Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer
Placing an elderly loved one in a nursing home facility is never an easy decision. Of course, you want only the best possible care for your loved ones. You hope to select a facility that will provide exceptional care in a cheerful, homelike environment that promotes dignity and encourages autonomy.
Many nursing homes strive to provide adequate care for their residents. However, as the prevalence of many, unfortunately, do not. If you believe your loved one may be receiving inadequate care, you should speak to the experienced nursing home negligence attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP.
The population is aging rapidly. About 52 million people in the United States were older than 65, and that number is growing. According to the Population Reference Bureau, from about 2020 to 2030, as the last wave of baby boomers become 65, that figure is expected to grow by almost 18 million.
In The News
“The reason why neglect happens in nursing homes is executives make business decisions that result in the frontline workers not having the tools – in nursing homes, the manpower – to deliver the services those workers are trained to deliver.”
– Andrew G Finkelstein
The problem of nursing home negligence is on the rise. Approximately one in 10 older individuals suffers from abuse or neglect every year. Of course, not all seniors live in nursing homes, but many people will need this type of care at some point in their lives. Tragically, many of them suffer harm while in the care of a nursing home. This harm may take several forms, such as physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.
“I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J. ★★★★★
Some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society live in nursing homes. When a nursing home fails to provide proper care, it may be liable for resulting injuries. Speak to the experienced personal injury attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP.
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
The Administration on Aging defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” Generally, abuse is an act of intentional harm. Neglect is a matter of inferior care or a breach of duty that results in harm to the patient. The resulting harm must be a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the nursing home’s negligent actions.
A report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general found that about thirty percent of Medicare recipients who live in nursing homes had suffered from medical errors of other adverse events. Nearly 60 percent of these incidents were “clearly or likely preventable.”
Deficiencies related to the spread of infectious diseases are relatively common in nursing facilities. Approximately 40 percent of facilities fail to maintain adequate infection control. Facilities that have a history of infection control deficiencies could be at elevated risk of a coronavirus outbreak.
While information about coronavirus is evolving every day, it is clear that older adults, those with chronic conditions and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to the infection. Because nursing home facilities serve individuals who often have one or more ongoing health conditions, people living in nursing homes have a high risk of being affected by the coronavirus.
Residents live in close proximity and often share sources of air, food, water, and health care, so contagious illness spreads fast. People coming in from outside, such as visitors, caregivers, suppliers, and support staff are also a source of infection.
Not only are older people more susceptible to contagious illness because of compromised immune systems, but they often experience more severe symptoms and longer recovery times. Respiratory illness is a common symptom of coronaviruses and may require using respirators/ventilators, oxygen, inhalation therapy, and other treatment. About 16 percent of all residents in nursing facilities across the United States receive respiratory treatment every year.
Facilities must do everything possible to prevent and prepare for the outbreak of a disease. Experts recommend that facilities take these precautions:
- Educate and prepare all staff
- Train staff in proper hand hygiene and use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Provide detailed instruction for housekeeping staff and other impacted staff about the importance of proper cleaning
- Provide updated information and share only verified facts
- Arrange for staff who are ill or have symptoms to stay home
Common Infectious Diseases Present in Nursing Homes
Nursing homes must take reasonable measures to prevent residents from acquiring infectious diseases from other residents and the nursing staff. All kinds of drug-resistant germs flourish among people who are prone to infection, as well as those who frequently take antibiotics, which can cause drug resistance. Resistant germs can spread rapidly among residents.
The New York State Department of Health found that some long-term hospitals struggling with drug-resistant germs were failing to take standard preventative measures to control the spread of infection. At one unnamed facility, it said, “hand sanitizers were completely absent.”
Infectious diseases commonly found in elder care facilities include:
- C-diff – Many people get serious healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). One of these, C-diff, or Clostridium difficile, is so widespread that it is considered a public health concern in the United States. Approximately half a million C-diff infections occur in the U.S. each year and approximately half a million C-Diff occur in the United States each year, and approximately 15,000 people die from these infections. Older adults, who are more likely to obtain medical care and take antibiotics are especially at risk.
