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High-profile nursing home tragedy highlights systemic neglect

Hurricane Irma devastated a huge swath of Florida and the Gulf Coast in September. News reports abounded of record-breaking property damage, serious injuries and, tragically, fatalities. Among the most heartbreaking of the stories was the deaths of nine residents at a Miami-area nursing home.

The facility's cooling system lost power, subjecting the elderly patients at the facility to prolonged temperatures well over 100 degrees. Local emergency room physicians found out about the sweltering conditions at the facility after several residents arrived at the hospital in extreme distress.

Nine people eventually died as a result, and more than 40 were hospitalized before remaining residents were evacuated. The facility has since closed, and will remain so indefinitely.

Lessons from this tragedy

Eight of the people who died were discovered alone in their rooms. If staff had performed regular bed checks during this tumultuous time, chances are good patients could have gotten medical attention in time to save their lives.

Nursing home patients are already vulnerable. They typically have serious medical conditions, necessitating round-the-clock monitoring. Caregivers must diligently and vigilantly provide supervision and assistance at all times.

Staffers at nursing homes and care facilities should:

  • Frequently check on patient welfare - many health conditions can develop suddenly, as can complications; adequate monitoring might catch emergency situations before it is too late.
  • Meticulously provide prescribed medication and supplemental nutrition/hydration to all residents - failure to do so can prove fatal.
  • Protect residents from abusive behavior - such abuse can occur at the hands of staff members, visitors and other residents.
  • Ensure that patients are supervised - residents allowed to "wander away" can suffer serious health consequences from exposure to the elements.
  • Monitor bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound patients for signs of pressure sores (also called "bedsores" or "decubitus ulcers"), and reposition them frequently - these sores indicate that patients have not been moved in a long time, and can result in systemic infections.

If nursing homes neglect patients, serious injuries may occur and lives may be at stake. Has an elderly or special needs loved one suffered injury or lost his or her life because of suspected abuse or neglect in a care facility? Contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your case and possible legal options.

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