At Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels, we represent individuals and families of those who have been injured or died because of the negligence of nursing home personnel. To be sure, every resident of a nursing home is feeble, ill, or otherwise in poor health. Many patients do not recover from the conditions that required the long-term care. Nonetheless, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have a duty to treat each patient carefully and with respect. The often-quoted commandment, “First, do no harm” is the minimum standard that we expect for facilities that care for our loved ones.
As people grow older, it is likely that they will eventually need additional care. Some people may be able to care for their elderly family members themselves, while others may need to hire home health aids or consider moving their loved ones into a nursing home or other assisted living facility.
While many of these facilities offer the best of care to their residents, it is important to be able to recognize signs of abuse and negligence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 500,000 adults over the age of 60 are abused or neglected each year, and it is likely that many cases that are never reported.
WATCH: “What Is Nursing Home Neglect?”
Types of Elder Abuse and the Warning Signs
The Department of Health and Human Services Administration defines abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish or deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.”
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, pushing, improper use of restraints, and the threat to inflict any of the above. Keep an eye out for bruises, pressure marks, broken or fractured bones, sprains, abrasions, scratches, burns, bloody nose, and ripped clothing.
- Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse can include rape, inappropriate touching, or even forcing a resident to disrobe unnecessarily. Watch for bruises and pay attention to any fearful or changed behaviors. Listen to any complaints about caregivers that may not include a straight explanation because your loved one may be too embarrassed to explain.
- Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse includes inflicting mental anguish through both verbal and nonverbal acts, using intimidation or threats, or denying a resident his or her right to choose.
- Financial Abuse: Misusing, taking, and/or hiding a resident’s money, property, or assets are considered financial abuse. Other examples could include a staff member befriending a resident with intent to persuade and intimidate the resident into changing his or her will and/or giving away valuable items such as jewelry and family heirlooms. Be sure to notice any changes involving how much money your loved one has in his or her possession.
- Negligence: Negligence is the failure to provide the proper care. This includes not giving residents the proper food, shelter, hygiene care, medicine, and wound care. Negligence can worsen a medical condition and can even be deadly. One common warning sign of neglect is bedsores. Bedsores form when a resident has been left too long in a bed, wheelchair, or other location. Bedsores typically start as redness of the skin, but they can worsen and penetrate deeper into the muscles and bones. If left untreated, they can become seriously infected.
- Malnutrition: Other warning signs of neglect include weight loss, which could indicate malnutrition. Malnutrition can occur from eating too little or eating foods that do not have the proper vitamins and nutrients. Sometimes, residents may eat too little due to not liking the food offered, not being served at the desired time, not having long enough to eat, or not receiving help with their meals. Weight loss could also be due to loose or missing teeth, inadequate dentures, liver failure, food allergies, prescriptions that decrease appetite, cancer, infections, smoking, and more.
- Dehydration: If you notice your loved one suffers from lightheadedness, dry skin, a decrease in urine or dark urine, or a drop in blood pressure, these could be signs of dehydration. This is a fairly easy condition to correct, but if left untreated, it could result in death.
- Abandonment: This is the purposeful and permanent desertion of a person. Seniors are often abandoned at hospitals, nursing homes, and other public places. Due to the high level of treatment that can be required, some healthcare providers leave them to fend for themselves. This can result in serious health conditions, dehydration, malnutrition, infections, and even death.
What should you do if you believe your loved one is being neglected or abused?
The first step you need to take is to either call the police or Adult Protective Services. Your priority is getting your loved one into a safe environment. The next step is to consider taking legal action. Nursing home negligence and/or abuse may be seen as a crime and could be grounds for a civil lawsuit. Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels has a history of representing those who have been harmed in nursing homes and other assisted-living arrangements.
The nursing home may be liable if it participated in the following behavior:
- Failure to keep the premises safe and maintain health and safety policies – This includes preventing slip and fall accidents, protection from other residents, and keeping clean living conditions.
- Negligent hiring – Failure to do proper background checks before hiring an individual who has a past record of negligence or abuse. This may also prove that the nursing home improperly trains and supervises its employees.
- Negligent supervision – Residents should be properly supervised to avoid falls and other accidents.
- Medication errors and inadequate medical treatment – When incorrect medical treatment or medicine is given to a resident and harm is caused, there could be a medical malpractice case filed against the facility and/or the patient’s physician.
Nursing homes are frequently involved in lawsuits. Some are sued by federal or state agencies while others involve specific family or friends who suspect abuse or negligence. Nursing homes usually have very skilled attorneys of their own who are kept on retainer full time.
You will need to talk with an attorney who has experience in dealing with nursing homes and knowledge of federal and state nursing home laws and regulations. When we accept nursing home negligence cases, we typically work on a contingent fee. There is no fee if there is no recovery. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of neglect or preventable injuries at a nursing home or long-term care facility, contact us at 740-374-5346 or fill out our contact form.