Every senior deserves to live comfortably without the fear of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents face severe abuse daily. This is not an isolated problem for the 1.3 million nursing home residents that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report currently live in the U.S.
According to the National Council on Aging, one out of every ten adults over the age of 60 has experienced abuse. No matter the type of abuse, nursing home residents are especially at risk. If you believe your loved one has experienced nursing home abuse, call (702) 633-3333 to learn how a nursing home abuse lawyer can help you.
How Do I Report Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse could result in civil, criminal, and administrative consequences. For that reason, there could be multiple paths for you to report nursing home abuse. The specific method of reporting nursing home abuse will vary from one state to another, as different jurisdictions have different regulatory authorities.
In general, the options for reporting nursing home abuse include doing the following:
Contact State Regulators
Every state has some form of adult protective services division. While each state is different, these regulators could take action against the nursing home that allowed the abuse to occur. Some states also keep records of abuse allegations against nurses and caretakers.
Call the Police
Abuse is often a criminal act. If your family member suffered bodily injuries, it is important to contact law enforcement right away.
Seek Medical Care
Seeking the assistance of medical professionals unaffiliated with the nursing home could not only address your loved one’s injuries but also notify the state of potential abuse. Another way to protect the rights of your loved one is to discuss their situation with an attorney. Legal counsel could pursue a civil lawsuit on their behalf.
In some cases, this lawsuit could target not only the abuser but potentially the nursing home as well.
What Is Considered Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is considered to be a wide range of behavior that harms a nursing home resident or violates their legal rights. Many instances of nursing home abuse involve physical harm or injuries. This includes any type of physical assault, including punching, kicking, slapping, or biting a resident.
Not all abuse leads to physical injury. Emotional abuse is another common threat facing nursing home residents. This type of abuse involves spoken or unspoken communication that is mentally harmful to a nursing home resident.
Finally, neglect is considered a form of nursing home abuse. Neglect is the failure or refusal of a caretaker to meet a nursing home resident’s basic needs. This could include failing to bathe or feed a resident.
Neglect could also involve the failure to meet medical needs or to allow a resident to become dehydrated. Bedsores are another common sign of neglect. While neglect can be intentional, it could also result from a nursing home administrator’s failure to maintain appropriate staffing levels at all times.
How Can I Help Prevent Nursing Home Abuse?
There are many ways you can help prevent nursing home abuse. Some of the best examples include:
Check in Regularly
The more you check in on a loved one living in a nursing home, the more likely you are to notice signs of abuse. This could include anything from subtle changes in personality to visible bruises. What’s more, regular visits from family could deter caretakers that are prone to abuse.
Get to Know the Caretakers
It can help to know as much about the people caring for your loved one as possible. This starts with meeting them and becoming acquainted with them. If you notice concerning behavior, do not hesitate to dig deeper.
This could involve research on if any complaints have been filed against the specific caretaker.
Sometimes, the signs of abuse are subtle. Pay careful attention to your loved one’s demeanor. Some residents will show signs of fear or become closed off when they are suffering abuse.
By paying attention, one could also spot signs of neglect like weight loss or dehydration.
Increase Social Interaction
Isolated residents are more likely to face abuse. By helping your loved one increase social interaction, you could help prevent abuse before it starts.
Who Can Report Nursing Home Abuse?
The methods available to you for reporting abuse will vary depending on the state your loved one resides in. However, each state typically has multiple options for reporting abuse.
Every state has an administrative agency that oversees nursing homes or elder care. You have the right to contact them regarding abuse allegations—no matter your relationship with a victim. Many states offer toll-free hotlines to report abuse that will protect the caller’s anonymity.
If you believe a crime has occurred, you also have the right to contact the police regarding your allegations. While there is no guarantee that charges will be filed, the police have a duty to investigate these claims to determine if they are credible. Any person that believes nursing home abuse has occurred has the right to notify law enforcement.
If you are the guardian of your loved one (or have their consent), you also have the option to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer on their behalf. An attorney could advise you on where and how to report the abuse. What’s more, a lawyer could assist you with pursuing a civil claim with the goal of recovering compensation for your loved one.
