Older adults who require nursing home care often struggle with debilitating medical issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease and/or physical limitations. Many older adults spend significant amount of their time in bed because of mobility issues and need support accordingly.
Especially when someone cannot get out of bed on their own or remains unconscious for an extended amount of time, it may be necessary to intervene medically so that they don’t end up developing bedsores or extreme skin irritation due to excretion. A catheter allows for better sanitation and comfort for those who spend most of their time in bed.
Unfortunately, using a medical device to facilitate urination can lead to unfortunate side effects. Some individuals eventually develop a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI). When can family members take legal action if someone develops a CAUTI in a nursing home?
The circumstances determine the options
Some older adults can have a catheter in place for weeks or even months and have no adverse consequences. Others may develop infections that become systemic and put them in the hospital. Family members concerned about a CAUTI may wonder whether the nursing home facility where their loved one developed that illness has any financial and legal responsibility for their current struggles.
There is no black-and-white answer, so an analysis of the circumstances is necessary to determine if the situation is actionable. Generally speaking, for a CAUTI to leave to legal action and compensation for the affected parties, the situation will need to meet at least two standards. The first is that there needs to be evidence of negligence. Most CAUTIs are preventable.
If staff members failed to adhere to best practices regarding sanitation and monitoring of a patient with a catheter in place, their poor practices might leave their employer at risk of liability. The second requirement is that there were serious consequences for the patient. An infection that required hospitalization and therefore generated thousands of dollars in expenses could potentially lead to litigation. An infection resolved with a basic antibiotic treatment after a few days often would not.
Family members who learn that a loved one has ended up sickened because of the interventions performed at a nursing home may also want to renegotiate care standards or even consider moving their family member to a different facility where negligence won’t be as much of a risk. Those who believe they may need to take legal action for the protection of a vulnerable loved one should document the situation to the best of their ability and discuss it with a legal professional who is familiar with nursing home negligence claims.
Realizing that a CAUTI isn’t an inevitable outcome of limited mobility and catheterization may help family members push back when poor care standards harm vulnerable older adults.