There’s no downside to taking advantage of most law firms’ free and confidential nursing home abuse consultations. However, not every dispute necessitates private legal counsel. Whether related to medical neglect, sexual abuse, or financial fraud, the nature of your concerns often dictates the advisability of seeking legal help. Consider the following common misconduct claims raised against nursing homes, the legal principles underlying these disputes, and evidence indicating it’s time to speak with a Duluth nursing home attorney.
Addressing Medical Malpractice and Healthcare Neglect Claims with Care Homes
Family members primarily confront nursing staff in response to patients’ declining health. Unexpected changes in a patient’s personality, mental faculties, and medical conditions may leave loved ones wondering if they should trigger a medical neglect investigation. At such times, families should compare the patient’s pre-admission condition and prognosis with the most common signs of medical neglect in nursing homes.
Patients necessitating long-term residential care often have late-stage and serious medical conditions that naturally worsen with time, including:
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Circulatory disorders leading to strokes and heart attacks
- Antibiotic-resistant skin
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney failure
Conditions like diabetes often lead to visual impairment and medically necessary amputations. Likewise, illnesses like kidney failure and cancer may cause mental confusion, pneumonia, and untreatable infections. Sometimes nursing staff can only treat a patient’s symptoms to slow the disease’s progress or offer pain relief.
Family members may not need a nursing home attorney to discuss increasing a patient’s pain mediation, moving them to hospice, or otherwise taking action to make their loved one more comfortable. However, a lawyer might still help families navigate the legal and financial implications of these decisions.
Difficulties often arise when families notice that a loved one’s condition worsened quicker than expected, or the resident developed a new illness or injury. These circumstances may indicate medical neglect. Licensed care facilities, nurses, and physicians must treat their patients according to accepted medical standards. Failure to do so may result in actionable medical malpractice claims against the nursing home and licensed medical provider.
Common signs of medical neglect in long-term nursing facilities include:
- Burns from hot liquids
- Soiled clothing, bedding, and overall unsanitary conditions
- Unexplained infections and fractures
- Moaning, tossing, and turning
- Dental infections and gum disease
- Difficulty walking
- Denial of necessary medical equipment, such as walker or cane
Lack of attention to non-medical needs, such as bathing, grooming, and safety, often indicates a lack of necessary medical and nutritional care. If you noticed signs of general neglect combined with a decline in your loved one’s mental or physical health, it’s time to speak with a nursing home malpractice lawyer. Consider doing so before confronting staff about potential negligence, so an attorney can request the patient’s medical records and take swift action to prevent the destruction of incriminating evidence.
Investigating Physical, Physiological, and Sexual Abuse Claims
Investigating medical neglect may reveal evidence of potential nursing home abuse. Abuse refers to intentional and often prolonged criminal conduct committed against a victim. Handling vulnerable patients roughly (physical abuse), belittling patients for their incontinence (emotional abuse), or groping (sexual abuse) might support civil and criminal injury claims against nursing staff and their employers.
If a patient reports abuse or family caretakers notice unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, or scraps, consider working with a local attorney to contact law enforcement or adult protective services.
A lawyer could review nursing home policies and healthcare safety regulations before demanding a residential facility take action to protect a resident from further abuse and preserve evidence of misconduct. If a private investigator or independent doctor verifies the abuse, a legal professional might also help families transfer their loved one to another facility.
Confronting Nursing Home Administrators about Healthcare and Medical Billing Fraud
Long-term care gets expensive. Medicare and Medicaid might only cover short-term rehabilitation before patients must pay for services out-of-pocket. Some nursing homes unlawfully overbill patients for services by engaging in prohibited conduct such as claim splitting or billing for services not rendered.
For example, claims that nurses ignore patients’ medical, nutritional, recreational, and safety requests are the most common complaints against nursing homes. However, most care homes bill patients and insurers excessively for around-the-clock health and safety monitoring and response allegedly offered by the facility.
Families may start by contacting the patient’s insurers, often Medicare and a designated supplemental plan, and requesting the patient’s billing and claims records. Care homes must submit itemized bills to obtain reimbursement from most insurers. Loved ones may review the financial charges and compare them to the patient’s maltreatment claims. Patients might also work with an attorney to request medical records from the nursing facility and compare actual services rendered to the billing records.
If you believe a nursing home has unlawfully overcharged a loved one, getting third-party payers to investigate might pressure the facility to reduce a patient’s balance or provide more extensive care. Patients might also work with a lawyer to blow the whistle on systemic healthcare billing fraud in a local healthcare system.
Protecting Loved Ones from Financial Abuse by Caretakers
Financial predators frequently take advantage of long-term care residents with dementia or other mental health disorders.
This predatory behavior might involve:
- Stealing the patient’s bank account and credit card numbers
- Taking a patient’s identity
- Diverting social security and pension funds
- Stealing the patient’s belongings secretly or through manipulation
- Convincing vulnerable patients to change a will, healthcare proxy, or power of attorney
- Talking patients into buying the predator certain items or giving them money
Most predators identify vulnerable patients with a high net worth and slowly manipulate them into parting with funds. Predatory caretakers may ask for help buying new clothes, donations for their children’s schooling, or manipulate patients into compensating them for specialized care. Most nursing home policies and local regulatory guidelines prevent caretakers from seeking this type of compensation from patients. What starts as a request for a $2 coffee may result in the substantial theft of assets.
