Hypoglycemia Complications

Nursing Home Diabetes Lawyer – Can I Sue for Hypoglycemia Complications?

Diabetes can have severe, or even fatal, consequences, if not properly managed by nursing home staff.  However, with attentive care and proper management, blood sugar levels (BSL) can usually be controlled to avoid hypoglycemia (also referred to as low blood sugar).

According to the CDC, more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes, 73.4% of whom are individuals over the age of 65.[1]  Many elderly diabetics live in long-term care facilities and rely on nursing home staff to help them manage their blood sugar levels.

While many nursing homes provide appropriate diabetic care, some facilities and their staff mismanage BSL, causing a dangerous condition called hypoglycemia to occur.  Hypoglycemia can result in severe injury or even death.  When injury or death occurs, we are the voice for those injured, and demand full and fair compensation for those affected.

Hypoglycemia and Poor Diabetic Care Can be Avoided

As Michigan nursing home diabetes lawyers, if a loved one received poor diabetic treatment from nursing home staff and suffered severe injury or death, we would invite you to call us for a free consultation to learn how we can assist you in seeking justice.  With nurses on staff, we can evaluate your claim, explain your options, and file a lawsuit or wrongful death claim (when appropriate) in seeking to secure the full and fair compensation you and your family rightfully deserve if we believe that the nursing home was negligent.

What is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are lower than normal.  Hypoglycemia is often related to diabetic treatment, but other drugs and rare conditions can cause low blood sugar in individuals without diabetes.

Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels fall low enough that action must be taken to bring a person back to a healthy target range.  This typically occurs when BSL are lower than 70 mg/dL.  However, numbers can vary, and it is essential that those with diabetes consult with a physician to determine their normal and healthy range.

What Should My Nursing Home Do If My Blood Sugar Gets Too Low?

When hypoglycemia occurs, immediate treatment must be administered.  If a nursing home resident displays hypoglycemia symptoms, personnel should expeditiously check the resident’s blood sugar level.  For many people, a fasting blood sugar of 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.9 millimoles per liter (mmol/L), or below signifies hypoglycemia.[2]  If low blood sugar is caught early enough, nursing staff can have a resident consume high-sugar foods or drinks to normalize levels.

If hypoglycemia goes undetected, blood sugar levels can significantly decrease, causing loss of consciousness.  When this happens, food, fluids, or insulin should never be given, as a patient can choke.  Instead, staff must act quickly and administer a glucagon shot.  Glucagon is a hormone that stimulates the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream when sugar levels are too low.[3]  If the reaction is severe enough, 911 should be called, as permanent brain damage, severe complications, or death can occur.

If a resident requires glucagon, or if hypoglycemia was so severe that hospitalization was required, it is possible that the resident’s blood sugar is being mismanaged.  In this case, the resident’s doctor should be notified so that the underlying cause can be identified.  If the physician determines that hypoglycemia was caused by improper care, contact us to learn about your options for seeking improved care and compensation for injury and any medical bills incurred.

What Causes Low Blood Sugar Levels?

When a person has diabetes, their body does not make enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or they might be less responsive to it (type 2 diabetes).  As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and can reach dangerously high levels.  To correct this issue, insulin and other drugs are often administered to lower blood sugar levels.

The administration of too much insulin or other diabetic medication, however, can result in blood sugar levels crashing, causing hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia can also occur if people with diabetes eat less or too little after taking blood sugar medication, or if they engage in more physical activity than usual.[4]   As a result, it’s important that nursing staff closely monitor the actual food intake of diabetics – not just the amount of food that they are served.

What Are the Signs of Hypoglycemia?

If blood sugar levels become too low, Hypoglycemia signs and symptoms can include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale or colorless skin
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Perspiration
  • Anxiety
  • Insatiable hunger
  • Irritability
  • Tingling and/or numbness of the mouth (e.g., lips, tongue or cheek)

If blood sugar levels plummet and hypoglycemia worsens, symptoms can include:

  • Blurred vision or visual disturbances
  • Cognitive confusion
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness 

How Dangerous is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia complications are often long-term and severe, and, if neglected, the chance of dying increases significantly.  A six-fold increase in deaths due to diabetes is attributable to severe hypoglycemia.[5]  Further, patients who experience repeated episodes of hypoglycemia often experience cerebrovascular disease, myocardial infarction, neurocognitive dysfunction, retinal cell death and loss of vision, and health-related quality of life issues (pertaining to sleep, driving, and recreational activities).[6]

Early recognition of hypoglycemia risk factors, blood glucose monitoring, and selection of appropriate treatment regimens are vital to maintaining proper glycemic control and minimizing the risk of hypoglycemia, thereby preventing long-term complications.  This is especially the case for those who are older and who are in nursing homes, who also commonly have other severe health issues.

