If you have a family member or loved one that has experienced nursing home abuse and neglect, you are probably experiencing a myriad of emotions.
Guilt. Sadness. Fear. Confusion.
You feel guilty that you placed your loved one in a nursing home. You are sad about what happened to them once they were there. You fear the future and how they will be treated moving forward. You are confused about how all this could have happened in the first place.
First of all – you have no reason to feel guilty. You did nothing wrong. You placed your parent, spouse or grandparent into a nursing or assisted living facility because it was your only option. You couldn’t care for them on your own, and you couldn’t afford to hire in home help. But you knew that they needed more than you could provide.
So you investigated the facilities that are close to you, toured them, met with their staff members, read the reviews, and chose a suitable facility for your loved one. You trusted that they would take care of them.
But they breached that trust – this is not your fault.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect cases are some of the most egregious types of personal injury matters. The elderly who live in these facilities can’t take care of themselves and they don’t have family members that have the training or time to care for them around the clock. The nursing home or assisted living facility is intended to step in when your or your family members are unable to provide the care that your loved one needs.
When your family member is abused or neglected or worse, you are confused and aren’t sure what to do.
Many times you don’t understand what happened or why it happened. You just get a call that your loved one has fallen, or developed an infection, or suddenly and unexpectedly passed away without any logical explanation as to why.
You have questions. You need answers. You don’t know where to turn.
At The Hart Law Firm, we can help you to investigate what happened and get you the answers you deserve about what is going on with your loved one or what happened that caused them to suddenly pass away.
What is the Difference Between Neglect and Abuse?
It is important that you understand the difference between nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. These are two distinct types of conduct. Nursing home neglect is far more common than nursing home abuse.
Nursing home neglect is where the nursing home failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care to watch over and care for their patient. The failure of the nursing home staff to act appropriately is what caused patient harm.
Nursing home abuse is far more egregious. This is where a staff member has actually physically or mentally abused the patient. Typically the act that lead to the abuse was intentional. Although less common, this could also happen where a staff member exerts undue influence over the patient that allowed them to obtain access to the patient’s financial accounts or even change their estate planning documents.
Early Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, the best way to prevent abuse or neglect is to observe the early warning signs. Nursing home injuries can happen slowly, over time. If you aren’t paying close attention, you may not notice them until it is too late.
Here are some of the common warning signs:
- Your formerly talkative loved one has started to become silent and withdrawn, especially in the presence of nursing home staff
- Staff members may become overly protective of your loved one, unwilling to let you spend too much time with them alone
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or welts
- Your loved one has lost their appetite or is unwilling to eat or take medication
- Multiple falls within a short period of time
- Uncharacteristic mood swings or verbal outbursts
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Frequent turnover in nursing home staff or change in ownership or management
Just because you notice these changes does not necessarily mean your loved one is being abused or neglected, but it does mean that you should monitor the situation closely and investigate if the behavior continues or if it doesn’t seem “right” to you.
How Does Nursing Home Neglect Occur
Nursing home neglect can take a variety of forms. Typically, the problem arises due to a systematic failure on the part of the nursing facility. So if you notice a change in management, ownership of the facility, or frequent staff turnover, these can all be signs that there are problems which could lead to a neglectful situation.
You should also watch to see if the nursing home has reached its limits as to the number of patients or if there is a significant drop off in residents. Resident turnover is common, but if the facility is losing patients and not filling those beds, it could be a sign of larger problems.
Your loved one may have developed bedsores. This is frequently caused because a bedridden resident is not turned frequently enough. Every nursing home should have a system for managing this, and making sure that residents are watched after to prevent bedsores. If you begin to notice the early warning signs of bedsores, it could be because the facility has systemic problems in their training of staff, or they are not monitoring the patients frequently enough. The presence of bedsores could be a symptom of a much larger systemic problem that is permeating the facility.
A common problem at many nursing homes is under-staffing. You should ask about the staff to resident ratio, and how many patients each nurse or doctor must manage. The staffing issue is frequently with the certified nursing assistants. This is an entry-level position that requires minimal training for anyone to perform. However, it is difficult and physically demanding work. If one staff member has to start doing the job of two CNA’s, it can frequently lead to them cutting corners end not attending to patients as frequently as they should. This is one of the most common causes of nursing home neglect.
