Who is Liable for Nursing Home Neglect?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Rachael K. Jones with Tilton & Tilton LLP.

Who is Liable for Nursing Home Neglect?
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Nursing home neglect and abuse has always existed, but it has notably worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With family members unable to check on their loved ones in-person, signs of neglect that might otherwise be noticed right away are going unseen. When a loved one entrusts a nursing home with the care of their loved one, they expect the same level of attention to their basic needs that the loved one would be afforded at home. When a nursing home resident does not receive the care they need, the effects can be both shocking and heartbreaking.

Neglect and abuse in nursing homes can range from mild to life-threatening, but is never okay. Physical, emotional, sexual, and even financial abuse are all risks it’s important for the family of a nursing home resident to be aware of. The physical and emotional dangers of neglect such as depression, anxiety, malnutrition, and severe bed sores to name a few are also serious and should be guarded against at all times. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect in their nursing home or care facility, don’t wait to take action. Contact a nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible to discuss their options for healing and recovery.

Parties that may be considered liable in the event of nursing home neglect or abuse include the following:

  • Nursing home staff. In a poll taken of nursing home staff, more than half admitted to having participated in one or more types of elder neglect or abuse. Experts believe understaffing and burnout are two of the primary risks which may cause nursing home staff to lose their patience or give up entirely on providing proper care. If a nursing home resident suffers due to neglect or abuse on the part of one or more staff members, those staff may be considered liable for their damages. That said, many nursing home staff members are highly committed to the health and wellbeing of their patients, and work in a particularly demanding field with little support from their administration; when a staff member engages in neglect or abuse as a direct result of managerial oversights, nursing home management may also be considered liable.
  • Other residents. Some are surprised to learn that other residents within the nursing home are considered the next most common perpetrators of nursing home abuse. While one resident cannot necessarily neglect the needs of another, the risk of abuse in such a close-knit, busy environment increases significantly. However, while another resident could be considered liable for any damages they cause as a result of abusive behavior, the nursing home may also be considered liable. Nursing home management and staff are required to keep an eye on any potentially threatening individuals and install safeguards to ensure that residents are not allowed the opportunity to abuse each other.
  • Nursing home management. It’s no secret that nursing home management poses a big problem in abuse and neglect cases. Failing to hire enough employees to prevent understaffing and burnout, or failing to hire qualified employees is considered a direct link to increased cases of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Additionally, administration is responsible for creating and upholding a community where aggressive and neglectful behavior are not tolerated, both from staff and residents. Some problems are seen so commonly in nursing home environments that management is expected to predict those risks and install reasonable safeguards to prevent harm from coming to their residents. When nursing home management fails to do so or fails to address reports of neglect or abuse, they may be considered liable for the injured party’s damages.

It’s a good idea to collect any evidence which may help prove that neglect or abuse are occurring; this evidence may include photos, witness testimonials, medical records, and more. If you suspect your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 and then report the incident to your state's elder abuse hotline, often found under your state’s Health and Human Services (HHS) department. To learn more about nursing home neglect and who the liable parties are, or for help filing a claim, reach out to an elder abuse attorney sooner rather than later.

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