Although you’d like to believe that you’ve selected a reputable nursing home for your elderly loved one and they’re being properly cared for, this may not be the case. Many injuries to nursing home residents aren’t reported, leaving families unaware of what kind of situation their loved one is in.
Here’s what you should know about underreporting in nursing homes and how to get legal help if your loved one was a victim of nursing home negligence.
Why Do Nursing Homes Fail to Report Resident Injuries?
Often, nursing homes neglect to report injuries to residents because they do not believe the staff or the facility to be at fault. They fail to realize that all injuries must be documented, not just those that are clearly the fault of the nursing home. Other times, facilities simply choose not to report because they want to keep their numbers low.
What Injuries Are the Least Reported?
A public data analysis conducted by Integra Med Analytics and published in August of 2020 suggests that injuries to nursing home residents are significantly underreported. The three most commonly ignored injuries in U.S. nursing homes include:
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are painful sores on the skin and tissue underneath caused by putting pressure on an area of the body for an extended period of time. For example, when nursing home staff fail to turn immobile patients in their bed, they can begin to develop severe bedsores on bony areas of their body, like the tailbone, hips, and ankles or heels.
Pressure ulcers tend to go unreported because they are easy to hide and are clear indicators of neglect; patients who are properly cared for almost never develop bedsores. The Integra report suggests that over half of nursing homes underreport this injury.
Urinary Tract Infections
Another highly underreported injury in nursing homes are urinary tract infections (UTI). UTIs are more common among women than men and are more often than not related to inadequate care of the patient.
For example, immobile patients with a catheter that is not kept clean can easily contract a urinary tract infection and subsequently potentially a fatal kidney infection. Patients who are using incontinence products may not be changed frequently enough, creating the perfect environment for a UTI.
Many nursing homes also do not properly report falls in an effort to reduce the appearance of negligence on their part. Nursing homes have a responsibility to have a fall prevention plan in place for all patients and to take extra care with patients who are at a higher risk of falling or being injured from a fall. If your loved one has unexplained bruises or broken bones and the nursing home did not notify you of a fall, they may not be reporting.
Was Your Loved One Injured in a Nursing Home? Get Help Now
If your loved one was hurt in a nursing home, it may have been due to negligence or maltreatment from facility staff members. Nursing homes have a responsibility to their patients to provide adequate care based on each patient’s individual needs, however, due to understaffing and budget cuts, many nursing homes fail to meet their obligations towards patients. This often results in patients becoming injured or otherwise harmed by the carelessness or negligence of the facility.
Your family may be entitled to compensation. Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC for more information about your rights to pursue justice for a neglected loved one in a nursing home. Call now at (855) 693-9084 for your consultation.
While it may be difficult to tie nursing home neglect to wrongful death, it’s important to understand what a family can do in the event of their loved one’s death. Kevin McCullough of Mazow McCullough law firm talks about how nursing home wrongful death cases are different than other wrongful death cases. Listen or read more to find out about wrongful death in nursing homes.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Kevin McCullough of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about wrongful death cases involving nursing homes. Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin: You know, John, unfortunately they are quite common, in that people are living longer. They’re unable to take care of themselves, and/or don’t have family members who are able to take them in and take care of them. So, we’re seeing more and more people going into nursing homes or assisted living facilities, which leads to more issues and incidents resulting in wrongful death occurring at those facilities.
Nursing Home Neglect May Lead to Death
John: We hear a lot about nursing home neglect or abuse happening in nursing homes. Are those things related to actual fatalities in nursing homes as well?
Kevin: They can be. We see a lot more on the neglect side than we do on the abuse side. It does occur, but it is rare to have staff members proactively abusing or hurting residents at nursing homes or nursing facilities. But, something that is quite common is the neglect aspect, and that usually results in the facilities having too many patients that they can handle and just not enough staff to take care of the patients. So, patients are sitting for longer periods of time, whether it’s on the same sheets on their bed, unable to have their bed pans changed or unable to get assistance to and from the bathroom, different dietary restrictions, unable to get some help with eating or food, or just simply getting from their room to the dining area to get a meal. So, we are seeing a lot more of the neglect side and neglect type cases at these nursing facilities.
