When people think about potential victims of abuse, minors and young children are usually at the top of the list. This is especially true because media reports tend to focus heavily on stories involving child abuse—especially sexual abuse of underage minors by adults. However, elderly people are another group of individuals who are especially vulnerable to abuse.
This is especially true among elderly individuals who suffer from dementia or who do not have a strong support system of friends and relatives looking after them. Elder abuse and neglect is especially prevalent in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where elderly patients must rely upon other individuals for care.
Elder abuse at a nursing home can take on a variety of different forms, ranging from poor care and treatment, failing to bathe and properly care for a patient, to administering the wrong medication. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of elder abuse at a nursing home, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your jurisdiction today.
An experienced Duluth nursing home abuse lawyer from Brauns Law can investigate the suspected nursing home abuse or neglect, and can help you bring a claim against an at-fault employee—or against the nursing home itself. If necessary, your lawyer can file a lawsuit against the nursing home in the state court system and can help you pursue monetary compensation for the abuse or neglect.
Child Abuse Versus Elder Abuse
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act is a federal statute that deals with the subject of child abuse—as well as how to prevent and treat it. Under this statute, child abuse is defined as a situation where a parent or guardian acts in a certain way (or refrains from acting in a certain way) that brings about some form of sexual abuse, exploitation, emotional harm, or the death of a child.
Child abuse, like elder abuse, does not exist just among certain classes of children. It can affect children who are members of various economic backgrounds, social classes, and religious affiliations. Both male and female children are vulnerable to abuse as well.
Although elder abuse shares some of the same characteristics as child abuse, there are important differences as well. Since life expectancy among seniors has increased over recent decades, so has abuse and neglect among seniors—especially among those who reside at nursing homes and assisted living centers. Unlike child abuse, elder abuse often involves taking advantage of individuals because of that individual’s specific limitations, inabilities, and incapacities. For example, elderly individuals often face problems that can ultimately lead to abuse or neglect—most especially in a nursing home setting.
These problems include:
- Mental impairment, such as dementia resulting from Alzheimer’s disease
- Social isolation
- Isolation from family members and friends
- Social withdrawal and depression
- Physical limitations
Nursing home residents who are isolated from family members and friends, as well as those who suffer from dementia, are especially susceptible to neglect and abuse. These individuals often do not have the benefit of family members and friends constantly checking in on them and caring for them. Consequently, if they are suffering from abuse or neglect at a nursing home, they may not have anyone to which to turn.
Similarly, nursing home and assisted living residents who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may not even realize that they are victims of abuse or neglect. The abuse or neglect may not even come to light until a family member or friend discovers what is going on.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home and you suspect that he or she is suffering from abuse or neglect at the hands of nursing home staff, first contact Adult Protective Services in your area. Adult Protective Services must investigate any suspected or known incidents that involve neglect or abuse of residents in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
In addition to contacting adult protective services, you may take legal action on behalf of your loved one. A nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer in your jurisdiction will assist you with filing a claim or lawsuit against a negligent nursing home employee and/or the nursing home itself, in some instances.
What Constitutes Abuse and Neglect in a Nursing Home?
Abuse and neglect in a nursing home setting are not just limited to physical or verbal abuse directed at a resident by nursing home employees. Instead, there are many other activities that nursing home staff members may engage in that can constitute abuse or neglect.
Some of the most common forms of abuse and neglect in nursing homes across the United States include:
- Medication errors – In some cases, nursing home staff members commit serious errors when dispensing medication to residents. Nursing home medication errors can include supplying the incorrect medication dosage, providing a patient with the incorrect medication, or providing the patient with a medication that his or her doctor did not prescribe. Since nursing homes and their employees have a duty to ensure that they administer the correct medications to the correct patients at the correct times, they may need to pay for medication errors.
- Failing to care for patients properly – Nursing homes and their staff are also responsible for making sure that they properly care for nursing home residents at all times. This includes cleaning resident rooms, taking residents for walks and to the bathroom, and making sure to bathe residents regularly. When a nursing home fails to care for a resident properly, and the resident suffers an injury or illness as a result, then the nursing home and/or the responsible nursing home staff member may bear liability.
- Improper facility maintenance – Nursing homes are responsible for maintaining their facilities in a safe and clean manner at all times. When nursing home staff fail to properly maintain a nursing facility, such as by failing to clear debris from the floors, and a resident falls as a result, then the nursing home may be responsible for subsequent injuries that the resident suffers.
