What Is a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
A nursing home abuse lawsuit is when the victim of nursing home abuse, or a family member, sues for financial compensation. When a caretaker at a long-term care facility causes harm to one of their patients, this may be considered nursing home abuse. Sometimes, this abuse is intentional; at other times, it is unintentional. In either event, it is still elder abuse and may be eligible for a lawsuit.
Nursing home abuse can happen for many reasons, including understaffed locations, staff burnout, or inadequate training. When this happens, staff members may take their frustrations out on their patients, resulting in long-term issues for the residents, such as health complications or financial problems. If you suspect one of your loved ones has experienced nursing home abuse, or if you have experienced it yourself, there are steps you can take to receive justice and financial compensation.
Signs of nursing home abuse
Knowing the common signs of nursing home abuse can make it easier to spot the problem before it goes on too long. Unfortunately, as nursing home abuse can occur in various ways, many signs could indicate abuse, making it harder to catch. Here are some warning signs to look for that may suggest someone has been the victim of nursing home abuse:
- Broken or fractured bones.
- Bruises, cuts, scrapes, or welts on the skin.
- Burn marks.
- Sepsis following infections.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
- Financial abnormalities.
- Depression or anxiety.
- Severe mood changes.
In some severe cases, nursing home abuse may result in wrongful death. Any sign of nursing home abuse requires immediate action.
Types of nursing home abuse
Nursing home abuse can appear in several forms. Each case is unique and may look completely different from other abuse cases. Below are some of the more common forms of nursing home abuse:
Physical and emotional abuse
The word "abuse" is often associated with either physical or emotional harm. In a nursing home, physical abuse may include hitting, punching, or kicking, along with the misuse of restraints. If a staff member uses force to harm a resident, that is physical abuse.
Emotional abuse occurs when there is no physical contact; instead, the abuse is verbal. Common forms of emotional abuse may include harassment, yelling, threats, or insults. Another form of emotional abuse is when the staff member takes action to deprive the resident of their dignity. For example, the staff member may refuse to give the resident control over daily decisions. According to a study from the World Health Organization, emotional abuse is the most common type of elder abuse. However, it is often harder to recognize this type of abuse, making it even more dangerous.
Another prevalent form of elder abuse is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes any type of non-consensual sexual contact. Common signs of sexual abuse may include bruises around the genitals or other private body parts and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual abuse happens in a nursing home more often than people think, making it important to regularly look for warning signs.
Financial abuse is when someone takes advantage of a resident for financial gain. This can include stealing or misusing money, as well as concealing funds or property from the victim. Many people in nursing homes suffer from health complications such as cognitive decline or dementia, making them particularly susceptible to financial abuse. Nursing home staff may convince the resident to authorize access to their finances or may even make financial decisions for the resident without their knowledge.
Finally, there is neglect. When a caretaker fails to provide adequate care to the nursing home resident, it can lead to significant health complications. Nursing homes are expected to provide essentials such as food, medical care, and shelter. When the nursing home neglects the resident and fails to provide these necessities, it can lead to problems such as bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, clogged breathing tubes, MRSA, sepsis, and more. Unlike the other forms of abuse, neglect is the absence of action, but it can be just as harmful.
The impact of nursing home abuse
Nursing home abuse can have both short- and long-term effects on victims. In minor cases, nursing home abuse may result in problems such as bruises or cuts, which heal quickly. However, in many situations, nursing home abuse lasts for an extended period, resulting in more significant complications. Victims of nursing home abuse may suffer from prolonged emotional distress, including depression or severe anxiety disorders. Abuse can also lead to serious physical health complications, such as infections, broken bones, or other diseases.
Finally, nursing home abuse can affect those around the victim. Taking care of a family member becomes much more stressful if that family member develops serious physical or mental complications. Nursing home abuse can also include financial abuse, and the victim's family is often affected as well.
Steps to take following elder abuse
If a person suspects that someone is the victim of nursing home abuse, or if they feel they are the victim of nursing home abuse, there are steps they can follow to take action.
Identify signs of abuse
First, identify the signs of abuse. As abuse can come in several forms, the signs can vary. For example, physical abuse may result in injuries or bruises, while emotional abuse may result in depression or anxiety. If the victim is being neglected, they may experience a decline in health from malnutrition or a lack of proper medical care. Finally, victims experiencing financial abuse may lose a significant amount of money over time for unexplained reasons. It is important to always look for signs of elder abuse and take steps to address it.
Report the abuse
If a person suspects someone is in immediate danger due to nursing home abuse, they should immediately call the police. This will help ensure that the victim receives the care they need right away. For situations where the danger is not immediate, but there is a suspicion of abuse, the local adult protective services, along with a long-term care ombudsman, can help. In addition, the police can provide recommendations on who to call.
If a person is a victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to tell someone they trust as soon as possible. This can include a family member, friend, doctor, or someone else they are close with. The Eldercare Locator helpline has specially trained operators who can provide references to a local agency for help. The phone number for the Eldercare Locator helpline is 1-800-677-1116, and it is available from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
File a lawsuit
Finally, once the victim of elder abuse is no longer in danger, they may want to consider filing a lawsuit. A lawsuit can provide financial compensation and bring those responsible for the abuse to justice. Elder abuse lawyers can discuss the specifics of a case, and they will help determine if a victim should file a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
Adverse events associated with nursing homes
While living in a nursing home, residents can experience a range of adverse events. For example, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, about 37% of all adverse events in nursing homes are related to medication. It is all too common for nursing home staff to administer incorrect medications or improper dosages, which can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Another common adverse event, according to the report, is developing an infection. This can occur when nursing home staff do not take proper safety precautions or properly monitor a resident. Finally, the report states that 1 in 3 beneficiaries of a skilled nursing facility (SNF) experienced an adverse event within the first 35 days of their stay. If you or a loved one experienced an adverse event while staying in a nursing home, you should consider speaking with a lawyer to discuss your options.
Decisions regarding liability
To determine who is liable for the victim's abuse, a plaintiff must prove negligence or intentional wrongdoing. The law considers a party negligent if they breached their duty of care. For example, if the staff at a nursing home failed to provide food or water to the victim, this is negligence. Intentional wrongdoing is when a staff member takes an action that directly harms the victim. For instance, the caretaker may physically restrain the victim when it is unnecessary or may use physical force to get the victim to comply with instructions.
If you believe another party is liable for nursing home abuse, you should report it to the proper authorities. You may also wish to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit, which will require a lawyer. The lawyer will review the specifics of a case and prove causation and damages to provide financial compensation.