Infestations of insects can cause mild discomfort at best and life-threatening illness at worst. Insects are a part of daily life in Florida, but they can pose a health hazard when they make their way into one’s private quarters, particularly in food or in residents’ beds or clothing. These can include cockroaches, ants (including fire ants), spiders, bed bugs, flies and more. Insects can cause injury and spread disease. Failure to address these incidents or to promptly identify and treat patients who have suffered insect bites or insect-related illnesses is a form of neglect, and it can be actionable in civil court, as well as criminal.
Recently in Alabama, three former employees at a nursing home were convicted of a attempted elder abuse, a felony in that state, after an elderly resident in their care was found to have suffered hundreds of ant bites that went untreated. AL.com reports the three workers (one licensed practical nurse and two certified nursing assistants) were responsible for the care of the resident in question, who was confined to her bed. The three both indicated in medical charts that they checked on her numerous times over the course of the night. However, when authorities later viewed surveillance footage of the hallway, they learned no one went into the woman’s room for a full 11 hours.
The woman was later found to have suffered more than 100 ant bites all over her body, mostly on her thighs, knees and ankles.
Although we may not think of an ant bite as being especially serious, they are in fact painful (particularly fire ants) and they can cause disease and serious injury. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine several years ago examined incidents of attacks of fire ants on nursing home patients, and found the incidents to be increasingly common. Researchers reviewed medical reports of fire ant attacks on residents. Some of the incidents they uncovered were a patient who suffered an anaphylactic reaction, while four patients died within one week of such attacks. Risk factors for patients included immobility and cognitive impairment. Researchers noted that health care providers in areas where fire ants are endemic must be aware of that possible presence within hospitals and nursing homes and understand the serious hazards, including pain, respiratory tract obstructions, worsening of a pre-existing medical condition or immediate anaphylaxis. All incidents studied by the researchers resulted in legal action and allegations of nursing home neglect.
Another analysis published in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News is the growing prevalence of bed bugs in nursing homes. Bed bugs, which feed on human blood, can easily sneak into cracks and crevices, including baseboards and bedframes, and can quickly spread throughout a facility. Nursing home facilities need to know how to swiftly – and correctly – address this issue, given that there are serious health consequences for using pesticides to treat them (particularly if those pesticides are only intended for outdoor use). Sometimes those effects can be worse than the actual insect bites.
It’s important that all staffers are educated on the risks of insect infestations and how to spot the signs and appropriately address them. Of course, part of this means providing an adequate level of care to patients and regularly monitoring their well-being. Had that happened here, this woman could have been spared her pain and suffering.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
3 former nursing home employees convicted of neglect after woman, 84, suffered 100 ant bites, Dec. 12, 2017, By Carol Robinson, AL.com
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Report: Florida Clears Troubled Nursing Home Inspections From Website, Dec. 15, 2017, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Blog