How Can I File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
There are various ways you could file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. The right to file suit rests with the victim of the abuse. If you suffered abuse while residing in a nursing home, your next step would be to discuss your options with an attorney and request that they move forward with litigation.
If you are not the victim of abuse, you might not have the right to file a lawsuit on the victim’s behalf. The only situation where you could pursue legal action in a victim’s name is if you hold some kind of guardianship or power of attorney that explicitly gives you the right to pursue legal action on their behalf. Once you have retained an attorney, the next step is to allow them to prepare the suit.
This typically involves settlement negotiations and research. If the case is not resolved, your attorney can then file a complaint in court and have the defendant served with a summons to appear. Once the lawsuit has been served, the defendant must either file an answer or risk a default judgment against them.
How Can I Hold a Nursing Home Accountable for Abuse?
There are a number of ways you can hold a nursing home accountable for abuse. The first way is by notifying law enforcement of your suspicions. If the police investigate and determine that a crime occurred, your loved one’s abuser could face arrest.
There are also administrative options that could be taken against the nursing home. Nursing homes are subject to regulation, and abuse allegations could imperil their right to maintain a license. Administrative action against the nursing home could be costly for them.
You could also have the right to pursue a lawsuit against the nursing home itself. There are multiple ways in which the nursing home could face some responsibility for your loved one’s abuse. If the abuse occurred at the hands of their employees, you could pursue legal action against the nursing home in some cases.
Often, the negligence of a nursing home administrator can lead to abuse. One example of this includes a nursing home’s negligent hiring of someone they should have known was dangerous. The failure to properly train their staff or maintain proper staffing levels could also be considered negligent.
Can I Move My Loved One to Another Nursing Home if I Suspect Abuse?
Under the law, you can move your loved one to another nursing home if you suspect abuse. However, there are a variety of issues that can arise from moving a resident. Nursing home residents sign contracts related to their care, and the administrator could claim removing your loved one is a breach of the agreement.
That does not mean you cannot remove your loved one, however. If you believe your loved one is at imminent risk of harm, you could contact the police to assist with an emergency removal. This is possible if you fear your loved one is at risk of immediate injury or illness.
The issues that come with removing a loved one from a nursing facility are complex. For that reason, it is not in your best interest to take on these issues alone. In addition to helping your family pursue a civil lawsuit against the abuser, your attorney could also assist you with ensuring your loved one is safe and secure.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
There are different types of nursing home abuse. For that reason, the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect can vary tremendously. Some of these signs come in the form of physical injuries, while others involve changes to your loved one’s personality or demeanor.
Some common signs of nursing home abuse include:
While accidents can happen, any unexpected injuries suffered by a nursing home resident could be a sign of abuse. Cuts, bruises, or broken bones could be a sign of physical abuse. Other injuries could be evidence that sexual abuse has occurred.
In some cases, the victims of nursing home abuse will become withdrawn. This is true of residents that are naturally outgoing, as well as those who were already shy. This withdrawal is often based on fear of continuing abuse.
When nursing home residents suffer abuse, their fear is often significant. This is especially true of victims of nursing home abuse when they are in close proximity with their abuser.
Staff Won’t Leave You Alone with Your Loved One
In some cases, the abuser will attempt to remain present whenever you are with your loved one. This could be a sign of abuse.
What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a form of abuse. Neglect occurs when a caretaker fails to meet the basic needs of a nursing home resident. Neglect often involves the lack of adequate food, water, or medicine, as well as poor hygiene and a lack of bathing.
Neglect can occur in a nursing home setting for a variety of reasons. Some instances of neglect are intentional. This could occur due to a caretaker that has a grudge or grievance against the resident.
Unintentional neglect is possible for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the inadequate training a caretaker receives could result in neglect. Understaffing could also play a role, which occurs when the nursing home administrators fail to ensure the facility has the appropriate number of staff present at all times.
How Can a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Lawyer Help My Family?
An attorney could play a pivotal role in your family’s nursing home abuse case. A nursing home abuse or neglect lawyer could help your family in the following ways:
Investigate the Allegations
Every successful nursing home abuse or neglect claim begins with a comprehensive investigation. An attorney could investigate your loved one’s medical records to identify possible injuries. The investigation will also focus on the circumstances that surround the incident.
