight loss, withdrawn behavior, changes in personal hygiene, bedsores or ulcers, dehydration and malnutrition. You might also notice an increasing lack of friendly interaction with the staff, or things in the environment like slippery floors and unsafe mobility equipment.

Visit Often and Report Anything Suspicious

Research shows that nursing home patients who are visited often by family and friends are less likely to experience nursing home neglect. When you visit your loved one, keep your eyes open for neglect, emotional distress, or changes in health. If you notice something unusual, communicate it to the nurses.

If your concerns aren’t sufficiently resolved, report it to the Complaint Unit of the Ohio Department of Health, Division of Quality Assurance by calling (800) 342-0553 or emailing [email protected].

Reporting nursing home neglect can mean the difference between life and death for your loved one.