While we want to take care of our parents and grandparents the way they took care of us, we aren’t always able to provide them with a high quality of life as they age—especially when there are underlying medical conditions. As a result, assisted living and long-term care facilities are available. When the care at a facility isn’t up to par and someone is injured, however, a nursing home abuse lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help.
You expect the nursing facility to care for your loved one as you would and ensure they have everything they need to live as fulfilling a life as possible. Unfortunately, there are thousands of incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect every year, all across the country.
When a facility fails its residents, the legal system allows those residents and their families to take legal action to hold the facility accountable and seek compensation for their injuries and losses. Nursing home abuse cases are often complex, which is why it’s best to have an attorney by your side.
Nursing Home Abuse: Facts and Statistics
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 10 percent of adults age 65 and older will experience some form of elder abuse in a given year. Caregiver neglect, in and out of nursing homes, is the leading cause of injury and most cases go unreported. Abuse contributes to issues like deteriorating health, hospitalization, increased mortality, depression and suicide, social issues, and financial losses.
While any nursing home resident can be a victim of abuse, certain risk factors increase the likelihood of someone being victimized. Some of those risk factors include having low social support, experiencing previous trauma, having a functional impairment and poor physical health, and being a woman. Every year, Ombudsman programs around the country receive hundreds of thousands of complaints citing abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation.
Types of Abuse and Neglect in Long-Term Care Facilities
When your loved one is mistreated in their nursing home, and you file a report or choose to pursue legal action, you will need to be at least somewhat aware of the abuse they’ve suffered. Abuse is often separated into different categories depending on the associated injuries and losses. Your claim will likely be based on one of the following types of negligent behavior.
Physical abuse refers to intentional acts that result in bodily trauma or injury. While any resident can be physically abused, those with cognitive disorders may be more susceptible—especially if they act out because of their illness.
Nursing staff who physically abuse residents may hit, punch, kick, bite, push, or restrain. Resident-on-resident physical abuse is also common. As a result of this type of abuse, residents can sustain severe, long-term, or life-threatening injuries. Proper medical care is required, as serious injuries, especially in an older person, can be fatal.
Psychological abuse can be emotional and verbal, causes distress, fear, and mental trauma to nursing home residents. In addition to greatly affecting residents’ quality of life, psychological abuse can also have long-term psychological consequences.
Long-term care staff who emotionally abuse residents may call them names, insult their appearance or intelligence, threaten them, isolate them from other residents and their family, and exert control by limiting their use of the telephone or transportation.
Sexual abuse refers to intentional acts of violating a resident in an unwanted sexual capacity. Unfortunately, sexual abuse in nursing homes often goes unreported. Victims may be cognizant or incapacitated—either way, there is a lack of consent. The consequences of sexual abuse include bruises, lacerations, and the spread of communicable diseases. Sexual abuse can also result in emotional trauma.
Financial abuse is the most common type of abuse that takes place in nursing homes. It happens when a staff member intentionally exploits and manipulates a resident in order to gain financial control over them. The person might not allow the resident to access their own funds, steal personal documents, possessions or money, forge signatures, or misuse the power of attorney.
Neglect is different from abuse in the sense that while abuse is always intentional, neglect can be unintentional or the result of indifference or carelessness. In nursing homes, neglect is often the result of understaffing or inadequate training.
Examples of neglect include failing to provide adequate food and beverage, letting a resident sit in soiled clothing, forgetting or improperly administering medications, not reporting injuries, and failing to ensure the safety and security of residents.
As a result, general neglect can result in malnutrition, dehydration, falls, broken bones, and inadequate managed medical conditions. Residents may be unaware they’re being neglected, especially when cognitive impairments or illnesses are present. It’s important for family members to watch for signs of neglect to ensure their loved ones are receiving the care they need.
Perpetrators of Nursing Home Abuse
Those who commit acts of neglect and abuse in nursing homes may target those who cannot communicate or are unable to grasp what they’re experiencing versus what they should be experiencing. The most common perpetrators of abuse in elder care facilities include:
- Employees and Support Staff. The elder care field has a notoriously high turnover rate. On top of that, employees at nursing homes rarely get paid a lot. Because of that, coupled with a high-stress environment, staff members may take their frustrations out on residents.
- Residents. Resident-on-resident abuse is not uncommon. Mental disabilities and confusion can contribute to instances of abuse between residents.
- Visiting Family Members. Unfortunately, there are instances where visiting family members commit acts of abuse against elderly residents. If this happens and a facility is aware, it may not know how to proceed and attempt to cover up the matter.
- Third Parties. A number of people come in and out of nursing homes each day, which can make them hard to track. Salespersons, vendors, and medical care providers are potential perpetrators of nursing home abuse—especially in a facility that is understaffed, so residents cannot be properly monitored.
Rights of Nursing Home Residents in the United States
Under the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, nursing home residents are afforded certain rights. Essentially, nursing homes are required to protect those rights, which stress individual dignity and self-determination. A number of states also have additional residents’ rights and regulations. Federally, nursing residents are entitled to the following:
- The right to a dignified existence
- The right to self-determination
- The right to be fully informed
- The right to raise grievances
- The right to access
- The right to manage financial affairs
- The right to privacy
- The right to appeal a proposed discharge or transfer
In the event a resident’s rights are violated, legal action, which involves filing a personal injury claim, can be taken to hold the facility accountable.
Filing an Injury Claim for Nursing Home Abuse
If you think your loved one is being abused, report the matter to their nursing home right away. The facility should ensure your loved one’s safety and conduct an investigation to determine what has happened and why. You can also report the incident to your state’s Ombudsman or Department of Health.
In the event the facility does not follow through to correct the matter, it’s time to hire a lawyer. Thomas Law Offices can conduct its own investigation to figure out what your loved one has been through, what they’re owed, and who to hold accountable.
If you choose to file an official complaint against the facility, we’ll collect evidence like the nursing home contract, witness statements, medical records, and photographs. We will build a strong case against the facility or abusive employee and take the proper steps to secure a favorable outcome for your family—whether that’s through means of negotiations and settlement or trial and verdict.
Seek Legal Help From Thomas Law Offices
If you suspect your loved one is being mistreated in their long-term care facility, it’s imperative to have them removed from the situation as soon as possible. If the facility does not take action after you’ve filed a report, you can contact local law enforcement to ensure your loved one is removed and receives any needed medical attention.
Once you know your loved one is safe, you should start thinking about holding the negligent employee or facility responsible for your loved one’s suffering. At Thomas Law Offices, a nursing home abuse lawyer can explain your family’s legal options and fight to ensure your loved one receives the compensation they need to recover and have a high quality of life at a new facility.
The sooner you get started on your claim, the better your chances are of succeeding. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.