Develop a Theory of Negligence
At the end of the investigation, an attorney can advise you regarding their theory of liability. This includes the potential civil liability not only for the abuser but for the facility as well.
Negotiating a Settlement
Many nursing home abuse or neglect claims are resolved through a mutual settlement agreement. Your attorney could negotiate a settlement on your loved one’s behalf. A strong understanding of the law and the facts of your loved one’s case could substantially strengthen your attorney’s position.
File a Lawsuit
When these cases do not settle, a lawsuit becomes necessary. An attorney could draft and file a lawsuit based on the nursing home’s negligence.
Try the Case
The end result of litigation is often a jury trial. Your attorney could take the case to trial in an effort to obtain a judgment in your loved one’s favor.
What Are the Different Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
There are four general types of nursing home abuse and neglect. Each of these forms of abuse is different from the other, meaning the signs of each could vary dramatically. Understanding the nature of nursing home abuse could help in your pursuit of compensation and justice on your loved one’s behalf.
The types of nursing home abuse include:
Physical abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse that take place in a nursing home setting, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) states. Any act that causes unlawful physical injury is a form of physical abuse. Often, this form of abuse is akin to an assault.
It could involve a caretaker kicking, biting, slapping, or punching a nursing home resident. Physical abuse could also involve the unnecessary use of physical or chemical restraints against a resident.
Any form of nonconsensual sexual contact is sexual abuse. There have been countless allegations of sexual abuse within nursing homes. This type of abuse is especially problematic in these facilities, given the high number of residents who lack the capacity to consent.
Some nursing home residents are not lucid enough to report an attack or understand what has happened to them.
It is possible to abuse a nursing home resident without ever leaving a mark on their body. Emotional abuse occurs when a person’s words or actions cause a nursing home resident to experience fear, angst, or shame. Emotional abuse could involve threats, harassment, or isolation, among other things.
Neglect is the failure to provide for a resident’s basic needs. Neglect commonly occurs in a nursing home when the caretakers are overwhelmed or poorly trained.
What Is Dehydration Neglect in Nursing Homes?
Dehydration due to neglect is unfortunately common in a nursing home setting and can occur for a variety of reasons. Careless staff could simply fail to ensure a resident gets the water intake they need. In other cases, caretakers could intentionally withhold water in an effort to punish a resident.
Dehydration is dangerous, especially among elderly nursing home residents. Without enough water intake, a senior is at increased risk of numerous health complications, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even falls.
One issue with dehydration neglect is that this condition is already common among seniors. The Mayo Clinic reports that older adults are at higher risk for dehydration because their bodies naturally carry less water. What’s more, a large percentage of nursing home residents take medication that is likely to dehydrate them further.
For example, blood pressure medication is known to flush water from a person’s body. The kidneys become less efficient as people age. This can result in the body releasing more water than what is necessary during urination.
Because of these risks, it is vital to watch for possible signs of dehydration.
What Are the Signs of Dehydration?
There are numerous signs of dehydration among nursing home residents. However, these signs may not always be simple to recognize. If you are concerned your elderly loved one is experiencing dehydration, it is best to seek medical assistance right away.
One major issue with dehydration in a nursing home setting is some residents’ inability to meet their own needs. Another issue is the challenges some residents face regarding alerting caretakers that they are dehydrated. Many of the signs discussed above require confirmation of occurrence from the nursing home resident.
For that reason, nursing home caretakers must ensure their residents drink enough water. This requires more than simply leaving a glass of water nearby, as many residents are unable to recognize that they are thirsty. A caretaker must take active steps to ensure their resident drinks water on a regular basis.
Can Dehydration Neglect Lead to Death?
In extreme cases, dehydration neglect could lead to death. This is possible given that some of the most at-risk residents are entirely reliant on nursing home staff to meet their basic needs. If a caretaker fails to ensure a resident takes in enough water each day, the possibility of dehydration increases dramatically.
