For many people approaching the end of their lives — frail, ill and often suffering from some form of dementia — the final refuge is a nursing home. In many cases, the care they and younger, disabled patients receive in those homes is satisfactory, sometimes even excellent.
Unfortunately, an extensive Journal Sentinel investigation has revealed that too many nursing homes in Wisconsin are failing to properly care for some of society's most vulnerable members. And when that happens, the results can be catastrophic.
Like the 87-year-old woman who died of an allergic reaction to a drug that, as her chart clearly indicated, she should never have been given. Or the 45-year-old man who suffocated 45 minutes after he vainly requested a nurse to suction his tracheotomy tube.
Those were just two of the 56 deaths of patients in Wisconsin nursing homes since 2005 that resulted in dozens of homes being cited for serious violations.
Although none of the nursing home inspection reports examined by the Journal Sentinel's Mary Zahn and Ben Poston concluded that the 56 deaths were the direct result of poor care, the reports did document how inadequate training and lack of supervision of nursing home staff along with other problems contributed to a disturbing rise in injuries, including broken bones and bruises.