John: Okay, so because that cause is really the lack of care or something not happening, does that make it very difficult to tell if a loved one has died of natural causes or of wrongful death because of that neglect?
Kevin: You know, oftentimes it can be difficult. If someone suffers a fall at a nursing facility, it’s easy to pinpoint that trauma or that incident resulting in death, but the neglect cases over time can be difficult if they do lead to death, or a wrongful death claim can be difficult to trace or track. It’s important, as family members, when you go up to visit a loved one, to be mindful of your surroundings, of what you’re seeing, the interaction with the staff, and you and the staff and your family member or loved one. If you notice things that just seem out of the ordinary or don’t make sense, to speak up, ask questions, document things on your end — because if something happens resulting in death and it’s a result of a series of activity or failing to do a certain activity over time, it can be difficult to prove or to trace back to the staff of the nursing facility. So, you do want to be mindful of that when you’re visiting and going up to take care of a loved one or family member.
How Nursing Home Wrongful Death Cases are Different
John: Okay. What are some of the things that make a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit different from other types of lawsuits?
Kevin: You know, John, there are a number of different things that make nursing home wrongful death claims different from other types of claims. What we see, and we’ve seen it for years now and we still see it, is the difficulty that can come about with proving causation of the death to a certain event or a certain incident, in that the people who are living at these assisted living facilities are just either older or physically unable to do certain things. When you’re trying to prove causation of an event or that a certain event caused someone to die or pass away, it can be difficult if someone has a long list of preexisting issues or preexisting health problems.
Those are some of the complexities that we work through that are a little bit different in the nursing home facility arena, but we also see the insurance companies for these nursing facilities are so much more proactive these days. What I mean by that is they are literally changing the game in the playing field in that when you now go to bring a family member, a loved one, to a nursing facility and you sit down to do that initial meeting or that initial intake, the residency agreement that the facilities are having the patients and the family members sign are legal and binding contracts. These nursing facilities are adding language to those contracts to make it difficult to pursue the nursing facility or staff member if they have done something wrong, and difficult to recover from the nursing facility or staff member if they’ve done something wrong.
A good example of that is they are including these arbitration provisions in these residency agreements, which basically completely takes away the ability to sue in court and have your day in court before a jury to decide whether or not the nursing facility or staff members have done anything wrong. And if what they did do wrong or fail to do led to the death of your family member or loved one, they’re changing the arena that you are allowed to fight and pursue, and they’re forcing these families to go to arbitration, which is . . . it can be a pretty cold procedure that unfolds. It’s not nearly as formal as a court proceeding, but it takes away a lot of the different rights and remedies that you may otherwise have in court by adding this language to those residency agreements in contracts.
John: Who is the arbitrator if you do end up going into arbitration? Who gets to decide who that arbitrator is?
Kevin: That’s a great question, John. What we’re seeing so far is that the nursing facilities are requiring these disputes to be arbitrated, but they don’t specifically name arbitrators or the names of individuals who may hear the evidence. The provisions that we’re seeing in these contracts simply state that your only forum to seek redress is by way of arbitration, and if the parties cannot agree upon an arbitrator, they each get to select a proposed arbitrator, and then the two arbitrators actually decide on the ultimate arbitrator who will hear the case and make findings on the case. Great question, though, John.
John: Yeah, so it would be important then to choose an arbitrator that you feel really comfortable with. If you have gotten into this situation where you have signed one of these contracts like you said, that has an arbitration clause in it; at least you’ll be able to get somebody on your side who you can trust.
Kevin: Yeah, it would be great if these facilities would allow some input from the residents or the family members who are coming to them with their family members and loved ones, but what we’re seeing is that they just simply add this language into the contracts, which leaves it out there with some uncertainty as far as who hears it. But, as you mentioned, there is a little bit of comfort level in that if you can’t agree upon an arbitrator with that nursing facility that you may be battling with or against because of the loss of a loved one, you do get to select an arbitrator who can help lead you to the ultimate hearing officer who will make the decisions on that case.
John: All right, that’s really great information, Kevin. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Kevin: Thanks for having me, John.
