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Nurse pleads no contest in patient abuse, neglect case

Nursing homes have a duty to provide a level of patient care consistent with national standards. One of the most important ways to achieve good patient care is adequate staffing. Having a good nurse-to-patient ratio helps ensure that each patient gets medicine and food at the appropriate time and is monitored for common complaints like bedsores and infections.

Georgia residents may be interested in a nursing home abuse case that is now entering the criminal justice system. On Nov. 1, a 39-year-old nurse pleaded no contest to charges of felony elder abuse related to the death of a 77-year-old woman in 2008. This plea was part of an agreement that may result in a reduced sentence. The nurse had been caring for the patient at a nursing home facility and apparently failed to address signs that her health had been deteriorating. The patient ultimately died from fecal impaction.

The nursing home, which is located in another state, was owned by Horizon West Healthcare at the time of the death. That company settled a lawsuit with the patient's family before the criminal proceedings began. The now-deceased husband of the victim had alleged that the company purposely understaffed the nursing home to minimize overhead at the cost of adequate patient care.

Charges were also filed against the facility's former director of nursing. The nurse charged in the case has agreed to testify against the director of nursing as part of her plea agreement.

When patients are injured or die because of neglect or abuse in a nursing home, it is important that the family understand their rights during civil and criminal proceedings.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Nurse enters plea in elder abuse case, says 'my heart aches'," Marjie Lundstrom, Nov. 2, 2012

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