Hundreds of thousands of people rely on nursing homes to provide quality, safe services. However, when there is nursing home neglect, abuse or mistreatment of patients, beyond reporting the facility to the local government authorities, it is the responsibility of the caregiver to contact a lawyer to fight for your loved one (and by pointing out a problem, helping other residents as well.)
While there are no exact statistics on institutional abuse, any abuse is unacceptable. Each incident, major or minor, is a terrifying experience and a significant breakdown in the responsibility of government and institutions to assure a safe and caring environment for elderly and disabled individuals. The price for abuse is measured in the physical and psychological harm to the resident as well as by the economic costs of treating the abused resident. Unfortunately, a substantial amount of maltreatment is never reported.
Common Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
- Bruises or bleeding
- Emotional withdrawal and silence around caretakers
- Bruises on or around an elder’s genitals
- Unexplained infections for diseases
- Physical discomfort
- Sudden financial difficulties
- Changes in the elder’s will
- Changes in the power of attorney
- Bills left unpaid by the elder
- Nursing home fractures and falls
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing Home Abuse Definition
Nursing home abuse is defined as mistreatment or neglect of nursing home residents encompassing the following seven categories; physical abuse, misuse of restraints, verbal/emotional abuse, physical neglect, medical neglect, verbal/emotional neglect, or personal property abuse.
Difference Between Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse is similar to nursing home neglect, but there are differences. Nursing home neglect refers to sub-standard care or a breach of duty that causes the patient to be harmed. The sub-standard care or breach of duty has to be a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the negligent actions taken by the nursing home staff. Nursing home abuse indicates that there was specific intent to harm the patient.
Staffing Shortages Are At The Root Of the Problem
Staffing shortages are often at the root of litigation alleging malpractice or litigation. When problems such as bed sores develop, often is a direct consequence of not having enough staff to prevent it.
As shown in this chart compiled by Families for Better Care, New Jersey nursing homes received a grade of F for hours of care received by nursing home residents.
Recent reports in the New York Times point to understaffing of nursing home employees and an unstable work force as contributing to nursing home neglect. According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care vacancy rates at 14,000 tracked skill nursing facilities is just above 25%, creating financial pressure to minimize staffing and care.
Signs of Abuse Leading to Personal Injury Claims
Some of the more common nursing home neglect and elder abuse cases for which injury claims have been pursued include warning signs such as:
- Bed Sores
- Neglect and Negligent Care
- Physical Harm
- Pressure Ulcers
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Abuse and Assault
- Restraint Injuries and Strangulation
- Falls and Fractures
- Broken Bones
- Wandering and Leaving the Facility
- Wrongful Death
- Sexual Abuse
- Unexplained Injuries
Potential medical malpractice lawsuits may also arise from nursing home care, including:
- Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose
- Prescription Errors
- Medical Mistakes
- Declining Personal Hygiene
Abuse Isn’t Always Obvious
Even the best-run nursing homes may not know that any form of elder abuse or elder mistreatment is happening. In one case two patients complained about an unhelpful aide. Executive nursing home staff members took immediate action and fired the aide. Unfortunately, when other aides found out, they started to abuse the two men in ways that wouldn’t be obvious to supervisory staff.
Forms of subtle elder abuse include:
- Pinches and elbows when handling the patient
- Rough handling in and out of a wheelchair
- Use of cold water and excessive water pressure in a shower
- Financial abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Failure to provide even adequate everyday care
Every elder abuse claim in nursing homes and nursing home negligence cases have a deadline, known as a statute of limitations, which requires that any lawsuit be filed by a certain date, which is generally two years in New Jersey. Therefore, it is important to review any potential nursing home negligence claim with a qualified attorney as soon as possible to make sure your family’s legal rights are protected.
Fortunately, the law is on your side when demanding that loved ones receive professional and competent care.
Most Common Forms of Abuse
Physical neglect, verbal and emotional neglect and verbal or emotional abuse are perceived as the most prevalent forms of abuse. Nursing home staff, medical personnel, other patients, and family or visitors all contribute to abuse. However, aides and orderlies are the primary abusers for all categories of abuse except medical neglect. Respondents believe nursing home staff lack the training to handle some stressful situations.