Families should monitor the patient’s bank accounts and work with a local attorney to obtain financial guardianship over vulnerable loved ones. Protective measures might include placing the resident’s finances in trust or giving power of attorney to a responsible adult. Nursing facilities sometimes do not know their employees have engaged in this unlawful behavior. An attorney might help families make an insurance claim for reimbursement or convince nursing homes to terminate an offending employee.
Working With Nursing Home Staff to Address Patient-on-Patient Theft and Misconduct
Confused roommates may steal a family member’s possessions or engage in psychologically abusive behaviors. One patient might even attack another due to confusion or dementia. In these cases, families might address concerns directly with nursing home administrators. Family caretakers might ask staff to move their loved one to another room or otherwise take action to prevent an abusive resident from being in contact with other patients.
You may not need to contact an attorney if:
- The nursing facility promptly reports the incident to family members.
- Your loved one was not seriously injured.
- The staff takes sufficient action to prevent future patient-on-patient misconduct.
You should, however, contact an attorney in the following situations:
- The nursing facility did not take action after the patient reported theft, assault, or abuse.
- Another patient seriously injured your loved one, whether financially, physically, or emotionally.
- The abuse happened more than once, despite the facility agreeing to take action.
- The nursing facility negligently supervised high-risk patients.
- The facility allowed the abusive co-resident to interact with patients despite previous reports of criminal conduct, abuse, and neglect.
Most, but not all, long-term care facilities must ensure patient safety. This duty includes protecting loved ones from high-risk patients, such as those with late-stage dementia or contagious diseases, and abusive employees. Patient-on-patient violence, theft, or abuse may support a claim for damages against the facility and abusive co-resident.
Addressing Slip and Fall Claims in Nursing Homes
Weak and confused residents are frequently at risk of falling. Further, patients may trip over poorly maintained residential sidewalks or carpets. Special medical and safety standards generally apply to high-risk patients, as well as buildings housing patients with balance and strength deficiencies. Nursing facilities must generally assist at-risk residents with daily activities, such as using the restroom, bathing, and attending recreational events. Administrators must also make the premises safe for patients. Safety protocols might include hiring full-time cleaners, placing handrails on walls, lowering patient beds to floor level, and installing bed rails.
Family members might ask the facility to take extra precautions with unstable loved ones and address certain safety concerns on the premises. If a loved one falls at a nursing home, consider contacting a nursing home attorney. A lawyer might help families file a lawsuit for negligence or claim damages from the facility’s property insurer.
Discussing the Need for Increased Care and Hospice Transfers
While an attorney can always help patients and family members understand their healthcare rights, requesting changes to care does not always necessitate legal intervention. Diligent family members often notice a patient’s declining health more quickly than rotating staff members.
Consider bringing your concerns to nursing supervisors and asking them to review the patient’s case and take additional actions to ensure your loved one’s health and comfort. If the nursing home refuses to provide an ailing patient with increased care or help you transfer the patient to another suitable facility, this may constitute medical negligence. Consider speaking with an attorney at this stage.
Meeting with Assisted Living Facilities about Contractual Disputes
Families want the best for their loved ones’ physical and emotional health. As such, they often invest substantial resources into selecting the right care facility. Many patients choose certain assisted living programs because of their promised social and recreational programs, outdoor facilities, and religious affiliation. The patient’s admission contract should reflect promises made to families during the admissions process.
If a facility denied your loved one promised services, such as movie nights in the garden or supervised trips to town, start by reviewing the facility’s social program, marketing materials, website, and patient contract. You might confront staff directly with contractual promises made and paid for but not received, or false advertising claims.
If the facility does not agree to provide the promised services or reasonably reform the contract based on the patient’s medical needs, consider speaking with a lawyer about filing a breach of contract claim. Social activities and recreation play a considerable role in increasing the patient’s mental well-being while in long-term care.
Gathering Evidence of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Claimants and their families should consider gathering evidence of misconduct before confronting facility administrators. This covert process may prevent staff from altering medical records or finding excuses for your loved one’s condition, such as blaming medication for a patient’s increased level of confusion.
Attorneys frequently recommend:
- Taking pictures of the patient’s room
- Photographing unexplained bruises, cuts, and other physical injuries
- Requesting the patient’s medical and billing records from insurers and the facility
- Setting up hidden cameras in the patient’s room (if legally permitted)
- Hiring an independent doctor to examine the patient for signs of abuse and neglect
- Taking patient and witness testimony
- Writing up observations during patient visits
- Saving soiled and dirty clothing and bedding
Attorney-client consultations are entirely confidential. A lawyer could guide families during the investigative process, connect you with adult protective services, or prepare the documents necessary to request the patient’s records or financial guardianship over an ailing loved one.
Taking Action to Protect Abused and Neglected Patients in Nursing Homes
Most nursing home lawyers do not charge any consultation fees, and potential clients have no obligation to retain the attorney after the initial meeting. If families choose to hire counsel, experienced lawyers might help families protect their loved ones from further abuse and, if necessary, request financial compensation from negligent long-term care facilities. This process could involve filing a malpractice insurance claim, triggering a healthcare fraud investigation, or working with local investigators to uncover illegal and abusive conduct.
If your loved one sustained severe injuries from a care home’s unlawful conduct, an attorney might also file litigation to obtain compensation for medical bills, pain, and mental anguish. Nursing home abuse and neglect complaints might include claims for wrongful death, negligence, medical malpractice, abuse, fraud, theft, and breach of contract. Contact Brauns Law, PC to learn more about your legal options.