This senior care case takes place in West Virginia and involves a seventy-seven-year-old female nursing home resident who suffered a severe heart attack in the middle of the night. The patient awoke at approximately 2:30 A.M. and experienced strong discomfort in her chest. The patient called out in pain, attempting to get a nurse’s attention. When no one answered her calls, the patient pressed the emergency buzzer attached to her bed, which was used to alert a nursing home employee that the resident needed attention right away. However, yet again, no one answered the patient’s call for help because, as was later determined, the nursing home was short staffed that evening due to several nurses calling in sick. When she was checked on early the next morning, the nurse discovered the resident suffered a heart attack earlier in the night. The resident was rushed to the hospital for immediate treatment and the severity of her heart attack was determined.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1.) What procedures are in place for emergencies that occur at night in a nursing home?
Expert Witness Response
While many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are short staffed for a variety of reasons, such as budgetary constraints, appropriate care must be individualized for each patient. This is especially true of overnight shifts, where nursing homes often have fewer employees working because there are fewer patients in need of care and treatment during these hours. Here, it appears that the resident received no care whatsoever until the following morning. This is despite the fact that she tried multiple times to contact a nursing home staff member. To prevent situations such as this from occurring, senior living facilities must have a set of procedures in place for providing adequate, personalized care with fewer employees working. These procedures include periodic checks on patients throughout the night, checking to make sure all emergency buzzers are working properly, and ensuring that someone is constantly monitoring these alerts so a nurse can respond immediately when necessary. Along with proper training for nursing home employees, these measures can help to eliminate situations such as the one in question from occurring. In this case, I would like to know how many employees were working, if the emergency buzzers were working properly, and if anyone checked on the patient during the overnight hours. Overall, however, it appears that the nursing home was negligent in their care for the resident.