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Nursing Home Residents More Likely to Die Following Surgery

EIN News shared the results of an interesting new study this week regarding surgical risks for nursing homes residents. The study was published in the latest edition of the Annals of Surgery. It involved comparisons of surgical outcomes, complications, and long-term recovery between elderly residents who live in nursing homes and elderly patients who live on their own. The results, disturbingly, found that nursing home residents have more trouble during and after surgery than their same-age counterparts who live independently. Some observers believe that the differences may be a lingering effect of chronic nursing home neglect.

Of course, it would be logical for seniors to experience more complications after surgery and risks during surgery when compared with younger individuals. As the body ages its ability to recover and handle intrusions becomes weaker. Therefore, merely reporting that nursing home residents have more surgery risks is not all that surprising. What is surprising, however, is that two senior community members, all other things being equal, would have different risks based solely on whether one lived in their own dwelling or lived in a nursing home. But that is exactly what the latest research has found.

Experts analyzed records of more than 70,000 nursing home residents and one million, non-institutionalized seniors on Medicare. Those records where then compared on a wide range of issues. Of particular interest they examined the long-term consequences for seniors who had abdominal surgery, appendix removal, colon removal, gall bladder removal, and surgical treatments for bleeding ulcers. Our Chicago nursing home lawyers were sad to learn that, across the board, nursing home residents were much more likely to die from these surgeries when compared with their generational counterparts who did not live in a long-term care facility.

In many cases, the nursing home residents were 200% to 300% more likely to die after the surgery. More specifically, researchers found that following operations to treat bleeding ulcers, 42% of nursing home residents died compared to just 26% of those not in these facilities. The difference was even starker for colon operations. Only 13% of Medicare recipients died following the procedure, but the risk was nearly three times higher for nursing home residents– 32% of whom died after the colon operation.

Some involved in the project believe that the aggressive recommendations to have surgery by medical professionals treating nursing home patients constitute a subtle form of nursing home neglect. In other words, many nursing home residents do not receive the closest, individual care and assessment. Instead of closely evaluating the residents’ frailty level and balancing the risks, a one-size-fits-all blanket approach is applied. In that way, many residents who are not strong enough to have surgery still receive it, leading to their death. Not accounting for the unique risks that a patient may be exposed to is unacceptable, particularly when the consequences can end a life. One surgeon involved in this investigation believes that the finding should be shared with all nursing home residents and their families. Our Illinois nursing home lawyers agree. If medical personnel at these homes systematically send more nursing home residents into risky surgery, the involved families should at least be made fully aware of the increased risks so that they can jointly decide the best course of treatment in their own case.

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