The Columbus Ohio Dispatch reported that a jury returned a verdict against Whetstone Gardens & Care Center due to the death of Peter Southard by dehydration- lack of water. Mr. Southard had suffered a stroke in 1984 and was cared for by his wife at home. She would occasionally admit him to a nursing home to give herself a break. In May , 2005 she took him to Whetstone Gardens & Care Center in Columbus. When she returned 15 days later, she found the 61-year-old Navy veteran incontinent with clothes strewn about his room and a bloody rash on his groin from urine-soaked bedding, according to her attorney Gerald Leeseberg.
Mr. Southward’s stroke had left him forgetful and always in need of water to drink. It was said he could be told to take a drink a water and ten minutes later forget that he had been told to drink. A glass of water was left by his TV stand, Leeseberg said. But brain damage had left Southard both thirsty and forgetful, which meant that someone had to make sure he drank enough water by watching him do it. That is the job of nursing staff.
The nine-day trial before visiting Judge Nodine Miller included testimony from doctors who said the care at the nursing home fell below minimum standards and from aides who said they were never told of Southard’s critical need for water. His cause of death was dehydration nd kidney failure caused by the lack of fluids.
Keeping a resident hydrated and adequately fed are two of the most basic functions nursing homes should know to follow up on- especially with a person who may be forgetful, have suffered any kind of brain insult- like a stroke- or have dementia. Simple written instructions to the nursing staff along with follow up and reviews should be sufficient to ensure that patients are being properly hydrated and fed. the consequences are too great if this is not done.
Congratulations to Mr. Leeseberg and his office for obviously presenting a clear factual case to the jury and to the jury for recognizing that this type conduct by a nursing home should result in a significant award. Hopefully, the nursing homes in the US will know about this and recognize that there are consequences to inadequate care.
Civil litigation attorney Billy Cunningham practice concentrates on personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, business litigation, environmental law and insurance matters. He is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.