John: For more information on personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com, or call 855-693-9084.
There are many types of abuse nursing home residents may face. Kevin McCullough, of Mazow McCullough law firm, talks about what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse. Listen or read more to find out about nursing home abuse and lawsuits.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Kevin McCullough of the law office of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about nursing home abuse cases. Kevin, welcome.
Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.
John: So, Kevin, what is nursing home abuse? How is that defined?
Kevin: Nursing home abuse is where a nursing facility or one of its employees will proactively take steps or actions to try to harm a patient who’s at the facility, which can be a lot different than neglect — and sometimes those terms get commingled and it can be confusing — but a neglect is a job or a requirement that the nursing home or the staff members are required to do but they’re just failing to do it, or an act where they’re trying to do something to help the patient but they’re just doing it completely wrong. And an abuse case can be completely different in that the staff members are proactively trying to hurt or harm the patient.
John: Okay. So why would that occur? Why would a nursing home abuse occur?
Kevin: We see different reasons, John, why that occurs. Oftentimes, these nursing facilities can be understaffed and the staff members just can’t keep up with the demand as far as what’s going on at the facility and taking care of the patients, and there are also levels of frustration. Dealing with elderly people and people that require constant help from eating to cutting food to using the bathroom or using the facilities, can be a very frustrating and challenging thing in time, and oftentimes, it can lead to high emotion, and if the facility is understaffed, these employees are just lashing out at these patients on occasion.
John: Right. Like you said, maybe they’re just frustrated with their job overall, and then, like any situation where you have two people working in close contact with each other, you have personalities there that maybe aren’t going to get along with each other, but this would be the case where somebody who’s working at that nursing home facility may just be taking that out on that person intentionally with that intent to harm.
Kevin: Yeah. We see that sometimes there are just bad actors out there and they are trying to hurt the patient, and other times they’re completely frustrated and overwhelmed, and what they’re doing is acting out on the patients which is resulting in harm or injury to that patient.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
John: Okay. So what are some of the signs that a loved one might be a victim of nursing home abuse? If I go to visit my family member who is in a nursing home facility and I’m maybe starting to suspect something, what are the signs that I might see?
Kevin: The easy ones, John, are the signs that are physical, whether it’s redness, puffiness, swelling, bruising, cuts, but we can’t forget about the emotional signs that may be there. If your loved one or family member is not talking as much as they typically would, they may be doing that out of fear for retaliation or further threat or harm from the staff member or employee. So, as a family member, it’s important when you’re visiting your loved one to make a note of that.
Are they acting their usual self or typical self, the way that they’re communicating with you and interacting with you? Are they being too quiet? Don’t be afraid to pry into that if they are being a little too quiet.
And the other end of that spectrum is maybe they’re being too talkative. Maybe they just don’t want you to leave because they’re worried about what can happen if you do leave. So, we have the easy signs that are there to look out for, for the physical signs, but there are also the emotional signs that we need to look out for and what’s different about that loved one or family member.
What to do if you Suspect Abuse in a Nursing Home
John: Okay. So what can a family member do if they believe that their loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse?
Kevin: Yeah, if the family member suspects in any way any form of abuse going on at a facility, they should immediately speak to a supervisor at that facility. And they should immediately speak to someone that’s in control of that facility. Sometimes, we just have to go with instinct and with our gut, and if your instincts and your gut tell you to call the police, then you should call the police.
If it gets to that level, whether it’s the signs or symptoms of physical injury that you see, or just the dangerousness in what’s going on, things can happen instantly at a nursing facility and we can lose loved ones, unfortunately, quickly at nursing facilities if they’re just not taken care of and properly cared for. If you think you should call the police, you should call the police, but at a minimum, speak to the staff member and speak to the people in charge of that facility.
When to Hire an Attorney
John: Okay. And when would I get an attorney involved in this, and what do you do as an attorney when you find out about a potential nursing home abuse case like this?
Kevin: If the initial abuse or the abuse that you suspect is obvious enough and bad enough that it’s affecting the patient and you see the evidence there, you should contact an attorney immediately. There’s no harm in doing that, in getting an attorney involved to maybe request some of the treatment records or medical records of that family member or loved one to see what’s getting documented and what’s not getting documented.
