Fairness is at the heart of the civil justice system. If an individual (or their family) is hurt by misconduct then it is only fair that they receive help to compensate for the harm. But it goes beyond redress. A desire to prevent future injuries is also a crucial component of the civil law, including in nursing home neglect cases. By holding wrongdoers accountable and forcing them to pay for the consequences of their errors, then there is a natural incentive to work to prevent an accident before it actually causes harm.
That is why when families mention that they are coming forward to ensure a similar accident does not happen to another family, they are not merely using a stock phrase–they really mean it.
The accountability found in the civil justice system is on top of state and federal regulatory systems. The one benefit of regulators is that they are able to inspect facilities and demand changes at any time safety is an issue. This may work to prevent harm before even a single accident occurs.
Of course, the major problem with relying only on federal and state regulators is that there are insufficient resources to ensure that all safety rules and regulations are followed. Many facilities that fail to abide by appropriate resources are never caught, with many senior residents suffering harm as a result. In reality, many facilities only come under close scrutiny by regulators after an serious (or fatal) accident occurs–when families members come forward and demand accountability. Civil lawsuits usually follow in addition to the regulatory investigations
In addition, even when action is taken against a facility to protect residents, it is important to ensure that real changes are made to keep residents safe. This is not easy to do, because it is not uncommon for managements of facilities to change hands after a mishap. This sometimes creates the appearance of changes that are illusory.
Change of Management
One of the most common consequences of regulatory action against facility was discussed in a story from the Weatherford Democrat. The story explains how a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a former member of a nursing home resident. The suit claims that the 79-year old resident died as as result of the caregivers’ failure to give the resident the medication she needed. Medication errors are tragically common–involving failure to give medication as needed, giving the wrong drug, or over prescribing certain drugs.
However, in the aftermath of the accident the management of the home was transferred to another company. This is often an important step. However, it is critical for others to ensure that the changes are thorough and not just in name only.
Fortunately, that appears to be the case in this situation. Specifically, ninety percent of the administrative staff has been switched, including a new dietary manager and nursing director. In addition, physical changes were made to the home, with kitchen updates, roof repairs, air-conditioning changes, and more. Unlike in the past, there is a now also a feeding room for those with special needs at mealtime. Weight management meetings are now held weekly and a restorative nursing program has been implemented.
These helpful changes will hopefully make the lives of all the residents at this home better. It is a testament to the improvements that can come with real accountability.
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