Nursing home residents are already at an increased risk of dehydration compared to the general population. Older residents maintain less water in their bodies in general, and many are lacking in their ability to identify thirst. Nursing home residents are frequently on medication that dehydrates them further.
There are multiple ways dehydration could have fatal consequences. Severe dehydration could lead to brain damage or kidney failure. These severe conditions could be fatal on their own.
Dehydration could also exacerbate other conditions that had previously been well managed. Dehydration increases the risk of a nursing home resident’s fall. Delirious, light-headed, or unconscious nursing home residents are prone to falling.
What Is Elopement in Nursing Homes?
Elopement in a nursing home is the term that describes a nursing home resident walking away from a nursing home facility without authorization. This can be dangerous, as many nursing home residents are not aware of their surroundings. In some cases, a resident may inadvertently wander into traffic or find themselves facing some other hazard.
Simply becoming lost in the area surrounding a nursing home could be dangerous. Nursing home residents that elope from their facility could face the risk of exposure when the weather is extreme. What’s more, there are other dangers from passing vehicles, fall hazards, or even the potential of suffering from criminal activity.
Elopement can occur due to many reasons. When a facility is understaffed, it could be impossible to maintain tabs on every resident. Facilities with inadequate security could also find residents leaving without anyone noticing.
Can I Sue the Nursing Home for My Loved One’s Elopement and Wandering?
It is possible to sue the nursing home for your loved one’s elopement or wandering. Elopement occurs when a nursing home resident leaves the facility entirely without authorization. This could be as simple as entering the parking lot or as dangerous as walking miles away from the facility.
Elopement carries significant safety risks, especially for nursing home residents who live with cognitive issues. It might not be immediately apparent to the resident that they are in danger until it is too late.
Wandering is different, as it does not involve a nursing home resident leaving the facility. Instead, wandering occurs when a nursing home resident enters areas of the facility that could be unsafe or that they are otherwise forbidden from entering.
Elopement or wandering could result in a claim for compensation if the nursing home resident is injured. The staff has a duty to ensure that nursing home residents are monitored, especially those that are prone to wandering. The failure to do so could be a form of negligence.
Are Choking Accidents a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect?
In many cases, choking accidents could be a sign of nursing home neglect. It is fair to note that sometimes a resident choking can happen due to no one’s fault. However, the facility staff should be in a position to take immediate action to save the resident when it does occur.
Other instances of choking could result entirely from the neglect of a nursing home and its staff. For example, a resident with a very specific food requirement could choke due to an allergic reaction. The nursing home must ensure a resident is not given food that will trigger an allergic reaction.
Other food-related choking issues could be avoided as well. This includes the failure to provide water with a meal, not assisting residents regarding their portion sizes, and not aiding residents with physical limitations.
In some cases, it is in response to a choking emergency where negligence can be found. Understaffed or poorly trained caregivers could fail to notice a resident is choking. Others might lack the knowledge of what to do under these circumstances.
What Causes Choking in Nursing Homes?
There are a variety of factors that could lead to choking in nursing homes. While some of these issues are unavoidable, others could only occur through negligence. What’s more, any choking emergency could rapidly become more severe following a slow response by nursing home staff.
Some of the causes of choking include:
Large Portion Sizes
Some residents require small portion sizes in order to avoid potential choking hazards. Nursing homes should take the steps needed to make these arrangements possible.
Allergic Reactions to Food or Drink
Allergic reactions to food could cause a resident’s windpipe to close up, blocking their air. These reactions can occur quickly and have fatal consequences.
Lack of Water
Water is an important tool in avoiding choking, especially among residents on medication that can dehydrate them.
In many cases, choking or the risk of choking could go unnoticed by staff due to their neglect.
Failure to Assist Residents with Physical Limitations
Some residents are at risk of choking due to their physical limitations—the failure to assist them while eating could result in a choking hazard.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Falls?
Nursing homes can be liable for falls. Ultimately, the facts surrounding the fall will determine whether the facility or its employees are liable. Falls are a common occurrence in nursing homes, and they represent one of the primary safety risks to seniors across the country.