You don’t want to wait too long. That’s part of the issue on the balance that you have to have as a family member. You know, do you get involved too soon or do you wait a little bit longer, and you just don’t want to wait until it’s too late. So, if you suspect any wrongdoing or abuse at a nursing facility to the point that you’re calling the police, you should also be contacting an attorney to see whatever civil rights or remedies may be available to you, and obviously if the family member’s been harmed or injured in any way, contact the police, but also reach out to an attorney to see if they can help you with that situation.
Deciding to Move your Loved One
John: Should I move my loved one from that nursing facility to a different facility first while the case is going on or while that’s being investigated, or should I leave them where they are during that course of action?
Kevin: That’s a great question, John, and that really goes to the severity of the issue and what you’re dealing with for the abuse and any injury, if there is an injury present, and how severe that it was. Obviously, if you’re at a phase where you’re suspecting certain things going on and you’re still gathering information, it may not be a good thing to request a change of the location for that family member or loved one. It may be overwhelming to them. They may not want to move. You may be wrong in that assessment that you have.
But, ultimately, if you do see physical signs of abuse or your family member or loved one is telling you of certain activity going on where they’re being abused, you should definitely remove that family member and loved one from that facility. Get them to a new location, get them the treatment that they need and the oversight that they need. You want them to feel comfortable when they’re at these facilities.
John: All right. That’s really great information, Kevin. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Kevin: Thanks for having me, John.
John: And for more information on personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call 855-693-9084.
Discovering a loved one has suffered abuse in their nursing home or assisted living center is a family’s worst nightmare. Abuse can come from staff, but unfortunately, elder abuse also comes from other residents. In fact, resident-on-resident abuse is quite common and very under reported.
In a 2014 study, Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College evaluated 2,100 residents in 10 nursing homes over a month-long period. Researchers discovered that 407 residents faced at least one aggressive incident with another resident. That is one in five, or 20%, of all residents.
What Constitutes Resident-on-Resident Abuse?
Resident-on-resident abuse includes verbal, physical, or emotional altercations as well as inappropriate sexual conduct or even unwelcomed entry into another resident’s room. In rare instances, abuse can even be fatal. Participants in the Cornell study reported the following types of abuse:
Screaming, yelling, or cursing
Physical incidents involving kicking, biting, and hitting
Unwelcomed entry or snooping in another’s room
Signs of Abuse
Elderly, frail, vulnerable nursing home residents often fear retaliation from their abusers, or they lack the cognitive ability to report abuse. To protect your loved ones, you should know the following common signs of mistreatment:
Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
Unexplained bruising, especially around thighs, buttocks, or breasts
Sexually transmitted diseases
Withdrawal from family visits and social activities
When choosing a nursing home for your loved one, look at state surveys and reviews. Medicare also collects information on nursing homes across the country, so you may want to check out its site for more information.
On top of that, you may want to ask if prospective facilities participate in the SEARCH program. In 2014, researchers began implementing the SEARCH program within nursing homes to avoid abuse. SEARCH stands for Support, Evaluate, Report, Care plan, and Help. This program is a way to train staff on how to better identify and handle resident-to-resident abuse. As initial outcomes hold promise, it’s hopeful that SEARCH will be implemented in nursing homes across the nation, and your loved one could benefit from living in a facility that has those safeguards in place.
Studies show family involvement increases the quality of care received by long-term nursing home residents. Ideally, you should monitor your loved one’s treatment at the home you’ve chosen, and you should do so on a regular basis with the following tips:
Talk with other residents. Observe their behavior and check their physical well-being. Visit with their families if possible to learn if they have experienced problems with abusive treatment.
Meet regularly with key personnel such as nurses, aides, social workers, administrators, and doctors.
Visit frequently, varying the times of the day and evening that you visit.
Avoid facilities that have restricted access.
Trust your sense of sight, smell, hearing and touch. Notice if residents are clean, well-fed, and free of bruises or other injuries. If the environment feels peaceful, that’s indicative of a safe and respectful quality of life for the residents.
