Elderly individuals can be some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society. Unfortunately, this vulnerability is a primary reason why elder abuse continues to be a problem—especially at nursing homes across the country. The risks of elder abuse in a nursing home can increase due to a variety of conditions and factors, including age, gender, dependency level, social isolation, as well as certain health conditions such as memory loss and dementia. Training and supervision of caretakers is also a factor.
There can be prevalent visual signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, including bedsores, physical marks (including bruises), a lack of cleanliness, and extreme mood swings in abused residents. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is important that you file a complaint with the health department and, if necessary, that you take legal action right away.
Securing an experienced nursing home abuse attorney in your jurisdiction to represent you is also imperative. You want an attorney on your side who understands the laws and regulations pertaining to nursing home neglect and abuse, and who can help you pursue compensation on behalf of your loved one.
Factors That Increase the Likelihood of Nursing Home Abuse
There are various factors and conditions (including medical conditions) which can increase the chances that an elderly person may become a victim of abuse in a nursing home or assisted living center, including:
- Age – Many people tend to assume that elderly people are frail, vulnerable, and dependent because of their advanced age. This attitude can impact the way these individuals are treated. For example, some nursing home employees may assume that because of an individual’s advanced age, that individual won’t complain about neglect or improper care. Consequently, some nursing home employees may be lax in caring for elderly residents.
- Gender – Although both elderly men and elderly women are subject to abuse at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, women are more vulnerable to abuse than men.
- Dementia and memory loss – Individuals who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities can suffer from dementia, which in turn leads to memory loss. Individuals who suffer from these medical conditions are very dependent upon others for care and support. This leaves their independence at a minimum. Because of this, these individuals are at risk of abuse in a nursing home setting, as caregivers may tend to assume that the individual can’t remember any mistreatment or neglect.
- Social isolation – When elderly individuals are isolated socially, especially from family members and friends, they are more vulnerable to abuse from caregivers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Many of these individuals do not have the benefit of family members checking in on them, and looking after them while they reside at a nursing home. Consequently, they are more prone to abuse and neglect.
What Constitutes Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Abuse and neglect that occur in the nursing home or assisted living setting can take different forms.
Some of the most common types of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Physical abuse – In some instances, nursing home employees physically abuse residents. Some common signs of physical abuse include bruises, sores, and open wounds on the resident’s body.
- Verbal abuse – Nursing home employees sometimes subject residents to verbal abuse, which can cause the residents to experience emotional distress and even trauma. This can manifest itself as drastic mood swings.
- Failing to regularly bathe the patient – This form of neglect can result in a resident developing bedsores or some other related medical condition, and is often evidenced by unpleasant smells in the patient’s room.
- Providing the wrong medication or the wrong medication dosage – Nursing home employees are responsible for making sure that residents receive the proper medication at the proper time, and in the proper dosage. When a nursing home employee gives a patient the wrong medication or supplies an incorrect dosage, the result can be a patient suffering an unnecessary illness. The neglectful act can even result in a patient’s premature death, in a worst-case scenario.
- Failing to properly maintain the nursing home – Nursing home administrators and other staff are responsible for making sure that the facility is clean at all times and that the floors are free of debris and other potential fall hazards. When a nursing home resident slips and falls as a result of staff negligence or a defect on the premises, then the nursing home may be at fault.
- Failing to properly supervise the resident – Some nursing home residents require more care and supervision than others. For example, residents who present a greater fall risk are more in need of physical assistance and guidance than other residents. When nursing home staff fail to properly supervise a resident, and the resident falls as a result, then the nursing home will likely be responsible for the injury or injuries that the resident suffers.
- Performing a medical procedure incorrectly – When nursing home patients undergo a medical procedure for a health condition, it is assumed that the health care provider who performs it will take all of the necessary care and precautions. If an incorrectly or poorly performed medical procedure results in a greater injury—or death—to the nursing home resident, then the resident may bring a claim or lawsuit against the negligent health care provider for malpractice.
- Failing to address patient complaints – When a patient complains about symptoms or pain, nursing home staff are responsible for promptly and efficiently addressing those complaints. When nursing home personnel fail to promptly investigate patient complaints, the patient may suffer a stroke, heart attack, or some other illness that can result in significant and permanent injuries.