Administrative or management factors also contribute to nursing home resident abuse (e. , inadequate supervision of staff, high staff turnover, low staff to resident ratios).
Frequently Asked Questions about Nursing Home Abuse
If a resident of a nursing home has no contract with the home, can he or she still sue the home for improper care?
Yes, nursing home residents (or their survivors) who are harmed due to nursing home neglect may recover damages under several different legal theories, even in the absence of a contract. A resident might have a cause of action that arises out of negligent personal supervision and care, negligent hiring and retention of employees, negligent maintenance of the premises, or negligent selection or maintenance of equipment. In addition, a nursing home resident who has been abused can pursue damages for assault and battery.
Nursing home residents have rights guaranteed by law, just as all residents in a nursing facility that participates in the Medicare program has the right, under statute, to be free from verbal, sexual, physical and mental abuse, and any physical or chemical restraint that is imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience, rather than to treat a medical condition. Restraints may be used upon the written order of a physician who specifies the duration and circumstances under which the restraints are to be used, but only to ensure the safety of the resident or other residents. If a nursing home is not regulated by federal statute, its residents will still have rights under state laws, which will vary from state to state.
Medicare Has Specific Regulations Regarding How a Patient Can Be Treated. These Are In Addition to Any Local New Jersey Regulations.
Today, all states have a system for reporting allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly, for investigating the allegations. An investigation will usually include interviews with the resident, his or her family members, and nursing home staff and management. If the allegations are founded, adult protective services will provide services to the older person to try to remedy the problems and prevent their recurrence; however, there may be situations where the victim or the victim’s family do not feel satisfied or justly compensated for the injury or indignity suffered at the hands of the nursing home. In such cases, the resident or resident’s family member should speak to an attorney about bringing a civil action for damages against the nursing home. In addition, the circumstances may warrant criminal prosecution.
Most states define neglect of an older person as the failure to provide him or her with services essential to health and safety, such as food, shelter, clothing, supervision, and medical care. Whether such failures are intentional, or simply careless, often will determine whether a case against a nursing home is framed as one for neglect or abuse.
Neglect is defined as failure to provide him or her with services essential to health and safety, such as food, shelter, clothing, supervision, and medical care
Several factors have been shown to contribute to the abuse or neglect of nursing home residents, including poorly qualified and inadequately trained staff; staff with a history of violence; insufficient numbers of staff; the isolation of residents; and, the known reluctance of residents to report abuse out of embarrassment or fear.
An act of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older person might give rise to one or all of the following proceedings: 1) an investigation and finding by an adult protective services agency; 2) a civil cause of action for damages (a lawsuit); and/or, 3) a criminal prosecution. These proceedings have different objectives: the objective of a protective services investigation is to provide immediate help and relief to the victim and prevent further harm; the goal of a civil action (lawsuit) is to remedy damages, and the criminal prosecution is meant to punish the harmful conduct.
A Consultation with an Expert in Local Nursing Home Related Laws is a Good Place to Start When Concerned About a Loved One (Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Many states define exploitation as the wrongful use of an older person’s resources for profit or advantage. Some definitions refer simply to the misuse of an older person’s funds, property or person. Other states specify that to qualify as exploitation, resources must have been obtained without the older person’s consent, or obtained through undue influence, duress, deception or false pretenses.
Contacting an Attorney
The trial attorneys at Howard Law LLP are experienced in the law and legal procedures for obtaining justice and compensation for nursing home negligence or abuse. If needed we will arrange for professional medical advice or a review if you believe that a wrongful death has occurred.
After requesting a free consultation and legal case review with one of our attorneys, there is no obligation to hire our law firm to handle your family’s nursing home negligence lawsuit.
For additional help and free consultation call us at (201) 488-4644 or request a consultation with a nursing home abuse lawyer by filling out the form below. Our priority is forming a supportive attorney client relationship.