Document problems or concerns in writing with lots of details.
What To Do If Your Loved One Faces Abuse
If you suspect abuse or neglect, you should take action. Anyone can make a complaint against a nursing home or an assisted living facility. You can submit both verbal and written complaints to the licensing and certification branch of the state health department, and you can request that the home be inspected to substantiate the complaint. Usually, the government makes a surprise visit to the facility within 10 days of receiving the complaint.
At that point, an investigating inspector collects and evaluates all evidence, including witness statements and facility records. Then, the inspector determines if the complaint is valid or not. If the complaint is substantiated, the investigator notifies the person who made the complaint about the determination. If you are not satisfied with the determination, you can request a formal hearing or a review by an appeals unit.
Always be careful about speaking with the administrators of a facility, as they may be involved with the abuse. Consider reaching out to the local ombudsman and remember that assault is a crime — you can contact the police on another resident if necessary.
Taking Legal Action for Nursing Home Abuse
If you suspect your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect, you can take private legal action anytime by taking the facility to court. There may be a statute of limitations, meaning that you have to bring your case forward within a certain time period of the abuse occurring. To be on the safe side, you should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible.
They can answer your questions, let you know about your rights, and help to make sure your loved one is in a safe situation. Then, they can offer guidance about how to proceed with legal action. To learn more and to set up a free case evaluation, contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC today.
Nursing home neglect can range from food or water deprivation to administering medications incorrectly, to failing to respond to calls for assistance. It can also include allowing patients to wander. When an elder is living in a nursing home, the staff has a duty to provide care and safety. If they allow the resident to get hurt or injured by wandering around without supervision, that may constitute nursing home abuse and/or neglect. Keep reading to learn more about protecting your loved one’s safety and their rights.
Reasons for Wandering
Patients with dementia are the most likely to wander. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 6 in 10 dementia patients have at least one wandering incident. Patients wander because they are confused and looking for somewhere familiar, but they also wander in search of food and water, medication, or a bathroom. Sometimes, nursing home residents wander due to confusion brought on by medications.
Types of Wandering in Nursing Homes
Wandering can refer to any situation where a care facility allows a patient who needs supervision to roam the facility alone. Wandering may be classified in any of the following categories:
Agitated Purposeful Wandering — These patients tend to be upset, though the reason can be real or imagined. They may be aggressive or unwilling to cooperate. To prevent wandering, the nursing home needs to address the underlying cause of their agitation.
Recreational Wandering — Sometimes residents simply want to walk around because they need more activity. Recreational wandering tends to happen when the facility fails to provide ample exercise and fitness opportunities.
Elopement — Elopement occurs when staffing and security is so inadequate that patients can wander out of the facility on their own.
Environmental Cuing — Different environmental factors can trigger wandering behavior. Even something as simple as a long hallway can cause some to wander.
Fantasy and Reminiscence — When a patient is no longer aware of their actual surroundings, they sometimes wander through an imagined environment such as an old home where they used to live.
Risks of Wandering Incidents
When allowed to wander, patients may leave the building, which puts them in danger from being hit by vehicles, falling, or drowning. They may get lost and potentially become the victim of sexual or physical abuse. In the winter, wandering can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, and complications with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Wandering inside the facility can increase the risk of falls and life-threatening accidents, or the patient may end up in the kitchen or other areas where there are dangers such as knives and stoves.
How to Prevent Wandering
Identifying at-risk residents is the first step to reducing wandering incidents. At-risk residents should be encouraged to sit with other residents at lunch, join social activities, and get regular exercise. Often, wandering incidents happen in the first few days when a patient is in a new facility, and during this time period, the staff needs to be especially vigilant.
Additional prevention measures include the following:
Train staff to identify patients who are at the highest risk for wandering
Have ample staff members
Secure doorways to prevent elopement
Place alarms on doors or use video surveillance so that staff know if patients try to leave
Consider using GPS technology to track patient locations
Implement systems that notice when patients are missing
Lock doors leading to unsafe areas, such as kitchens and roofs
When nursing homes don’t take reasonable precautions to protect their residents, the nursing home may be negligent and by extension, they may be liable for any injuries that occur.