- Failing to regularly observe the patient and check vitals – Along with promptly responding to nursing home patient complaints, staff should also check a patient’s vitals on a regular basis, as well as make sure that his or her temperature and blood pressure are within normal limits at all times. If a nursing home patient’s vitals fall outside these normal limits, staff should make sure that they take action to address the patient’s condition.
Potential Injuries Resulting From Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home residents who are subject to abuse or neglect can suffer various complications, illnesses, and injuries. For example, when nursing home staff fail to regularly monitor the blood pressure of a patient who suffers from hypertension, the patient may suffer a stroke, heart attack, or even an untimely death.
When nursing home staff fail to maintain the nursing home in a safe and careful manner, the nursing home patient may fall and suffer a bone fracture, traumatic brain injury, soft tissue injuries, and/or spinal cord injuries. Hip injuries that a nursing home resident suffers in a fall can be especially difficult to recover from. Physical injuries resulting from nursing home abuse and neglect can also lead to bedsores, bruising, and open cuts.
In addition to physical injuries, nursing home abuse and neglect can lead to mental trauma and emotional distress. This is especially true in cases where nursing home staff are demeaning to patients and verbally abuse them, in addition to causing them physical pain.
Who Commits Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Nursing home abuse and neglect can come at the hands of any nursing home employee or staff member. Individuals who cause abuse and neglect in a nursing home are most often those who work with patients on a regular basis.
Individuals who may cause nursing home neglect and abuse include:
- Nursing assistants
- Nursing home administrators
- Maintenance personnel
- Administrative staff
If you believe that your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect at a nursing home, a nursing home abuse attorney in your jurisdiction can explain your legal options and may take action on behalf of your loved one.
Filing a Lawsuit Against a Nursing Home for Elder Abuse and Neglect
If you believe that your loved one has been a victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home setting, then you may file a claim or lawsuit against a healthcare provider or against the nursing home itself, depending upon your jurisdiction.
If you are filing a malpractice claim against a healthcare provider, some jurisdictions require that you first comply with certain notice requirements. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney in your jurisdiction will understand the rules and regulations that you must follow and will know if there are any prerequisites to filing a lawsuit.
To file a lawsuit against a nursing home for abuse or neglect, you must demonstrate that the nursing home, or a nursing home employee, acted unreasonably under the circumstances.
For example, you must demonstrate that a nursing home employee failed to do something that a reasonable employee would have done, or that he or she did something that a reasonable employee would not have done under the specific circumstances at that time. Additionally, you must demonstrate that your loved one suffered an injury or illness as a result of the abuse or neglect that took place at the nursing home.
Nursing home abuse and neglect can result in serious injuries, illnesses, and may even lead to a nursing home resident’s untimely death. If you can demonstrate that your loved one suffered an injury or illness in a nursing home that was due to employee negligence, you may recover compensation for all of the medical bills and costs of medical procedures that were necessary to correct the injury or illness.
In addition, you may file a claim for pain and suffering (both past and future) on behalf of your loved one, to compensate your loved one for everything that he or she had to endure as a result of the nursing home abuse or neglect.
If your loved one died as a result of abuse or neglect at the nursing home, then you may file a claim for wrongful death damages. As part of a wrongful death claim, you may be eligible to recover monetary compensation for the loss of companionship of your deceased loved one.
An experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your jurisdiction can assist you with filing a claim or lawsuit against all parties who were potentially responsible for the nursing home abuse or neglect, and will pursue the damages which you deserve, in the form of monetary compensation.
If you suspect that your loved one has endured mistreatment at a nursing home or convalescent center, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can assist you with filing a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault individuals—or against the nursing home directly—and pursue monetary damages on behalf of your loved one.
Nursing homes should be liable for any harm that occurs to residents due to elder abuse. However, these facilities are adept at avoiding liability whenever they can. A nursing home’s insurance company will be on the side of the facility, and not on your injured loved one’s side. Often, the insurance company is unwilling to offer full and fair compensation for the mistreatment that your loved one endured, but you have the option of litigating the case and taking it to trial before a jury. This is one situation in which you need to contact the proper legal assistance to protect the injured nursing home resident’s rights.
Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Duluth, GA 30096