Our aging parents and elderly relatives are among the most vulnerable of people and deserve to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. Older people frequently opt to move into nursing homes or long-term care facilities to ensure that they are well cared for, and will be protected from the effects of any deteriorating physical and/or mental conditions. Ordinarily, these facilities provide a positive environment and a beneficial experience for their patients. However, older people are sometimes actually physically and/or psychologically harmed by the negligent or intentional acts of their caregivers. In institutional settings, several factors have been shown to contribute to the abuse or neglect of residents, including: poorly qualified and inadequately trained staff; staff with a history of violence; inadequate numbers of staff; the isolation of residents; and, the reluctance of residents to report abuse out of embarrassment or fear. At Jackel & Phillips we can help you sort through the issues of Nursing Home abuse or Neglect as further discussed below.
Many of us entrust the care of our loved ones to nursing homes and expect them to be well cared for. However, that is often not the case. Many nursing homes are owned by profit-oriented chains that increase their profits by short-staffing the facility. When there are not enough nurses, or when there are poorly paid nurses, you often see poor care. When nurses and aides fail to reposition people who can’t reposition themselves, pressure sores are the result. When the nursing home staff fails to ensure adequate nutrition and hydration, malnutrition and dehydration are inevitable. Malnutrition and dehydration contribute to skin breakdown and make bed sores more difficult to heal.
HOW ARE NURSING HOMES HELD LIABLE FOR ABUSE OR NEGLIGENCE?
There are many ways in which nursing homes can be held responsible for injuring others as a result of their negligence, abuse, false imprisonment, or violations of criminal statutes, as well as violations of regulations pertaining to their licensing, maintenance, and general operation. An act of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older person might give rise to one or all of the following types of 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 three types of 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 provide a remedy through an award of money damages, while the goal of criminal prosecution is to punish the harmful conduct.
WHAT IS NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE?
Nursing home negligence is a term to describe an incident involving departure from accepted standards of nursing home care on the part of a nursing home and/or their employee that causes injury or harm (See also “Medical Malpractice”). Nursing home negligence can include mistreatment, failure to provide basic care, and prescription errors, among other things. Usually, nursing home negligence is not obvious to a lay-person and requires analysis and review by nursing home negligence attorneys and their medical experts. The liability of a nursing home owner or employees, especially with regard to a civil action (lawsuit), can result from:
- Negligent personal supervision and care;
- Negligent hiring and retention of employees;
- Negligent maintenance of the premises; and
- Negligent selection or maintenance of equipment.
If a nursing home fails to administer care in a professional and compassionate manner, and you or your loved one has suffered from inadequate care, you may be entitled to compensation.
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF NURSING HOME “NEGLIGENCE?”
This is the sad part of any law practice involving nursing home litigation – learning about the many ways that loved ones have been neglected or abused in local nursing homes. During our tenure as nursing home litigators, Jackel & Phillips, has been involved with a multitude of fact scenarios, including the following:
- WANDERING RESIDENTS – Involves residents, usually of diminished mental capacity, leaving the facility alone, unattended, often times wandering away from the nursing home into dangerous situations, like traffic;
- PRESSURE ULCERS – Involves large bed sores or pressure ulcers which form because residents have not received proper skin care, nutrition, hydration, and turning. These ulcers/sores most often develop on heels and the sacrum (bottom) of elderly residents and can allow infection to directly enter the blood stream;
- MALNUTRITION – Involves health care providers who fail to provide proper nutrition and sufficient protein in the resident’s diet;
- DEHYDRATION – Involves health care providers who fail to provide sufficient water for body and organ systems to properly work;
- MEDICATION ERRORS – Involves health care providers giving too much, too little, or even the completely wrong medication;
- BROKEN BONES FROM FALLS – Falls can be from a wheelchair, walker, bed, or while walking. Brittle bones make falls very dangerous and the resulting injuries can be life-threatening. Even one fall can cause permanent injury and or death;
- BED RAILS – All too often incapacitated residents get caught in, and strangled by, bed rails because of inattentive health care providers;
- INFECTION CONTROL/ GANGRENE INFECTIONS AND AMPUTATIONS – In a large health care facility with nurses and doctors going from room to room, infection can spread rapidly and have terrible consequences;
- FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE – All too often health care providers are overworked and serious medical conditions are overlooked by staff or physicians are not notified;
Some experts maintain that neglect, caused by malnutrition, dehydration and infection account for half of nursing home deaths and injuries. Typically, you should call a Georgia nursing home lawyer if you see evidence of serious damage or injury to your loved one. Neglect may be a pattern that often takes weeks or months to identify.
