Nursing Home Abuse

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Nursing Home Abuse
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Photo of an elderly man in deep thoughtHave You or a Loved One Experienced Nursing Home Abuse?

Ask a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer for Legal Advice

Nursing home abuse occurs more frequently than we would like to believe. When we put a loved one in a nursing home, we are entrusting that home with the care and health of its dependent patients. With over 1.3 million nursing home residents (CDC, 2015), over 33% will be placed in a facility that is already experiencing reports of abuse (Department of Health and Human Services, 2014). While many of the patients are elderly, this is not always the case.

Physical abuse in nursing homes can include assault, such as slapping, hitting, or pushing a patient, inappropriate restraints, burning, or medication errors. These abuses often result in unexplained bruising, gangrene, broken bones, dehydration, malnutrition, and/or bedsores. Emotional abuse includes mental abuse, verbal abuse, humiliation, harassment, or intimidation by nursing home staff. Many victims of emotional abuse may suddenly become withdrawn or easily agitated, or the victim may become aggressive.

Other abuses include sexual abuses, such as sexual assault and rape, abandonment, and theft. If not outright abusing its patients, a nursing home may still be neglecting its patients; common symptoms of neglect include unsanitary living conditions, lack of medical personnel for medical needs, dehydration, bed sores, and malnutrition. In some cases, these abuses result in the death of the patient.

What are the Statistics on Nursing Home Abuse?

It is not always easy to detect instances of elder abuse, both because they are often hidden by the home and because the victim may not have the ability to communicate the situation or may not be willing to. Further aggravating the situation are poorly trained staff, unqualified or inadequate caregivers, and possible histories of abuse at the facility and by staff members.

Let’s go over some important nursing home abuse-related statistics:

  • One study in the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect reported that 24.3% of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a nursing home.
  • Some estimate that only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are formally reported, but the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study actually suggests this number could be much higher, with possibly only 1 in 25 cases of elder abuse reported. One theory for why so many cases of elder abuse go unreported is that victims—if willing—may not be able to report their abuse.
  • Data gathered from Adult Protective Services (APS) indicates a rising number of reported elder abuses.
    In 2018, a study into nursing home abuse found that Massachusetts seemed to have the best protection for elders, while South Carolina seemed to have the worst protection.

Who is Responsible for Nursing Home Abuse?

The litigation process for nursing home abuse can be complex and heartbreaking. With abuse ranging from physical, to emotional, to sexual, to financial, each party on this list has the potential to engage in abuse or neglect to the detriment of the victims. With parties at fault ranging from families of the victims to nursing home staff and even to other residents, the circumstances surrounding each case of elder abuse are unique and deserve attention. In some cases, there may even be multiple parties involved. Parties responsible for nursing home and elder abuse may include:

  • Nursing home staff. In a poll taken of nursing home staff, over 50% confidentially admitted to having participated in one or more types of elder abuse or neglect at work. Understaffing and burnout can cause nursing home staff to lose their patience and behave in abhorrent ways, making them liable for damages incurred to the victim as a result of nursing home abuse.
  • Other residents. Other residents within the nursing home are the next most common perpetrators of nursing home abuse. There is some shared responsibility for the nursing home itself to remain aware of threatening individuals in their case, but assuming the nursing home is unaware or unable to stop the abuse, when a resident abuses another resident, the perpetrating resident is responsible for all damages incurred as a result.
  • Nursing home management. When matters of nursing home abuse occur as a result of oversight or even intentional negligence on the part of the nursing home itself, the nursing home can be held liable. Nursing home management is responsible for creating a community in which aggressive behavior is not tolerated, and encouraging individuals to suffer in silence is not tolerated. When nursing homes don’t take steps to prevent a negative/disrespectful attitude toward the elderly, they can be held responsible for any abuse or neglect that occurs as a result. Poor treatment of employees and understaffing can also lead to their employees behaving in an abusive and neglectful manner, another way in which the nursing home itself could be liable. Ineffective administration and a lack in policies set up to protect the patients in their care can allow abuse to go unaddressed and often unreported.

Do You Have a Claim for Nursing Home Abuse?

Depending on the nature of your or your family member’s damages due to nursing home abuse,your lawyer may identify possible claims for:

  • Medical expenses. Injuries resulting from abuse or negligence may increase the risk of death for a victim in a nursing home; and, in the worst case scenario, cause death.
  • Financial Loss. Financial loss of up to $2.9 billion per year have been linked to financial elder abuse—in other words, theft.
  • Lifecare expenses. Such as life support or ongoing medical expenses for chronic injuries.
  • Pain and suffering. For both emotional and physical distress.
  • Loss of care and companionship.
  • Wrongful death.
  • Funeral expenses.

If your loved one is the victim of abuse at a nursing home or if your loved one is killed due to nursing home abuse or neglect and you need to file a wrongful death claim, you need a personal injury attorney that understands the emotional and physical toll that this abuse took on the victim. An experienced attorney will be aggressive in seeking the compensation that your loved one deserves.

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