Nursing Home Liability
When a nursing home lets a patient wander, that’s a serious indication that the facility is not taking precautionary measures to keep residents safe. People live in nursing homes because they need supervision, help with daily activities, and access to doctors and nurses.
Typically, they cannot take care of themselves, and wandering puts them in a situation where they are often alone and without any assistance. If injuries or even death occurs because they are allowed to wander, the nursing home is liable.
If your loved one has been hurt or if they have died due to a wandering incident, you may be entitled to compensation. A nursing home abuse attorney can talk with you about your case, help you assess your damages, and fight for justice.
At Mazow | McCullough, we helped the family of a victim of nursing home neglect win a $625,000 settlement, and we may be able to help you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
The majority of nursing homes are understaffed. This serious problem has plagued nursing homes for decades — it puts patients in danger and is a major contributor to nursing home neglect. If you or a loved one has been subject to negligence or abuse related to inadequate staffing in nursing homes, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages.
Reasons for Understaffing
Costs are a major contributor to understaffing. Nursing home managers often claim that they have to cut payroll costs so that they can afford the rest of their overhead, but in many cases, this is simply an excuse to safeguard their profit margins. Additionally, due to low wages, nursing homes tend to have difficulties attracting and retaining quality staff members.
Prior to 2010, nursing homes self reported their staffing levels to the government, and typically, their reports were unverified. As of 2010, the Affordable Care Act requires nursing homes to submit payroll records to Medicare. According to some of the payroll records that have been collected, the staff-to-patient ratio at most nursing homes fluctuates regularly from 1:8 to 1:18, or even higher. When patients need a lot of care, one staff member for every 18 people isn’t enough.
Although the government doesn’t require nursing homes to have a certain staff-to-resident ratio, it does require nursing homes to have a registered nurse on hand for at least eight hours a day, seven days a week. In spite of that rule, payroll records from the last quarter of 2017 reveal that a quarter of all facilities did not have any registered nurses working.
Since 2014, health inspectors have cited one in eight nursing homes for having too few nurses on staff. The weekends tend to be the worst — on average, nursing homes have 11% fewer nurses working on the weekends and 8% fewer nursing aides than they do during the week.
Understaffing Consequences to Staff
When a facility doesn’t have enough staff members to take care of its operational needs, the existing staff members face an overabundance of tasks. That creates a stressful environment with employees frequently working long back-to-back shifts without breaks, leading to even more turnover and exacerbating the understaffing problem.
Overwhelmed employees are more likely to make mistakes administering medication, and they tend to skip necessary tasks such as changing bed linens, helping patients with physical therapy, bathing patients, and even feeding patients. Additionally, as the stress mounts, some employees become abusive.
Understaffing Consequences to Patients
The vulnerable patients who live in nursing homes depend on their caregivers for food, medication, bathing, grooming, exercise, and other essentials. If the nursing home is understaffed, the patients face a greater risk of malnutrition, bedsores, dehydration, infection, and pneumonia. Over time, these issues can become worse and worse.
When a facility is understaffed, there aren’t enough caregivers to perform simple tasks such as turning a bed-ridden patient. When these patients aren’t moved regularly, they tend to get painful skin conditions, infections, or bedsores, and they may experience muscle atrophy due to the lack of movement. That, in turn, places even more pressure on the already overwhelmed staff members. If they are not able to give the patient help, the infections and bed sores spread, and the muscular atrophy becomes even more serious.
Similarly, if patients don’t receive their medications due to understaffing, their symptoms can worsen. If they aren’t fed, they are likely to become malnourished and weak. Again, that creates a repetitive cycle that can become nearly impossible to break. Often, when family members come into the nursing home, they end up feeding their loved ones or providing other care that should be provided by the staff at the nursing home.
What to Do When Your Loved One Has Been Affected by Understaffing
If your loved one has been affected by understaffing at their nursing home, they may have suffered from malnutrition, lack of medication, or a variety of other issues, and they may be entitled to compensation for hospitalizations, medical bills, and pain and suffering related to their mistreatment and neglect.
