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Nursing home neglect: Worse than you think

You have every reason to be concerned about the care a loved one receives in a North Carolina health care facility. Although many medical professionals are highly trained and deeply dedicated to their work, no one is more concerned about your relative's well-being than you and your family.

At one time, nursing homes only cared for residents on a long-term basis. Today, nursing home's double as skilled nursing facilities. You, a spouse, parent or child could be discharged from a hospital and sent to a skilled care facility to recuperate for several weeks.

Is nursing home neglect exaggerated by the media? Not if you take the results of a study by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services seriously. Researchers combed through August 2011 medical records for more than 650 skilled nursing care patients.

Thirty-three percent of patients suffered some type of harm. In more than one in five cases, the harm was long-lasting. Poor care was responsible for the deaths of 1.5 percent of patients.

Applied to a national scale, research indicated 22,000 Medicare patients suffered lasting injuries in one month and 1,500 others needlessly died.

The study blamed nursing home neglect and substandard care. Fatalities could have been prevented by caregivers paying more attention to symptoms of bleeding, kidney breakdown, blood clots and other manageable health conditions. One-third of patients were the victims of infections, drug mistakes or treatment-related injury.

Over the half of the patients harmed by poor treatment were sent back to hospitals, adding medical expenses of $208 million - in one month! Researchers learned 59 percent of the harm could have been prevented.

Hospitals traditionally have taken the heat for inadequate care. The report hints that nursing home negligence is even more prevalent. Injured patients and their families with suspicions of negligence can learn what legal options they have by speaking with an attorney.

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