Every nursing home owes its residents a duty of care. Part of this duty requires the facility and its employees to protect their residents from potential fall hazards. When this duty is breached, the nursing home could face liability.
Nursing home fall claims come in many forms. In some cases, a fall could occur when a resident with mobility issues attempts to bathe themselves or go to the restroom unaccompanied. The facility could face liability if it failed to provide the assistance the nursing home resident required.
Nursing homes could also face liability in situations where floors or sidewalks represent serious fall risks. This could include accumulated ice on a sidewalk or loose extension cords on the floor within the building. Any of these incidents could be the basis for a slip and fall injury lawsuit against the nursing home.
What Types of Fall Prevention Assistance Are Provided By Nursing Homes?
It is not enough for nursing home caregivers to rush to the aid of a resident that has fallen. Instead, it is incumbent on these facilities to take proactive steps to avoid a fall in the first place. Thankfully, many types of fall prevention assistance could be provided by nursing homes.
The problem is that many nursing homes fail to take precautions. Some of these precautions include:
One primary way to avoid a fall is to ensure a nursing home has appropriate staff levels. One of the primary factors in nursing home falls involves residents that attempt to move on their own. When there is not enough staff, residents will attempt to leave their room or go to the restroom by themselves, which can lead to falls.
The footwear that residents use can have an effect on the likelihood of falls. Proper footwear can help residents grip on otherwise slippery surfaces.
Many falls occur when nursing home residents faint. Ensuring they stay hydrated is one way to avoid these falls.
Some falls occur due to diminished balance or muscle strength. Regular exercise could improve mobility among residents and reduce falls.
What Are the Different Types of Injuries Nursing Home Residents May Sustain After a Fall?
There are countless types of injuries nursing home residents may sustain after a fall. In fact, they are the leading cause of injuries in a nursing home setting. The part of the body that bears the brunt of the fall is likely to suffer the worst injuries.
In many cases, these falls will result in a broken limb, leg, or rib. Other falls can result in serious muscle strains or ligament damage. Falls can have an array of consequences, including traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, or even death.
What Are the Main Reasons for Falls in Nursing Homes?
Falls happen every day in nursing homes throughout the country. There are countless factors that can lead to these falls. While some falls are simply bad luck, others could have been prevented by the nursing home staff.
These preventable falls could lead to severe bodily injuries or even death. Some of the main reasons for falls in nursing homes include:
- Wet floors. When nursing home staff are careless, slippery hazards could go unattended on the floors of the facility. This could include anything from mopped floors to spilled drinks.
- Muscle weakness. Issues with a resident’s muscle strength or gait could increase the chances of a fall.
- Trash or debris. Loose items or debris on the floor represent a fall hazard.
- Poor lighting. Visibility issues are another common issue in nursing home fall injuries.
Are Hoyer Lift Accidents a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect?
Hoyer lifts can be useful tools that allow caregivers to move nursing home residents short distances. These lifts could be useful in helping a resident transition from a bed to a chair or from a chair to a toilet. Unfortunately, Hoyer lift accidents can be a sign of nursing home neglect.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that most lifts’ proper use often requires at least two staffers. Without at least two people operating the lift, accidents are far more likely to occur. When a nursing home is understaffed, caregivers might feel pressure to attempt to use the lift without the assistance necessary to do it safely.
Understaffing is not the only way negligence could play a role in a Hoyer lift accident. Neglect is also an important factor. Whether the neglect is due to poor training or intentional action by the caregiver, leaving a resident alone with these lifts could lead to any injury.
Residents might attempt to move themselves using a lift, only to fall and injure themselves. Hoyer lift accidents are only one potential basis for a negligence claim against a nursing home.
Discuss Your Options with a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If your loved one is the victim of neglect or abuse in a nursing home, they deserve to be compensated for their injuries. An attorney could advise them of their rights and assist them in pursuing a claim for their losses. These losses could include past and future pain and suffering or the cost of medical care and physical therapy.
The attorneys of Bernstein & Poisson stand ready to help the victims of nursing home abuse pursue justice. Put our combined 60 years of experience to work for your loved one. Call (702) 633-3333 right away to schedule a free consultation.