When we talk about nursing home abuse, we try to remind people that the ramifications of nursing home abuse and negligence extend far beyond what we might first imagine. Likewise, when we hold nursing homes accountable, improvements made in these facilities, in their staff and nurse training and hiring and in the facilities’ overall supervision and practices extend far beyond the zip code, far beyond the community, positively affecting the lives of countless other elderly residents whose abuse wasn’t so “lucky” to be seen or suspected, or who did not have the ability themselves to pursue a lawsuit.
In truth this is a fact for most lawsuits and other forms of legal action. Just think of a pharmaceutical lawsuit and how retribution for a dangerous drug, say, may put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to think twice before they release a new drug or medical device without the full roster of testing and second-checking.
For nursing home abuse, measures that families take to stand up for their elderly loved one can extend to all individuals in society, especially the ones who are the most vulnerable, not just the elderly or the disabled but also the young or the sick.
But sometimes it works the other way around, too. Such as the case of the young disabled woman in Washington who was able to stand up with a lawsuit against a negligent facility that injured her. By standing up for herself, she was able to help the lives of countless other people who depend on nursing homes and other care facilities throughout the state.
Here’s her story. The young disabled woman was living in an assisted living facility, one that she depended on for near-constant supervision. However, at least one day, the supervision she required was put in jeopardy when she was prepared to take a bath. As is often the case when you help someone bath, whether it’s a child, a person in need or an elderly person, is to test the temperature as you draw the water. Unfortunately, the staff member who was in charge of looking after this woman in Washington did not check the water’s temperature, instead allowing the woman to get into the bath where she then suffered burning on her lower body.
The water was scalding. So hot that, perhaps even if one did not put your own hand into the tub to test the temperature, they may have been able to sense the temperature from the steam rising from the water — or from a rise in the temperature of the room itself.
The water was scalding and the staff member in charge of supervising this woman missed all the signs. And so the woman suffered burns. All for merely trying to bath.
Lest you think that this is something that just may “happen to anyone” whom is entrusted with caring for the vulnerable, disabled or elderly, let us remind you that it is these very people who we often pay good money to in nursing homes who must be especially cautious and aware. Instead, this member of staff in the Washington assisted living facility was anything but.
But, of course, there’s more to: Because as the young woman’s lawsuit was settled — helping to hold the facility accountable so that it may better protect other residents for years to come as well as send a clear message to other facilities throughout the state that they needed to improve or maintain their level of care — it was found that not only was this staff member hired negligently, but they were also negligently supervised by the facility themselves. And to make matters worse, it was also found that the Washington-based facility negligently allowed the hot water tank in the facility to exceed the maximum temperature settings that were put in place by local regulations.
The woman and her family won a very big settlement, and they also helped countless individuals, too. And who knows, if your loved one is in a nursing home in Washington, what this young woman and her family did to stand up for her abuse may protect your elderly loved one from a similar fate.
It just goes to show the power of lawsuits, and how helping yourself doesn’t have to end there.