Nursing homes often try to cut as many costs as they can -- often at the expense of the patients they're supposed to protecting.
In particular, nursing homes will often skimp on staff as much as possible during the night -- putting as few nurses and aides on staff as they can legally get away with having. From the nursing home's perspective, the evening is the perfect time to reduce staff hours. After all, most of the patients are in their beds, asleep.
For some patients, however, sleep can bring about a deadly condition known as hypoxia.
Hypoxia occurs when the brain doesn't receive adequate oxygen to function properly. If an individual's blood oxygen saturation levels sink too low, brain damage can occur quickly. If the lack of oxygen doesn't outright kill the victim, he or she can be left with a permanent brain injury.
Hypoxia can occur for several different reasons. Some people develop it because they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Others develop it because they have asthma or were lifelong smokers. It's common in infants -- and some elderly people -- if they get in a position that puts too much pressure on their chests for them to take deep breaths. Even certain medications, such as anti-anxiety drugs, painkillers and muscle relaxants can cause hypoxia. Some people can even develop the condition due to autoimmune disorders or other illnesses.
Here's the thing: Hypoxia is fairly easily treated. It just requires the patient to sleep with oxygen provided through a nasal cannula. Usually, the oxygen is produced by a concentrator, rather than canisters of oxygen.
In nursing homes and hospitals, patients who require cannulas for hypoxia are supposed to be monitored at night to make certain that their cannulas stay in place and their blood-oxygen levels don't fall below a certain level.
When a nursing home staff fails to check on a patient on oxygen at night or doesn't respond in a timely fashion to an alarm that's signaling a low blood-oxygen level, that can leave the patient in serious distress, cause permanent injury or death.
If your loved one suffered from hypoxia and you suspect nursing home neglect, find out more about your rights by exploring our website.