Nursing homes provide invaluable care and assistance to our loved ones who cannot adequately care for themselves due to age or health-related issues. And while we often entrust them with our loved ones’ well-being, sometimes they fail in their duties and harm patients – by accident or negligence.
Unfortunately, you might not know what to do if you suspect abuse in a nursing home. The legal team at Nicholas, Perot, Smith, Welch & Smith recommends you take legal action and hold nursing homes accountable, which can push such facilities to correct their practices.
But how come nursing homes sometimes take advantage of society’s most vulnerable members? Can we stem this tide of injustice? For answers to these and more questions, read on.
The Rights of Nursing Home Residents
Nursing home residents have certain fundamental rights that facilities must uphold and respect. These include the right to:
- Access information and necessary services with dignity
- Participate in meaningful activities
- Voice complaints free of fear of retaliation
- Manage their financial affairs
- Be informed of their health care options
These rights are enshrined in federal and state laws and in facility policies. Thus, all nursing home staff should strive to uphold these rights while providing compassionate and competent care that meets the needs of their residents.
Even so, due to their vulnerability, residents sometimes bear the brunt of abuse or neglect. Some of the typical cases of abuse residents face include:
- Bedsores due to inadequate care
- Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
- Malnutrition and dehydration resulting from lack of supervision or oversight
- Improper medication leading to drug overdose or interactions
- Financial exploitation
- Slip-and-fall accidents due to unsafe facilities
Fortunately, when residents’ rights under the Nursing Home Reform Act are violated, their families can pursue justice and compensation for their losses. Don’t sit in silence as your loved one goes through the wringer; take action to ensure they get the care they deserve.
Taking Legal Action
You can stop the abuse by promptly taking action, especially if you have justifiable reasons to suspect your loved one is in harm’s way. Usually, this involves informing local authorities, such as the Department of Elder Affairs in your state, and seeking assistance from a lawyer.
By filing a report, you allow the authorities to investigate and determine whether the nursing home broke any laws or regulations. Some of the typical offenses such facilities are culpable for include:
- Gross negligence – neglect and abuse
- Failure to meet health, safety, or hygiene standards
- Intentional criminal misconduct
- Willful infliction of harm
- Staffing shortage and absence of trained personnel
If investigators conclude the nursing home is liable for causing harm, you can bring a lawsuit against it and possibly receive financial compensation or punitive damages from the court. Likewise, if the facility fails to address your concerns, a personal injury case is an option you can consider.
When nursing home abuse is suspected, investigations typically ensue. The aim is to gather evidence and determine the extent of the abuse. Generally, the law obligates facilities accepting Medicaid or Medicare to conduct a thorough inquiry and make reports to the local authorities.
Likewise, the facility may investigate reported cases of abuse. That said, the personnel responsible for the investigation should have relevant training and expertise in evidence gathering and preservation. With that in mind, an investigation involves:
- Noting down the date an incidence or suspicion of abuse was reported
- Identifying and interviewing relevant parties connected to the case
- Reviewing documents, including medical records and photos
- Conducting physical examinations
- Analyzing the witness’s statement
- Drafting a conclusion outlining the measures the facility should take to prevent a repeat of the incident
- Documenting the findings and presenting a report to the relevant authorities
Accountability for Nursing Home Abuse
Holding nursing homes accountable can prevent further abuse or cases of negligence. The law must also come down hard on facilities that break the rules and infringe upon resident rights. Such legal sanctions could include:
- Civil and criminal penalties
- Revocation of licenses or operating permits
- Suspension of public funding
- Temporary closure of the facility
At times, the state may order a provisional remedy, such as hiring an independent monitor or administrator to take over the facility’s management. Besides prosecution of criminal cases, victims or their families can file personal injury lawsuits against the nursing home in question (as earlier pointed out).
We owe it to our elderly loved ones to ensure they are free from harm. Also, the onus is upon nursing homes to adhere to industry standards and take serious measures to prevent abuse and negligence. And when all the parties involved in ensuring quality resident care are held accountable, incidences of abuse can reduce.