- MRSA – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a strain of staph that attacks various parts of the body. It is very difficult to treat because it is highly resistant to some of the most commonly used antibiotics. Many people get it in health care environments.
- VRE – Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci are antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin, which is frequently used to treat infections caused by enterococci. In 2017, VRE caused an estimated 54,500 infections among hospitalized patients and 5,400 estimated deaths in the United States.
- CRE – Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have high levels of resistance to antibiotics.
- Staph – Staphylococcus aureus can be very serious if it enters your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs, or heart. It is also one of the most common causes of food poisoning.
Why Infections Happen
Over the past four years, almost 10,000 nursing homes in the United States failed to meet at least one infection control measure.
Common problems include:
- Residents remain on antibiotics longer than necessary. Medical care should take care to give residents antibiotics when necessary, to avoid increasing the risk of a C-Diff infection.
- Staff are unaware of or fail to follow proper hygiene and cleaning practices.
- Medical professionals or other staff fail to recognize symptoms, so there is a delay in diagnosis.
- Staff fails to recognize that the infection is worsening or spreading to others.
Other Types of Abuse and Neglect
Sadly, neglect can go unnoticed for extended periods of time, especially when the victim is mentally or physically disabled, or has emotional problems. Fundamentally, neglect is refusing or failing to provide the resident with the care they need, including providing food, nutrition, medication or therapy, or simply leaving the resident alone and unattended for a long time.
Signs of neglect include:
- Poor appearance and general uncleanliness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic dehydration
- Being left alone in one’s soiled diapers and garments
- Failure to report a resident’s infection or illness
- Failure to provide timely care for injuries, mobility issues or required changes in medications
- Resident’s room being left consistently uncleaned
- General lack of compassion and attention from staff members towards residents
Actions such as hitting, kicking, or physically injuring a resident are physical abuse. Signs of physical abuse include:
- Unexplained bruises or welts
- Burns or lacerations
- Lethargy or changes in consciousness
- Restraint marks on the wrists and ankles
- Broken eyeglasses
Emotional abuse can take many forms, such as yelling, threatening, or belittling residents. It happens when staff treats or handles a resident in a way that causes emotional distress or erodes their self-worth.
Signs of emotional abuse include:
- Fear of particular staff members
- Withdrawal from staff and other residents
- Depression and anxiety
- Changes in cleanliness and grooming habits
Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual conduct without consent. There are many signs of sexual abuse. They may be either behavioral or physical. Signs of sexual abuse include:
- Sustaining a pelvic injury
- Developing a sexually transmitted disease or STD
- Bruising or bleeding of the genitals or inner thigh
- Symptoms of agitation
- Social or emotional withdrawal from others
Financial abuse is the illegal or unethical use of a person’s assets or property. Like other forms of abuse, it can have lasting effects on a resident and his or her quality of life.
Signs of financial abuse include:
- Missing credit or debit cards
- Missing checks
- Other missing property
- Insufficient funds in accounts
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]:
How can financial exploitation be prevented in nursing homes?
Financial exploitation happens when someone illegally or improperly uses someone else’s money or belongings for their personal use. It is the fastest growing form of elder abuse in nursing homes. Here are some steps nursing home residents can follow to prevent financial exploitation:
- Know your rights
- Protect your financial information
- Review your financial information regularly
- Report any suspicion of financial abuse
What are the physical and psychological consequences of nursing home elder abuse?
The physical consequences of elder abuse may include injuries, welts and wounds. A victim may experience disturbed sleep, dehydration and malnutrition, persistent physical pain, and increased susceptibility to new illnesses. Seniors who are abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated.
The psychological consequences may include high levels of stress and depression. Other potential psychological consequences may include an increased risk of developing fear and anxiety reactions, learned helplessness, post-traumatic stress disorder among others.