Negligent Hiring or Training
Along those same lines, if the facility hires hourly wage workers without conducting the proper background checks or training them appropriately, then this can also lead to cases of nursing home neglect. At a minimum, the nursing home staff should have a clean criminal record, and receive training in such areas as: how to safely lift and move a patient, how to bathe and maintain the physical hygiene of their patients, frequency and techniques to move bedridden patients so as to avoid bedsores, and how to properly assist the patients with feeding and drinking.
Basically, they should be able to help the patient to safely perform any activity that a normal person would do for themselves. If the facility has not properly trained their staff, then it can lead to neglectful behavior.
Nursing homes are staffed with nurses who are responsible for medicating the patients. Many elderly patients are on multiple medications with strict requirements. The facility should have a system in place to make sure that the proper patients are receiving the proper medication at the proper time. If any of those responsibilities are breached, it can lead to significant injuries, including adverse reactions, illnesses, or even death.
New technologies has made it easier and easier for nurses to comply with the medication requirements of their patients. But as with any system, dispensing medication requires a human to input the correct information. If there is any hiccup along the process, it can lead to issues. If these issues cause harm to your loved one, them you should reach out to a nursing home neglect lawyer for assistance.
Lack of Infection Controls
One of the unseen killers in nursing homes is infections. If one resident becomes sick, their illness it can easily spread to other patients if not properly contained. The elderly are at a significant risk for illness from infection because their immune systems are weakened. And when they do get sick, they frequently stay sick much longer and experience more intense illnesses than a younger, healthier patient.
But infections can be easily controlled with proper systems and management. Between frequent hand washing, use of gloves, gowns and masks, and proper awareness of which patients are sick and which are the most vulnerable to illness, the spread of infections can be prevented or severely limited.
Unfortunately, many facilities just don’t follow proper protocols and a simple cold from one patient can turn into a much more severe condition that infects multiple patients.
But infection controls are needed for much more than preventing colds. Nursing home staff are frequently in charge of changing dressings for wounds, cleaning patients after they use the toilet, changing bedpans, brushing teeth, and any number other activities that expose them to contact with fluids, including blood, spit, mucus, and human waste. Failure to maintain proper infection controls when coming into contact with these substances can greatly increase the risk of infection for everyone at the facility.
Common Injuries that Result from Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing homes are highly regulated by both Federal and State laws. These laws are intended to protect the residents of the nursing facilities. When a nursing home violates those laws, injuries can occur.
Here are some of the common injuries that will result from nursing home neglect:
- Bedsores, also known as decubitus or pressure ulcers
- Broken bones resulting from preventable falls
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Choking and suffocation deaths
- Wrongful death
- Elopement, also known as “wandering off”
- Sexual assault
- Injuries related to understaffing
Many of these injuries are caused by a failure of the nursing home to follow proper safety regulations as required by Federal Law, North Carolina Statutes, or other Administrative Regulations.
The North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation is the governing body that oversees nursing homes in the State of North Carolina. If a nursing home violates State or Federal Laws, we will investigate the allegations of abuse and determine whether a violation occurred. If so, then we can help you to file a claim and if necessary, take your case to court to prove that the nursing facility acted negligently and that negligence caused the injuries to your loved one.
How Can Nursing Home Injuries be Prevented?
The best way to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect injuries is to identify the early warning signs listed above. The second best way is for the family members to hold the nursing homes accountable when an injury occurs. This can only be done through proper investigation by a nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer and, if necessary, filing a lawsuit against the nursing facility.
Nursing homes are corporate entities. Many of the parent companies own nursing homes throughout the State of North Carolina, the Southeast region, and even the entire United States. Needless to say, they aren’t hurting for money. But if enough people step forward to hold a nursing home accountable for role in abusing and neglecting our older generation, then their profits will suffer and they will make changes.
Prosecuting these cases isn’t just about the families we are helping, it’s also about the many other families that we can help indirectly by forcing these facilities to change their practices. Don’t get us wrong, our clients are our top priority. But if we can help future nursing home residents to avoid possible abuse or neglect, we think that is ok too.
Now don’t get us wrong, there are many wonderful facilities that take excellent care of our elderly population. But there are also many that are understaffed, mis-managed, and fail to adhere to the proper standards of care for a nursing facility licensed by the State of North Carolina.
We need to praise the good facilities and hold the bad facilities accountable for their actions when a resident is injured because they were neglected or abused.
How To Hire Our Firm
At The Hart Law Firm, we work with the families of patients that have been injured due to nursing home neglect or abuse. To hire our firm, you should start by calling us at (919) 887-8582 so that we can learn more about your situation and how your loved one was injured. Alternatively, you may fill out our online contact form.