If your loved one died in a nursing home and you believe understaffing may have contributed to their death, your family may also be able to get compensation for your loss — although money can never bring back a loved you, a wrongful death suit can help you to pay for old medical bills and get justice for your loved one.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we recently helped a woman win $625,000 in a case involving nursing home neglect, and we may be able to help you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Sexual abuse in nursing homes and care facilities is on the rise. This form of elder abuse is arguably the worst possible kind, and although it’s mostly a hidden problem, it’s also a nationwide epidemic. If you believe that you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home sexual abuse, you are not alone, and there are ways to get help.
Sexual Abuse by the Numbers
The Administration for Community Living monitored sexual abuse in nursing homes in all 50 states, and over a 20 year period, the group received reports of over 20,000 cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes. That figure doesn’t take into account abuse committed by other residents, and it also doesn’t take into account the countless cases that go unreported every year.
A study by the minority staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, found that U.S. nursing homes were cited for 9,000 cases of abuse between January 1999 to January 2001. Shockingly, as 5,283 nursing homes were involved, that’s nearly one third of all nursing homes in the United States.
Most of problems included untreated bed sores, malnutrition, dehydration, preventable accidents, inadequate medical care, and lack of sanitation and hygiene, but 1,601 of the violations caused physical or sexual harm to the residents. In some cases, nursing home staff were accused of physical or sexual abuse, and in others, staff were cited for failing to protect residents from other residents. The report also stated, that nursing home abuse has increased every year since 1996.
Why It’s a Hidden Secret
With such high rates of abuse, it can be hard to figure out why nursing home abuse and sexual abuse in particular seem to be such a hidden secret. Sometimes, facility owners don’t want to reveal or deal with abuse because they’re worried about their reputations and profits. Families often don’t want to face the abuse or just may not believe that it’s actually happening.
Tragically, many sexual abuse victims have conditions such as Alzheimer’s that hinder their ability to communicate and alter their perceptions of reality. As a result, when these patients report sexual abuse, it’s often dismissed by the nursing home staff, the managers, and even the victim’s own family. Additionally, the low wages offered to most nursing assistants makes it nearly impossible for facilities to find and retain quality and qualified workers, and workers often lack the required training to spot sexual abuse, which also keeps offenses from even being reported.
In 2017, CNN reported that over 1,000 nursing homes had been cited for mishandling suspected cases of sexual abuse. But these reports also showed that the police tend to be reluctant to believe victims’ allegations of abuse, due to their failing memories or confusing allegations. Beyond that, regulators have failed to flag patterns of repeated allegations against single caregivers. These systemic failures make it difficult for victims to get justice, while also making it easier for sexual predators to get away with their crimes.
Know the Signs of Sexual Abuse
Again, due to age, dementia, fear of their abuser, or other conditions, victims of sexual abuse are not always able to tell their families or loved ones they’re being abused. For that reason, it’s important to understand the physical and emotional signs of abuse:
Unexplained infections or sexual transmitted diseases
Ripped or bloody underclothes
Unexplained bruising, particularly in intimate areas
Visible and excessive fear and apprehension around certain persons
The elder person blaming themselves for minor problems
Visible depression or anger, especially when these symptoms have not been present in the past
Rocking, sucking, or mumbling (referred to as false dementia)
It’s also critical to remember that both women and men are subject to rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
If you are a victim of nursing home sexual abuse or if you believe that your loved one is being abused, it’s important to report it. Always be careful about approaching the nursing home, unless you truly believe that the management will help you and not rush to cover the abuse. If you believe that the nursing home may be at fault, speak with an attorney and the police first. Notifying the nursing home may give them time to erase records and destroy evidence.
If the district attorney determines that there is substantial evidence to substantiate criminal behavior, the state will file charges against the nursing home. However, even if no criminal charges are brought forward, you may still be able to bring a civil suit against the nursing home or other liable entities.
Legal Help for Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, lawsuits against nursing homes are difficult and complex. Many nursing homes are owned by corporations that avoid lawsuits by flooding the opposing legal team with paperwork. If you decide to bring a suit against a nursing home, you need to hire an attorney who is ready and able to handle the process. Ideally, you want a personal injury lawyer with experience in nursing home and sexual abuse cases. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us today at Mazow | McCullough, PC.
