Many patients in nursing homes have declining medical conditions, in fact, that is most likely the reason they were admitted there in the first place. They may have trouble getting around, need help with daily tasks such as dressing and bathing and many other activities we take for granted when we are healthy. However, there is a big difference between these health problems and when a patient is not being properly cared for.
The debate over whether a declining medical condition was to blame for a patient’s death or whether the nursing home was responsible recently came to its conclusion in Iowa. Gene Bozarth, a resident at Danville Care Center in Iowa, fell at the home in 2009, breaking his neck, wrist and several facial bones. Gene was 85-years old and had Alzheimer’s, which was progressing, however that was not the reason he died.
After the fall, he was put back in his bed and was not transferred to a hospital for a few hours. We can only imagine the pain he was in while he suffered in his bed. After the first transfer, he was transferred again to another hospital and then died of respiratory failure that was linked to his fall. Despite the obvious neglect in getting Gene the proper medical attention he needed, the nursing home claims that his death was only the natural progression of his disease.
The jury that deliberated the case found that the nursing home was guilty of negligent care of Gene, and awarded $600,000 to his widow for his loss and pain and suffering. The lawyer for the nursing home continued to argue that respiratory failure was common in end stage Alzheimer’s and that poor care had nothing to do with Gene’s death.
No More Excuses
The case of Gene Bozarth is a prime example of how nursing home operators can hide behind the ill health of their patients when the finger is pointed at them for lack of care. This is not new. Falls, pressure sores and many other painful and possibly deadly occurrences in nursing homes are often blamed on the medical conditions of their patients.
This happens even when they obviously could be prevented or at least treated sooner, as was the case with Gene. It is the job and responsibility of these homes to provide excellent care for those with declining health conditions and make the proper concessions for their medical issues, not use it as an excuse for poor care.