I’m Wendy York from the York Law Firm in Sacramento.
You might have been in a skilled nursing or rehab facility and seen a resident with a hand curled up or an arm contorted into the side of their body. These seniors have what are known as “contractures” which are the shortening and deformity of muscles from lack of use. When residents are left unattended or neglected for a significant period of time, parts of their bodies literally stiffen up and become rigid.
Contractures are caused when someone in a facility is left too long in a bed without moving or sitting up in a wheelchair in the same position for too long. In those cases contractures will happen – it’s just a matter of time.
Once someone has contractures, it is possible to reverse them by gradually and systematically stretching them out with physical therapy, although even then they are usually permanently disfigured and impaired. And while it’s possible to treat contractures, it is a long and drawn-out process that can take weeks, months or even years of professional help.
If staff are in a hurry and aren’t well-trained, the process of treating a nursing home resident with contractures by moving the stiffened joints can lead to excruciating pain. When that happens, the patient will scream, “Stop! Stop! You’re hurting me!” at which point the staff will either slow down the procedure or, more often, drug the patient to keep them quiet.
The rule at skilled nursing facilities is that if a resident comes in with no contractures, the facility has an obligation to make sure that they don’t develop contractures and to document the steps they took to keep contractures from occurring.
If your loved one came into a facility with no contractures and now suffers from them, that fact in and of itself is a strong indication of neglect. When residents are given therapy and mobility exercises, contractures can absolutely be prevented, so don’t let anyone tell you that contractures are inevitable or just an unfortunate occurrence. Contractures are usually clear signs of neglect.
If you have concerns about a loved one in a care facility, please give us a call at York Law Firm.
I’m Wendy York from York Law Firm in Sacramento. Thank you for watching.