If you are visiting your loved one in a nursing home and notice anything unusual – marks or bruises, depression or behavioral changes, lack of cleanliness – alert the staff as soon as possible. If these signs persist, you may have a liability claim involving nursing home neglect or medical malpractice.
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF NURSING HOME “ABUSE?”
Elder abuse (also called “elder mistreatment,” “senior abuse,” “abuse in later life,” “abuse of older adults,” “abuse of older women,” and “abuse of older men”) is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” The core element to the harm of elder abuse is the “expectation of trust” of the older person towards their abuser. There are several types of abuse of older people that are generally recognized as being elder abuse, including:
- PHYSICAL: Involves hitting, punching, slapping, burning, pushing, kicking, restraining, false imprisonment/confinement, or giving excessive or improper medication;
- PSYCHOLOGICAL/EMOTIONAL: Involves shouting, swearing, frightening, or humiliating a person. A common theme is a perpetrator who identifies something that matters to an older person and then uses it to coerce an older person into a particular action. It may take verbal forms such as name-calling, ridiculing, accusations, blaming, and general disrespect, or non-verbal forms such as ignoring, silence or shunning.
- FINANCIAL ABUSE: Involves illegal or unauthorized use of a person’s property, money, pension or other valuables (including changing the person’s will to name the abuser as heir). It may be obtained by deception, coercion, misrepresentation, undue influence, or theft.
- SEXUAL: Involves forcing a person to take part in any sexual activity without his or her consent, including forcing them to participate in conversations of a sexual nature against their will; may also include situations where person is no longer able to give consent (such as dementia)
- INTENTIONAL NEGLECT: Involves depriving a person of food, heat, clothing or comfort or essential medication and depriving a person of needed services to force certain kinds of actions, financial and otherwise.
Similar to nursing home negligence cases, if you or your loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse, you may be entitled to compensation.
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF NURSING HOME ABUSE OR NEGLIGENCE?
The signs of abuse vary considerably among older people and with the type of harm being experienced. An older person who is being abused may:
- Say she or he is being harmed;
- Seem depressed and withdrawn (signs of depression in elders are not getting dressed, not performing basic care of themselves that they are able to do, never going out even if they can, inability to sleep or sleeping too much);
- Not accepting invitations to spend time away from their family or a caregiver;
- Seem afraid to make their own decisions;
- Seem to be hiding something about a caregiver;
- Not have any spending money;
- Put off going to the doctor;
- Feel anxious and fearful;
- Try to “run away,” leaving their place of residence and not wishing to return; and,
- Seem to have too many household “accidents.”
Any of these potential signs may indicate problems of abuse or neglect, but none of these signs “prove” there is harm occurring. Rather, the presence of warning signs simply indicate that further inquiry may be necessary.
WHY SHOULD I HIRE A NURSING HOME ABUSE ATTORNEY?
If you feel that you or a family member may have been injured due to nursing home negligence, the first step is to contact a nursing home negligence attorney immediately. Not every bad result from a nursing home is the result of negligence. However, one should seek out an experienced nursing home negligence attorney who can determine whether or not the injury is a result of nursing home negligence. Usually, this requires the attorney and the attorney’s medical consultants to review records and other information to determine whether or not you have a nursing home negligence case.
WE CAN HELP
The first thing that you need to understand if your loved-one is injured in a nursing home is that it isn’t your fault. It may not even be the fault of the nursing home. Many nursing homes provide excellent care, and elderly people may become ill or die because they are old and at the end of their lives. If you contact our firm, our attorneys will obtain the medical records and the nursing home records and have them examined by qualified long-term care nurses and physicians. If your loved one’s death or injury was no one’s fault, we will be the first ones to tell you.
If, on the other hand, the death or injury was somebody’s fault, our lawyers will help you prove negligence and that your loved one’s life had value. Even though your loved one had a life that was confined to a nursing home, it was his or her life, and he or she was entitled to it. Your loved one obtained joy by making friends with other residents, perhaps by watching sports on TV, or by receiving visits from children and grandchildren. In our opinion, the fact that your loved one had a short time left makes those days or months or years all the more valuable, because they are scarce. Please call today for a free consultation about you case.