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Steps for Protecting a Loved One from Unsafe Nursing Home Conditions

Published on Jul 20, 2015 at 10:52 am in Nursing Home Abuse.

Making the decision to place a loved one into a nursing home or adult care facility can be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever have to make. How can you trust they’ll get the proper care? Between local organizations and federal, state, and facility regulations, adult care facilities are watched with a rather critical eye. If anything should happen at a facility which may detriment the health and/or safety of the residents, the officials will be notified quickly and appropriate action will be taken. Cases where this is deemed necessary do not happen often, but they aren’t completely unheard of.

One such case recently struck close to home at Hurstbourne Care Centre at Stony Brook, located in Louisville, KY. We reported on the incident in detail last week. The adult care center was investigated by federal health officials after multiple complaints were filed. The investigation found that the facility was endangering the health and safety of its residents by failing to follow doctor’s orders, monitor past injuries, and keep the patient’s rooms properly clean. One patient was even found in bed with ants crawling on them at the time of the inspection.

The facility is currently scheduled to have its Medicare agreement terminated by the end of July. Until that time, residents are being transferred to other facilities where they can be properly cared for.

Cases like this are rare, but extremely worrisome—especially when they occur locally. Conditions similar to those noted above are horrible for both the residents to experience and family members to witness. What can the family members of patients do when conditions like this are noticed? How is appropriate action taken? Here are three steps:

Gather Information and Evidence

When you first witness negligent care or unsafe/unhealthy conditions, you must first evaluate exactly what you’re dealing with. If the patient is in immediate danger, contact the police and other officials immediately. Safety should always be your #1 concern.

If the conditions aren’t immediately endangering, you have more time to find out what happened and how it happened. Speak to your loved one and gather as much information as possible. If it looks like they were bruised, for example, ask them how it happened and let them tell you the whole story. Be there to emotionally support them if they seem agitated and/or upset. Search for evidence such as other bruises and restraint marks and take pictures if you can in case evidence is asked for at a later date. Obtain records of any medical reports filed.

Direct Attention to the Conditions

Unfortunately, oversights do happen in nursing homes and adult care facilities. Residents often fall, for example, when they try and get up by themselves due to the fact that staff members aren’t available as often as they should be. Most adult care facilities are severely understaffed. There’s a large difference between an incident that occurs due to an oversight and one that occurs due to negligent behavior or incorrect staffing procedures, however. Even in understaffed facilities, every resident depends on the facility’s staff to remain safe and healthy.

It’s often a good idea to bring up the condition or incident with multiple staff members as soon as possible after the incident occurs. Express your concern and compare what is said with the story your loved one told you. If the situation is immediately remedied and the unsafe conditions are made safe again with the explanation of an oversight, further action may not be necessary, but you will want to be sure to keep a close eye on the situation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If any staff members act like they don’t know what happened or do not care, make note of that staff member’s name and shift and ask to speak with someone else—preferably someone higher up. Ask for a doctor consult if necessary and request to be present. Trust your inner instincts when you speak to facility staff members. If you ever get the impression that they do not care about their residents, it may be time to move forward in taking action.

Follow Up with Action

If at any point you feel as though the conditions at the care facility aren’t improving or that your loved one’s condition seems to be worsening, you have every right to take action as quickly as possible by doing any or all of the following:

  • Finding a new facility to place your loved one in or simply removing them from the endangering facility
  • Contacting your local elder abuse organization to help protect other residents (Kentucky residents can contact the Kentucky Elder Abuse Hotline)
  • Filing a complaint with adult protective services
  • Contacting a personal injury lawyer or nursing home abuse attorney

Taking these actions will ensure that your loved one remains safe as well as help protect other residents at the facility in question. By filing a complaint, you potentially help open an investigation similar to the one opened at Hurstbourne Care Centre at Stony Brook.

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Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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