A Cleveland, Tenn., nursing home company has settled a lawsuit for neglecting its patients and allowing an elderly woman to lie in her own feces for hours at a time after back surgery.

The woman, Betty Mae Hanzel of Hastings, developed an infection in her wound during her stay at the Life Care Center of Elkhorn that required surgery to reopen her incision and drain the infection and fecal matter in the wound.

Terms of the settlement between Hanzel and Life Care Centers of America of Cleveland, Tenn., were not disclosed.  According to the federal lawsuit, the nursing home staff allowed Hanzel to lie in her own feces and urine for extended periods and told Hanzel to get her own water even though she couldn’t get out of bed.

Near the end of her stay at the home, Hanzel discovered a discharge from her surgical incision, but staff did not tell her doctor about the condition.  Later, she developed blood clots in the arteryleading to her lungs and a "super-infection of the bowel," which led to surgery to remove most of her colon. 

Nurses who used to work at the home in west Omaha said the facility was often short on nurses, and some evenings one registered nurse was responsible for 120 patients, according to depositions taken as part of the lawsuit.

Life Care Centers of America owns and manages more than 260 facilities in 28 states _ including retirement communities, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes.

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