Care Home Neglect is it on the increase? 18 Mar 2015

When we are concerned about our elderly family members, we try to find the best way to take care of them and their welfare is paramount. When we cannot afford a full time carer, the only alternative for many of us is a residential care home. We trust that our elderly family members would be provided with care and assistance that they need and are dependent on.

Unfortunately, the reality does not necessarily meet our elderly relative’s expectations, and what is worse, often does not meet the needs of the family members.

of Osbornes Solicitors medical negligence department has recently settled a claim and received a 5 figure settlement for the family of an elderly man who died following neglect in a care come.

Apparently, after our client’s relative was accepted into a care home run by a local authority, all necessary risk assessments were made to confirm the needs of our client’s relative could be met. It was noted that he required assistance with meals and active encouragement to feed himself during mealtimes. Despite the fact that the care home was aware of his needs, no steps were taken to meet these needs. He was not being offered assistance to eat and drink.  His food was left to go cold and uneaten.

In due course the family started realising that their relative was looking thinner and generally ill. They raised their concerns to the staff at the nursing home and explained that in their view their relative was not eating properly, that he looked ill and very thin. However, all raised concerns were rejected and the family was reassured that there was nothing to worry about.

Approximately, 2 weeks later he started suffering from cough and his general health was very poor. This was not noted by the care home staff and no further health assistance was indeed action or requested on his behalf.

After constant requests from the family for medical intervention and assistance their relative was finally seen by a medical professional. By this time urgent medical attention was required and he was transferred to hospital, diagnosed with severe malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia, pressure sores and very poor general health.

Despite a quick response and medical intervention at the hospital the man sadly passed away after a few weeks in the hospital.

An independent investigation into the circumstances of the death revealed various systematic failures at the care home. However, despite evidence of the care home’s breaches of their duty of care to the deceased, the care home failed to admit liability at an early stage.  The acre home insisted that we show how their systematic failures had led to the deceased’s death.

The case was complicated by the fact that the deceased, at the time of his admission to the care home was suffering from advanced dementia and based on the information to hand it was difficult to know what would have been his life expectancy at that time. instructed an eminent geriatrician who prepared a medico-legal report based on the deceased’s medical notes and independent reports on the care afforded to the deceased.

The expert confirmed that the care home failed in their duty of care to the deceased by omitting to act to ensure that he received adequate food and fluid input, failed to record the deceased’s severe weight loss (approx. 8kg), failed to record and report the development of the deceased’s persistent cough to his GP.

The expert confirmed that the deceased who was severely malnourished and dehydrated therefore, was exposed to the risk of infection (to include pneumonia). Unfortunately, in the deceased’s case, this risk materialised and the deceased developed pneumonia. The malnutrition further led to the deceased’s muscle weakness; decreased mobility and subsequently to develop Grade 2 sacral sores.

Our expert further confirmed that the care home breach of duty of care directly led to the pneumonia which the deceased was subsequently admitted to hospital to be treated for. Once the deceased was taken to the hospital, initially his general condition improved slightly. However, the malnutrition and dehydration took its toll resulting in his body’s inability to respond to insulin.

Our expert concluded that although the deceased was suffering from an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease (Stage 6) his condition was not considered as ‘end stage’ disease and on the balance of probabilities, his life expectancy but for the breach of duty of care was between 1-2 years.

Despite the fact that care home neglect cases are very complex they are not impossible to win and a specialist solicitor should be able to advise you about the prospects of success and possible weaknesses of your case.

If you think that you or your family members have suffered care home neglect, you can contact Osbornes Medical Negligence department for a free and confidential conversation on 020 7485 8811.

Alternatively, you can email either the Head of the Medical Neglience Department Stephanie Prior at stephanieprior@osborneslaw.com or Ewelina Ochab at ewelinaochab@osborneslaw.com

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