Medical malpractice is dangerous for any patient, but it can be especially harmful for the elderly. The most common problem for patients of advanced age involves the misdiagnosis and subsequent mistreatment of illness or injury. Although taking legal action against the doctor or treatment facility won’t undo the pain you or your loved one has endured, it might prevent the same mistake from occurring in the future. Read on to learn more about the elevated risks older people face when undergoing medical treatment.
Common Reasons for Misdiagnosis in the Elderly
Research shows that misdiagnosis occurs significantly more often in the elderly. Older patients have a more difficult time communicating due to hearing loss, which can quickly lead to confusion and error. Fading memory and the early, undetected stages of dementia can further complicate the issue. But a more disturbing problem is the attitude that some medical professionals have about the aging population. Busy schedules and pressure in the office or medical facility means that older patients may not receive the time and attention they require. If doctors, nurses or other staff members become impatient with an elderly patient, the quality of care can decline dramatically. The research shows that misdiagnosis occurs much more frequently in emergency treatment facilities and intensive care than in the doctor’s office.
Conditions Commonly Misdiagnosed in Older People
Certain medical problems are more commonly misdiagnosed than others, especially in older patients. The most common is the over-diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. In many cases, similar symptoms may be caused by drug interaction and even depression. Depression is often missed in older patients, as some doctors erroneously assume that symptoms are a natural part of aging. Parkinson’s disease is another common source of error. Doctors often diagnose and treat Parkinson’s when in fact tremors and other symptoms are caused by something else entirely. Finally, COPD (cardiac obstructive pulmonary disease) has become one of the most frequently missed diagnoses in aging populations, especially for those patients who suffer from allergies and asthma.
Seeking Help for Injury or Harm
You can help your older family members avoid misdiagnosis by accompanying them on their medical visits and speaking with doctors and nurses to better understand their conditions. If a problem has already occurred, however, especially if misdiagnosis or medical malpractice led to the death of a parent of loved one, you may have trouble recovering damages. Insurance companies often attempt to limit damages for elderly patients, or claim the issue was related to other health problems.
Contact the attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner if you or a family member has suffered complications or died from improper treatment due to a missed or incorrect diagnosis. They can answer your questions and help you decide if it’s right for you to pursue a claim for medical malpractice.