America’s population is aging. The Census Bureau has reported that in little more than 15 years, 72.1 million people will be age 65 or older. The need for elder care will increase and the number of nursing homes, long-term care facilities and skilled-nursing facilities will increase along with that population growth.
And it is equally likely that there will be an increase in nursing home negligence cases as more people enter those types of facilities as their health declines. Part of the problem is due to for-profit nursing home operators attempting to maximize their profits by minimizing their costs.
A case from West Virginia demonstrated the types of problems that can occur. An 87-year-old with Alzheimer’s disease died 19 days after she became a resident at a facility. She “bec[a]me dehydrated, malnourished, bedridden and barely responsive.”
The facility was found negligent and the court imposed $91.5 million damages on the operator. They succeeded in having it reduced, but only to $36.5 million, as the West Virginia Supreme Court noted the facility was “chronically understaffed” and failed to supply the woman water during her stay.
We could see more cases like this in Pennsylvania, as it has the fourth-largest population in the nation of individual age 85 or older. Ironically, the operators of the for-profit facility blame lawyers for the increase in cases.
However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that almost 20 percent of for-profit facilities had “a health deficiency of actual harm or immediate jeopardy to residents.”
The reality is lawyers don’t make of the facts of these tragic cases, the healthcare companies create them by the negligent operation of the facilities.
The Wall Street Journal, “Lawsuits Rattle Nursing-Home Chains,” Jennifer Smith, October 3, 2014