Determining the Difference between Elder Abuse & Medical Malpractice

Senior citizens are members of one of the most vulnerable populations, for a number of reasons. From age discrimination in the workplace and financial scammers to nursing home abuse, there’s a lot the elderly community needs to be aware of to protect them. When it comes to senior citizens living in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities or something similar, older individuals can become victims of medical malpractice or elder abuse. What’s the difference between the two?

Understanding Elder Abuse

With elder abuse, there has to be an element of conscious conduct that goes well beyond the bounds of negligence. For instance, say an assisted-living facility or nursing home has a policy in place that states bedridden residents are to be adjusted, fed, and hydrated every hour or so to prevent bedsores. If a caregiver intentionally neglects to feed or readjust a few residents, that behavior may be considered elder abuse.

Breaking Down Malpractice

Malpractice can be defined as failing to provide the most current standard of care in a specific medical situation. For instance, if a doctor or nurse intentionally neglected to perform a test on an elderly patient but a majority of other well-trained and certified doctors or nurses would have performed the test without hesitation, the medical professional who did not carry out the test could face an accusation of medical malpractice.

Something else to bear in mind is the fact that the neglected patient does not have to suffer a physical injury to have a case to bring before a medical malpractice attorney. Missed symptoms, incorrect diagnosis, a failure to diagnose, and incorrect prescriptions are all examples of medical malpractice and negligence. All can create the foundation for a legal case.

Where the Two Overlap

There can be a degree of overlap between elder abuse and medical malpractice. That’s mostly because both involve a degree of neglect or negligence. For that reason, it’s best to turn to a legal professional to decide which route to pursue. For instance, it may prove more advantageous to pursue an elder abuse claim instead of medical malpractice. The reason for this is that a victim of nursing home abusemay be entitled to specific damages that are not on the table for a medical malpractice case.

There are rare instances where a case is considered both elderly abuse and medical malpractice. There was an instance of a senior citizen patient whose doctor mistakenly diagnosed her with a muscle spasm when in actuality, she had a back injury. From then on, every physician the woman went to carried on that incorrect diagnosis. When the pain physically disabled the woman, she had to undergo pain management at a nursing home. From there, she was given too much medication, and the physical therapy she received only worsened her condition. What’s more is the woman’s cries of pain went unanswered by the nursing home caregivers. In time, the woman received a proper diagnosis, but by then, she had suffered spinal cord damage.

Those with elderly loved ones in a nursing home facility should take out time to check up on their loved ones to ensure they’re receiving proper care in the home as well as at the doctor’s office. Asking questions can go a long way in protecting an elderly person’s rights and overall comfort.

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