- Physically and verbally abusing patients – It goes without saying that nursing home staff members must never physically or verbally abuse a nursing home resident. The physical signs of nursing home abuse are more obvious than the signs of verbal abuse. Common signs of physical abuse include sores, bruising, and open wounds on the resident’s body. The signs of verbal abuse by nursing home staff include social withdrawal and mood swings, among others.
- Failing to observe patients’ medical conditions – Nursing home staff are also responsible for ensuring that patients under their care are in good medical condition at all times. Staff members are required to assess patients’ vital signs regularly and, if something is wrong, to address these concerns thoroughly and properly. Failing to do so can result in injury, illness, or even death.
- Negligent supervision of residents – Nursing home staff, including nurses and nursing assistants, are responsible for supervising all of the residents who are in their care. If a nursing home staff member fails to properly supervise a nursing home resident, and the resident suffers a fall or some other accident in which he or she sustains an injury, then the nursing home staff member and/or the nursing home itself may be responsible for the injuries and damages that result.
- Failing to respond to a patient promptly – Nursing home staff are also responsible for promptly responding to and addressing complaints that patients make. For example, if a patient is complaining about chest pains, a nursing home staff member must seek prompt medical attention for the patient. Failing to do so can result in a serious illness, injury, or even death.
- Failing to provide quality medical treatment – Nursing home residents often have to receive medical treatment, including medical procedures and physical therapy. When a botched medical procedure results in further injury or death to a nursing home resident, then that negligence may become the subject of an abuse or neglect claim or lawsuit.
If you suspect that a loved one who resides in a nursing home is currently the victim of abuse or neglect, in addition to addressing your concerns with the nursing home directly, it may be a good idea to speak with an experienced attorney in your area. A lawyer can explain all of your legal options and help you develop a plan for moving forward. If your lawyer needs to file a claim or lawsuit against the nursing home for abuse or neglect, he or she can help you pursue monetary compensation for everything that your loved one had to endure at the nursing home.
Who Can Be a Defendant in a Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Claim?
In addition to the nursing home itself, you may pursue legal action against several other individuals in a personal injury case that involves a nursing home.
Essentially, any individual who works for a nursing home may be the subject of a negligence or abuse claim. These individuals include nurses, nursing assistants, dietitians, maintenance personnel, doctors who perform botched medical procedures on nursing home patients, and even administrators who are responsible for overseeing nursing home staff.
A knowledgeable nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your jurisdiction can ensure that all of the proper defendants are named to any claim or lawsuit that he or she files for nursing home abuse or neglect.
Who Has the Burden of Proof in a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Case?
The individual who asserts a claim for abuse or neglect at a nursing home facility has the burden of proof in any claim or lawsuit that he or she files. In fact, the nursing home itself does not have to prove anything.
To succeed in a claim or lawsuit resting on nursing home abuse or neglect, the claimant must show that the nursing home, or a specific nursing home staff member, behaved unreasonably under the circumstances. In addition, the claimant must demonstrate that as a result of the neglect or abuse, the resident suffered one or more injuries and damages.
In a nursing home abuse or neglect claim/lawsuit, a resident may recover monetary compensation in the form of damages. For example, the claimant may pursue compensation for any subsequent medical treatment or procedures that became necessary, due to the abuse or neglect. Moreover, the claimant may pursue compensation for all of the pain, suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish which the nursing home resident had to suffer as a result of the abuse or neglect.
Finally, if the claimant can demonstrate that nursing home abuse or neglect led to the patient’s untimely passing, then he or she may bring a wrongful death claim against the nursing home and/or the negligent nursing home employee who caused the abuse or neglect.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer in Your Area Today
Nursing home abuse and neglect cases can be difficult to prove. In addition, depending upon the jurisdiction, there is normally a window of time during which you must file your claim. If you do not file your claim within the proper time period mandated by your jurisdiction, you may forever waive your right to recover monetary compensation and damages. An experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your area can ensure that your claim or lawsuit is filed on time and in the proper court.
Contact a lawyer who can negotiate with the nursing home’s insurance company on your behalf, to reach a favorable settlement of the claim. In the event the insurance company refuses to offer full and fair settlement money, your lawyer can explore litigation options with you, including the possibility of taking the case to trial in the court system.
Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Duluth, GA 30096