If your loved one is experiencing any of these complications as a result of repeated hypoglycemia, please call us to learn how we can help as soon as possible.  It will be imperative to identify the immediate changes in care in order to protect the health of your loved one. 

How Do I Know If Nursing Home Staff is Improperly Monitoring my Diabetes?

There are numerous factors involved in proper diabetic care for the elderly, and nursing staff have several different duties and responsibilities for the care of their patients.  The following are some issues in which nursing home staff may need to assist an elderly diabetic patient:

  • Administration of Medication. Should a patient’s blood sugar levels become too high or too low, nursing home staff may have to administer medication to bring the levels back to a healthy range.  This can involve giving insulin injections to help the body absorb sugar or a glucagon shot if a patient’s blood sugar is so low that they pass out.
  • Maintenance of Proper Nutrition. Control of blood sugar levels is partly dependent on the foods that a patient consumes.  To control BSL, nursing-home staff may have the responsibility of making dietary choices for a resident.  They have a duty to monitor how much and how often a diabetic patient eats, and to ensure that the resident’s diet complies with their specific needs.
  • Blood Sugar Monitoring. It is critical for elderly residents to keep their BSL in good control with stable numbers.  Nursing home staff has a responsibility to make use of a glucose meter to regularly monitory BSL and to adjust diet and medications based on meter readings to ensure that residents do not become hypoglycemic.

When nursing home personnel fail to fulfill their duties and responsibilities and a resident experiences complications or premature death, this is considered negligence.  If you believe that your loved one’s treatment fell below this standard of care, our lawyers and nurses on staff can determine if a case for legal negligence exists.

Can I Sue My Nursing Home for Failing to Properly Monitor My Diabetes?

Early diagnosis and treatment of hypoglycemia are crucial; the severity of the problems that can arise if hypoglycemia is left untreated highlights this point.  Testing for hypoglycemia is simple, and if a resident has risk factors for hypoglycemia and is not tested properly, the nursing home will likely be legally responsible for the consequences and injuries suffered as the result of the failure of their staff to provide adequate care.  If long term injuries, complications, or death occur, the victim, or their family (in the case of wrongful death), can file a negligence claim against the nursing home.

To sue a nursing home for negligence, it must be proven that nursing home staff (which may include medical personnel such as doctors, nurses, CNA’s, or other healthcare employees), failed to provide necessary and appropriate treatment.  In addition to this requirement, direct injury (which can include death) must also be proven, as in Michigan, a negligence case cannot be brought if no harmed resulted from the negligent treatment.

If a case involves medical malpractice, medical documentation and the sworn testimony of a medical expert will be required.  A lawsuit complaint must be accompanied by an Affidavit of Merit of a licensed medical provider, testifying in support of your case.  As nursing home injury and wrongful death lawyers, we will take care of fulfilling these requirements and securing experts to testify.

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations is the time period following the date of an injury or death by which a lawsuit must be brought.  Michigan has a three-year statute of limitations for general negligence matters, and a two-year statute of limitations for cases involving medical malpractice.  In the case of a nursing home injury or death, one or both of these statutes of limitation may apply, depending upon the specific circumstances.  If a case is not brought prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, in most instances a person will forfeit their legal right to seek compensation.

If your loved one was injured in a nursing home, it is critical to contact an attorney as soon as an injury occurs or complications arise.  We can evaluate a claim and bring a lawsuit if we believe that negligence occurred. Once we are contacted, we can immediately begin investigating the facts and circumstances of a case, which can include interviewing or deposing witnesses while they still have a recent recollection of events.

We Represent Clients on a Contingency Fee Basis, and Advance the Costs of Litigation

At Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace, we accept negligence and wrongful death cases on contingency, meaning that you will only pay a fee to our firm if compensation is recovered through a settlement or trial award.  Additionally, we advance all litigation expenses while your case is proceeding; these costs are typically repaid to our firm through the settlement or award.  As a result, you will not have to worry about paying up-front fees or expenses.  

[1] National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020, Centers for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf (26.8% of elderly patients have diabetes, while 46.6% are prediabetic).

[2] Hypoglycemia, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373685.

[3] Severe Hypoglycemia, American Diabetes Association, https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/medication-management/blood-glucose-testing-and-control/hypoglycemia.

[4] Hypoglycemia, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373685.

[5] Sanjay Kalra, Jagat Jyoti Mukherjee, Subramanium Venkataraman, Ganapathi Bantwal, Shehla Shaikh, Banshi Saboo, Ashok Kumar Das, and Ambady Ramachandran, Hypoglycemia: The neglected complication, Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep-Oct; 17(5): 819–834, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784865/.

[6] Id.