What should I do if I suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
If you notice any sign of nursing home abuse, such as unexplained injuries, lethargy or unresponsiveness, a sudden change in weight, obvious signs of poor hygiene, or any out of the ordinary behaviors, here are some things you can do right away.
- Document what happened with as many details as possible. Write down exactly what you witnessed, the room number or other location of the abuse or neglect, and the exact date and time of the incident.
- Write down the names of all staff in the area and administrators on duty. They may become important witnesses later, even if they were not directly involved in the incident.
- Contact the resident’s loved one. If you have contact information for the resident’s relative or friend, you should reach out to them and tell them what you saw.
- If possible, talk to the resident. You don’t need to say that you think you witnessed abuse or neglect, but you can ask if the resident needs anything. By doing this, you may be able to determine if the resident has any critical needs that require immediate attention.
- Inform the state. It is important to report any alleged abuse or neglect so that a full investigation can be done. You will not be liable if you make your report in good faith, even if you are wrong.
Who is responsible for reporting elder abuse?
The Elder Justice Act of 2009, as well as other federal and state laws, deals with elder abuse. In New York, only mandatory reporters are required to report possible abuse. This includes health care workers and law enforcement. Otherwise, there is no requirement for other individuals to report alleged elder abuse.
Why do nursing home neglect and abuse frequently go unreported?
An appalling number of cases of neglect, abuse, and exploitation go unreported. According to the U.S. Justice Department, caregiver neglect is the most unreported type of abuse. Only an estimated one out of every 57 cases are reported.
Many nursing home residents are physically and/or mentally frail. Their ability to see, hear, or think may have declined. Therefore, they are unable to protect themselves or demand proper care. When the decline is gradual, it may be hard to recognize abuse. An abusive caregiver may claim that allegations of abuse are just a symptom of mental deterioration. Understaffing is a serious problem in nursing homes and contributes to the problem.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, residents who are dissatisfied with their care sometimes hesitate to report neglect or abuse because they do not want to get the staff member in trouble. Residents and family members also fear that reporting the situation will further jeopardize the victim’s well-being.
When nursing home residents speak up, facility management often dismisses their allegations or staff accuse them of being troublemakers. Staff members who are aware of the situation may fail to report incidents of abuse and neglect due to fear of reprisals. They are afraid that their supervisor may reduce their work hours or that they may lose their job. These fears often lead to a high turn-over rate among nursing home staff.
Standard of Care Regulations
If a nursing home accepts Medicare, the nursing home must follow Federal Regulations regarding the standard of care. One of these regulations, 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h), requires that:
- The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as possible; and
- Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.
If the nursing home fails to comply with these regulations, and a resident is injured, the nursing home may bear liability for damages.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect is Not Acceptable
When an act of neglect or abuse harms a resident, the nursing home may be legally responsible and a personal injury or medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. The person filing the lawsuit must prove that the nursing home owed a duty of care to the resident; that the nursing home breached the duty of care; and that the resident’s harm was a result of the breach.
If someone suspects nursing home negligence, they should immediately begin documenting the facts. Take photos of any physical evidence of harm, before the injuries fade or disappear. Individuals living in nursing homes may have impaired memories, so detailed notes about what happened may be useful. It is important to collect and preserve evidence of the harm while it can be found.
Every claim for nursing home negligence does have a deadline, known as a statute of limitations. This statute requires that any legal action be filed within a certain amount of time. A qualified attorney can advise you on the time limits for your claim.
How Can the Nursing Home Lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, Help?
If you are concerned that an elderly loved one may suffer abuse or neglect, you may feel frightened, angry, or unsure about what to do. Of course, if the victim is in danger, you should take immediate action.
People live in nursing homes for many reasons, such as declining mental or physical health—and we protect defenseless residents from nursing home abuse and neglect.
For more information or a free case evaluation, call Jacoby & Meyers, LLP at (877) 565-2993, open a chat with one of our live representatives, or contact us online.