3 Common Errors That Home Healthcare Aides Make When Caring for the Elderly

3 Common Errors That Home Healthcare Aides Make When Caring for the Elderly

While many elderly Americans spend their later years in nursing homes or residential care communities, the majority of seniors requiring medical care remain at home and receive ongoing care there.

That’s over four million Americans entrusting their health to a home healthcare aide.

While the vast majority receive first-rate service from providers, there are unfortunately many instances of medical error when caring for elderly people at home.

Whether these are due to simple human error, lack of adequate training, or overworked personnel allowing tiredness to get the better of them, these mistakes should not happen.

When they affect elderly loved ones, they are particularly upsetting and can have serious consequences.

The following are three common areas to be on the lookout for if you’ve enlisted the assistance of a home healthcare aide for a loved one.

1. Undernourishment

One of the basic expectations of home healthcare is that your loved one will receive adequate nutrition and hydration from caregivers.

Guidance should be provided by the agency and caregivers should follow the dietary advice of medical professionals such as registered nurses or doctors, as well as receiving guidance from the family.

The home healthcare aide should then provide nutritious meals and enough liquids to maintain good health. 

Failure to follow the guidelines can result in undernourishment.

For elderly people, lack of food or failure to provide the right food can result in unwanted weight loss and other health problems that could easily be avoided.

2. Failure to prevent bedsores

Another basic expectation of home healthcare aides is that seniors in their care are assisted with getting the necessary movement each day.

For people confined to a bed or wheelchair, lack of movement can result in sores or pressure ulcers developing. 

In the worst cases, these shallow sores can develop and become infected if left untreated. 

This can lead to unnecessary pain and discomfort for patients and the need for costly medical attention in the hospital.

Bedsores can take many weeks or even months to heal properly if they become infected.

Major signs of bedsores include:

  • Redness and swelling in the affected area
  • Tender skin that is hot to the touch
  • Visible open sores

Bedsores are completely avoidable with adequate attention from healthcare aides ensuring that patients regularly change position.

3. Failure to prevent falls 

Many seniors being looked after at home require assistance with everyday tasks such as going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, bathing, showering, and so on.

Failure to attend to these needs regularly during the day can result in seniors trying to complete difficult tasks themselves.

This can lead to unnecessary falls and injuries.

A careless, negligent or inexperienced home caregiver makes this more likely and it should be treated as a serious form of neglect.

Of course, any major fall for elders can create serious complications, with bones breaking easily and healing times taking much longer than for younger people.

Who’s responsible?

People placing loved ones in the care of a home healthcare agency entrust their medical needs to professionals with the ability to understand what is required.

If suitable care is not provided due to neglect or error, the results can be devastating.

However, cases of abuse and neglect in healthcare environments often go unreported. 

One study performed on seniors in New York State found that less than three percent of cases experienced by elders were included in formal reports to governmental agencies. 

Agencies sometimes fail to provide reliable and experienced healthcare employees in order to save money or because they are over-stretched.

In New York, home health aides are only required to receive 75 hours of training before they can become certified.

Sending an inexperienced, junior employee does not absolve the agency of responsibility for providing adequate care.

Whether the harm caused is intentional or unintentional, the healthcare agency is responsible and there may be legal steps you can take to claim compensation.

What should you do if an elderly loved one is a victim of negligence?

In most cases, minor home healthcare aide mistakes should be raised with the healthcare aide agency at the time that they occur.

If your claims are dismissed, you do not receive satisfactory explanations, or your loved one suffers from a serious medical or care error, seek counsel from a personal injury lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases.

An experienced lawyer can advise you on the recommended next steps to take.

Call for a Free Case Evaluation

What causes bedsores and pressure sores?

People develop bed sores when they don’t receive adequate medical attention. This results in an open wound and irritated skin patches that are caused by friction or unrelieved/prolonged pressure.

Although a bed sore can develop almost anywhere, the most common areas of the body to develop them are:

  • the backside
  • the buttocks
  • heels
  • ankles
  • hips
  • the head

Diagram showing bedsore causes

Can I sue for bedsores?

Yes. Once a family places a loved one in a nursing home, they should expect that they will not be injured due to neglect or abuse.
Bedsores are one of the most common preventable, avoidable injuries in nursing homes.

Why are some people at risk for bedsores or pressure sores?

Anyone who relies on heathcare staff to reposition them is at greater risk since failure to do this can cause bedsores to develop.

Even for elderly and immobile patients, bedsores are completely preventable if the staff uses proper precautions and ensures that residents receive adequate care.