It is a difficult decision to admit a loved one into a nursing home. Nursing homes are supposed to be a peaceful haven of respite dedicated to making the close of a loved one’s life dignified and comfortable as possible through round-the-clock attention and care for the needs of each resident. It is for this reason that nursing home abuse is so heinous an offense.
Steps to Filing A Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
1. Identify and document the abuse.
Collect medical records, photos, or witness statements to build a sound, factual base.
2. Search for an appropriate case type.
Determine which type of litigation best serves the foundation available.
3. Match with a firm.
Search for a law firm that demonstrates a level of experience with nursing home abuse.
4. Sign a retainer.
Formally contract the law firm, begin sharing the documented evidence.
5. Formally begin the litigation process.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC), one to two million U.S. elders have been abused by their caregivers. The NHAC also found that 47% of elders with dementia are abused.
These numbers are worrying when considering how vulnerable these populations are. If a nursing home accepts Medicare, as many private institutions do, then the nursing home must follow Federal Regulations for standards of care.
A vital regulation in preventing nursing home abuse, 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h) states nursing homes must ensure that resident environments remain free of accident hazards, assuring residents receive an adequate amount of accident prevention, assistance and supervision.
If a nursing home is in violation of this regulation, or if the nursing home staff abuses residents, then swift litigation is necessary. Abuse attorneys are now accepting cases of nursing home abuse to mend these wrongs. An abuse attorney is a lawyer who specializes in abuse. One way to help prove nursing home abuse is to know what to look for.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Once proof of abuse is established, it then falls to the lawyer what type of case they would like to pursue. Each case type has a range of abuses that fall under them and it is important to pick the one(s) that will be the most effective in achieving the desired results.
This is a case that can be made in tandem with other cases. Negligent hiring focuses on the abuse perpetrated by a nursing home employee that the nursing home should not have hired due to a dubious history or lack of experience. The employee who was negligently hired then ends up neglecting, abusing, or otherwise harming residents because of the nursing home’s failure in its responsibility to residents. The failure to properly train and supervise employees also falls under this section.
Negligent supervision cases are concerned with abuse that occurs due to a lack of observation. A nursing home resident who injures themselves because they were tangled up in their bed without assistance, a resident who walks out the front entrance of the nursing home, or a resident who falls and receives no assistance are all eligible cases for negligent supervision.
Failure to maintain adequate health and safety policies
Most cases of failure to maintain adequate health and safety policies are focussed on a failure to maintain sanitary conditions in the rooms of nursing home residents or common areas of the nursing home. Hygienic abuse issues could also be filed with this type of case.
Failure to provide adequate medical treatment
This straightforward type of case concerns the medical standard of care in a nursing home. When the medical care causes harm to a resident, there may be a case for medical malpractice against the nursing home facility. Failure to provide adequate treatment can also include overprescribing medication or misdiagnosis.
Failure to keep the facility reasonably safe and free of hazards
With this type of case, the attorney will attempt to prove that the abuses against the resident occurred because of dangers that the nursing home and nursing home staff were or should have been aware of had they been doing their job. This includes failing to prevent slip and fall accidents, injuries from resident conflicts, or allowing residents to easily wander off.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
There are various circumstances involving or stemming from nursing home abuse, and step one involves differentiating between between nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect.
Nursing Home Alert defines abuse as: “an intentional infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, care [or] service deprivation or punishment that results in physical harm, pain or mental anguish” while neglect is defined as: “a failure to react to a potentially dangerous situation resulting in resident harm or anxiety.”
This means that abuse is neglectful but neglect is not abusive and the two words should not be conflated. Although nursing home staff will not admit to abusing residents, there are indicators to look out for that may reveal an environment of abuse or neglect. These include:
- A growing lack of friendliness with nursing home staff or other residents
- Changes in personal hygiene or appearance efforts
- Environmental hazards (i.e., low lighting, wet floors, unsafe equipment or furniture)
- Extreme weight gain
- Injuries without explanation
- Reluctance to speak in staff members’ presence
- Sudden weight loss
- Withdrawn behavior, or other unusual behavioral shifts
Once warning signs are addressed and there is suspicion of abuse, it’s important to properly identify the type of abuse in order to make a strong case. In order to detect nursing home abuse, however, it must first be defined. Here are recognizable types of nursing home abuse.
