Placing a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility can be one of the most difficult decisions in one’s life. There often comes a time when caring for our elders becomes impossible without professional help. When that time comes, we want to feel that our family members are safe and cared for in their new home.
Unfortunately, as more and more of our senior citizens are placed in long term care facilities such as nursing homes, there growing cases of abuse and neglect. Abuse and neglect can cause serious physical, mental, and emotional injury. Nursing home injuries include broken bones, internal injuries, amputation, and others.
However, perhaps one of the most serious injuries resulting from nursing home abuse and neglect is shortened life expectancy.
Shortened Life Expectancy is Often the Result of Neglect or Abuse
Shortened life expectancy is often the result of a nursing home’s abuse or negligence. A shortened life expectancy simply means that a resident’s life has or will expire earlier than would be expected to occur naturally.
Bodily injuries from abuse and neglect can be devastating. At Schenk Smith, we’ve seen cases ranging from broken bones, stage 4 bed sores, and renal failure, all resulting from wrongful nursing home conduct. Some of these wounds heal over time. Others are permanent.
Permanent injuries, particularly those from a major trauma, can be problematic. Extra stress on the body or a drastic change in life style upsets an elderly resident’s physiological and psychological well-being. An elderly person’s body can only withstand so much. This is when a resident’s lifespan shortened. Due to the injury and the resulting complications, the resident’s body simply gives out.
So, for example, we recently represented a Georgia nursing home resident in a malnutrition and dehydration case. Our client was a 76-year-old female dementia-suffer. She was mobile, and enjoyed visits from her family. The nursing home had found it necessary to use a feeding tube on her. Due to oversight, our client failed to receive adequate food and water for several days. She was later diagnosed with renal failure and spent weeks in the hospital recovering. Upon returning to another nursing home, she was no longer able to walk. She became depressed and withdrawn. The ability to walk is directly linked to lifespan. Those elderly who lose the ability to walk on average lose years off of their life. Here, our client, once mobile and happy, had become depressed and sedentary. So, on top of any damages for pain and suffering from the renal failure, our firm argued for damages based on shortened life expectancy.
Intentional Wrongful Conduct at Nursing Homes May Cause Shortened Life Expectancy
Shortened life expectancy can also be a result of intentional, wrongful conduct of the nursing home. Untrained staff tasked with overseeing too many residents leads to poor treatment. Often, to get residents cleaned, fed, or moved, nurses may have a tendency to get inappropriately physical. This is especially the case with non-cooperative residents, or those residents who lack the capacity to make transitions smoother. In these instances, nursing home staff have a tendency to strike, improperly restrain, or hurt residents physically.
These actions can result in the permanent injuries that not only destroy a resident’s quality of life, but shortens the resident’s life as well. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as the guilty staff, may be held responsible for injuries resulting from physical abuse and neglect.
How is Shortened Life Expectancy Calculated in Nursing Home Cases?
In Georgia courts, life expectancy is measured using the Annuity Mortality Table of 1949. This document details the approximate remaining life of an average person depending on that person’s gender and current age. So, according to the table, a man who is currently 79 may be expected to live approximately another 7.17 years. A female who is currently 79 may be expected to live another 8.47 years, and so on.
We use this table at trial, mediation, and during settlement negotiations to establish the amount of life that our client may be expected to live. Once we have established how long the resident should be expected to live, we can determine the amount the nursing home’s neglect has reduced that number. Then it is a matter of calculating the value of the years that were taken away from our client.