When you admit a loved one to a nursing home or another type of long-term care facility, you expect that they will be in a safe environment and provided with the medical care they need. Unfortunately, many residents of nursing homes experience abuse or negligence.
The nursing home abuse lawyers at Banks, Stubbs & McFarland can represent you in cases of abuse and neglect at a long-term care facility. Call 770-887-1209 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.
Know the Signs of Elder Abuse
The Administration on Aging defines abuse of the elderly 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.”
Elder abuse, like other types of abuse, can be:
- Financial – taking advantage of an elder’s vulnerable mental state to siphon off money from their bank accounts, for example
- Emotional – humiliating, terrorizing, or ignoring someone
- Physical – hitting and shoving as well as the improper use of medical constraints
- Sexual – any sexual contact without an elder’s consent or with an elder who is unable to communicate consent due to dementia or other mental losses, or any sexual contact between nursing home staff and residents
- Negligence – any behavior or neglect of duties that caused a nursing home resident harm.
If you are experiencing elder abuse or if you suspect someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, call 911 or the Division of Aging Services at 1-866-552-4464. If you are concerned about a certain nursing home but no one is in immediate danger, call the US Administration on Aging to submit a report at 800-677-1116.
Check in with any family member at a nursing home regularly to make sure they are in a safe environment, and familiarize yourself with the signs of elder abuse or neglect so you’ll recognize right away if something’s off. Some of these signs include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Irregular changes in mood or personality
- Development of STDs
- Poor hygiene
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Discrepancies in bank account
- Sudden weight loss
- Environmental hazards in the nursing home (like wet floors or asbestos signs)
Bedsores also count as negligence, as these are preventable and can potentially cause a lot of pain or cause dangerous complications such as infection. Bedsores are a sign that an elder has been sitting or lying in the same spot without moving for a long time. Disabled or immobile residents are the most at risk for developing bedsores, so staff members should be trained to move these patients around every two hours and regularly provide them with dry sheets and clothes. If you notice bedsores on a family member, bring it up with staff immediately, as these symptoms can progress rapidly.
Contact neglect or wrongful death attorneys for help in any case where negligence on behalf of nursing home staff led to further complications.
What to do if you suspect a family member is experiencing elder abuse from a nursing home
1. Call a Hotline
After you’ve called one of the hotline numbers listed above, authorities will move the elder to a safe place and get them any needed medical care. If a crime has been committed, the police will investigate.
2. Call a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Cases of elder abuse can be complicated to navigate and you will need an experienced elder abuse attorney by your side to help you gather documentation for your case. We are here to help. Call 770-887-1209 to speak to an attorney.
3. Know Your Rights
Both federal and state laws protect the rights of patients in nursing homes: Federal law applies to facilities whose residents are covered under Medicaid, and state law applies for all others. Abuse and negligence of elders can sometimes constitute a criminal offense. You can begin to familiarize yourself with these rights by reading over the Nursing Home Reform Act and the Older Americans Act. For more information, you can also take a look at Long-Term Care Facilities: Residents’ Bill of Rights.
Laws hold nursing home facilities liable if any of these factors or more caused harm to a resident:
- Negligent hiring (for example, hiring employees without running background checks on them first)
- Inadequate training
- Medication errors
- Abuse or financial exploitation perpetrated by staff
- Negligent supervision
- Negligent security
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can result in recovery of stolen assets and property, court-appointed guardianship, or monetary settlements. The economic damages of the abuse or negligence, the pain and suffering inflicted upon the resident, and punitive costs all factor into how much is awarded.
A Note About Arbitration Clauses
Recently, many nursing homes have started asking families to sign arbitration clauses when checking in a new resident. Signing a document with an arbitration clause waives a very important right: the right to a trial by jury. Signing such a document could severely jeopardize your ability to obtain a full recovery if your loved one is mistreated by the nursing home. It is important to carefully read over the paperwork to make sure that there is no arbitration clause.
Unfortunately, the process of filing a claim for elder abuse or negligence gets much trickier if you signed one of these clauses. If you have already signed a contract including an arbitration clause, you need to contact an experienced nursing home negligence attorney immediately to evaluate and potentially litigate whether or not the arbitration clause is valid and enforceable. Arbitration is a process by which a panel of judges instead of a panel of your peers on a jury decides the outcome of the case. It is also very difficult to appeal an arbitration award. The awards are statistically much smaller if a nursing home is able to choose the arbitrator for negligence claims made against them, to the detriment of the person that was mistreated.
However, these arbitration clauses can be overturned by an experienced nursing home negligence lawyer. If the arbitration agreement is declared valid, you will need counsel to represent you in arbitration court.
Only an experienced elder abuse attorney like those at Banks, Stubbs& McFarland can help you determine whether or not you have a case for nursing home abuse or negligence. Give us a call at 770-887-1209 for your consultation.