– Unlike physical abuse, assault is defined as a single instance of bodily harm or of a real and imminent threat of bodily harm.
– Bed sores occur among residents who are stationary or unable to leave their beds. These residents often require nursing home staff to help them move about in order to keep bed sores, also called pressure ulcers, from forming. Bed sores are often directly related to the negligence of the nursing home staff.
– Separate from bed sores, bed injuries include cuts, bruises, or broken bones that occur from entanglement with equipment, entrapment in the bed railings, or even asphyxiating from becoming trapped between the mattress and bed frame of the bed. This abuse is the result of negligence on the part of the nursing home staff.
– Emotional or social neglect occurs when nursing home staff repeatedly ignore residents or accidentally or purposefully leave the resident alone for extended periods.
Failure to Diagnose
– Failure to diagnose is a particularly dangerous form of nursing home abuse as it leads to many other cases of abuse further down the line and may even result in death through negligence. Failure to diagnose involves failing to recognize changing physical, mental, or emotional conditions and failing to accommodate those changes in needs.
Falls and Fractures
– Falls and fractures occur most often from lack of supervision by nursing home staff, or by the careless maintenance of the nursing home itself. Falls and fractures can be considered abuse, especially if the nursing home staff have attempted to cover up the incident or blame the resident for the injury.
– Financial abuse occurs when nursing home staff use a resident’s ailing mental stability to exploit their income through excessive fees or service charges that are erroneous or extravagant. Financial abuse can be difficult to properly prove without solid evidence of undue influence or isolation of the resident. Heavy medication or sedation – This form of abuse is particularly cruel as it involves unnecessarily prescribing large amounts of medication, or prescribing more medication than is necessary with the intent to rob a nursing home resident of their mobility in order to make them easier to manage.
Injury from restraint
– Another form of abuse arising from the desire to keep nursing home residents easily manageable, Injury from restraint occurs when a resident is physically restrained, either by a nursing home staff member or by physical means of restraint, and has acquired an injury as a result of this abuse. A key thing to look for here is marks on the arms and or dislocation of limbs as the resident attempts to escape.
Malnutrition or Dehydration
– A result of gross negligence, nursing home staff may either refuse or forget to provide food and water to residents. Without proper nutrition and hydration, nursing home residents become highly susceptible to other forms of injury or abuse. Medical neglect. – Medical neglect is the general catch-all for nursing home abuse that fails to provide adequate attention, prevention, or medication minor medical issues such as infections, cuts, diabetes, cognitive diseases, and mobility concerns. Medical neglect, when compounded with other forms of abuse can lead easily to fatal accidents.
– Mental abuse occurs is reported in nearly 55% of all elderly abuse reports. Mental abuse is characterized by repeated mental distress by means of threats, humiliation, fear, and manipulation of residents.
– Misdiagnosis occurs when a resident is assigned a condition by nursing home staff that they do not have. This can lead to abuse of finances and health by requiring the resident to purchase medications for a condition they do not actually have. Personal hygiene neglect. – Personal hygiene neglect occurs when residents do not receive help with laundry, cleaning, bathing, brushing their teeth, or other forms of hygienic practices from nursing home staff when they need it.
– Prescription errors cover every abuse from refusing to fill a prescription, skimming medication from a resident’s fill-up, overfilling prescriptions to sedate residents, or giving the resident the wrong prescription
– Sexual contact with elders isn’t abuse if it’s consensual. However, many elders in nursing homes have mental illness or dementia, and they’re unable to give consent. Similarly, elders may be unable to say remove consent if consent changes. Sexual abuse is often perpetrated against nursing home residents with dementia or other mental illnesses because the perpetrator believes that their story will not be believed.
– Verbal abuse is characterized as yelling, belittling, berating, or threatening nursing home residents by staff, or allowing one resident to do so to another. Wandering or Leaving the Facility – This form of abuse stems from neglect on the part of the nursing home staff as well as lax security in the nursing home itself. Allowing nursing home residents to wander off of the premises of the home, or even allowing them to wander the halls, particularly if they have a cognitive dysfunction, is an abuse that could be fatal if ignored. These types of abuse, if ignored, can not only cause distress to the residents and loved ones entrusted into the care of the nursing home, it can also result in the death of residents in a wrongful and undignified manner.