The National Safety Council reports that choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the country. Of the approximately 5,000 people affected annually, over half are older than 74. Tragically, choking isn’t always an accident. In nursing homes, choking can be due to neglect. Often, caregivers ignore risks associated with choking, and they fail to supervise or assist patients who ultimately end up choking to death.
Negligence at Mealtimes
In terms of choking, the most dangerous time in a nursing home is mealtime, especially for residents who require very attentive care. Sadly, a lot of nursing homes are understaffed, and they have employees who simply dish out plates of food without monitoring the patient’s consumption. This inattentiveness can result in malnutrition and dehydration, but also serious choking incidents.
Primary Causes of Choking in Nursing Homes
Elders, especially those in nursing homes, often suffer from medical conditions that heighten their risk of choking. Patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and various other conditions cannot eat safely on their own. It is imperative that nursing home personnel assist these residents while they eat to make sure they don’t fill their mouths too full and that they safely swallow their food.
Even though federal laws require that nursing homes keep adequate staff on duty, many patients don’t get the assistance they need. Nursing home residents may choke for any of the following reasons:
Ill fitting dentures
Inability to control muscles due to nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy related to strokes or neurological disorders such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Dehydration causes a dry throat and a thick tongue, making it difficult to chew and swallow.
Epilepsy or seizures due to other conditions
Failure to accommodate dietary needs — for instance, if a patient needs foods cut into small pieces so they can swallow, failure to do that can lead to choking
Eating without supervision or assistance
Failure to perform the Heimlich maneuver or other life saving remedies in a timely fashion
As you can see from the examples above, swallowing food can be difficult for some nursing home residents. When nursing homes don’t enforce dietary restrictions or when they employ staff who fail to assist or supervise residents, they put people at risk of choking, which may cause serious injury or death.
Preventing Nursing Home Residents from Choking
Nursing homes are required to keep their patients safe, and that includes taking precautions to prevent patients from choking. Patients who have difficulties swallowing should also be examined to assess the severity of their conditions. If their doctor prescribes a specialized diet or monitoring to prevent choking, those instructions should be included in the patient’s chart and all nursing home caregivers should be made aware of these guidelines. If a staff member is underqualified or not properly trained and someone dies from choking, the nursing home could be held accountable.
Is Choking Abuse?
The National Center on Elder Abuse and the US Department of Health and Human Services defines elder abuse 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 can include physical and emotional abuse, exploitation, and neglect.
Physical restraint, isolation, or inappropriate use of medical procedures used as punishment or against doctor’s orders
Inappropriate conduct likely to cause physical or psychological harm
Threatening or menacing conduct that results in fear or mental distress to a resident
Based on these definitions, allowing someone to choke when the situation is avoidable can be a form of elder abuse.
If you or a loved one has choked due to neglect from your caretaker or your nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation. Depending on the situation, you may be able to receive compensation for medical bills, physical pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life as well as other damages. To learn more about nursing home abuse, contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC for a free case evaluation.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 47.8 million people over the age of 65 living in the United States. This group represents close to 15% of the population, and as more and more baby boomers reach retirement age, this number is only going to grow. Unfortunately, however, society is not caring for and protecting this vulnerable part of the population—elder abuse statistics are shocking and deeply saddening.
How Many People Are Affected by Elder Abuse?
Based on the most recent elder abuse statistics from the National Council on Aging, approximately one in ten seniors have experienced some form of elder abuse. Most officials believe that elder abuse statistics only tell part of the story. The vast majority of abuse never gets reported.
Nursing homes should be caring facilities that help aging people through their final years, but tragically, a significant portion of nursing homes are linked to some type of nursing home abuse. A report presented to Congress in 2001 revealed that between 1999 and 2001, 5,283 nursing homes in the United States were cited for harm or neglect. That’s one-third of the country’s nursing homes. In fact, 1,600 of those nursing homes were cited for elder abuse that was linked to serious injury or death.
How Many Nursing Home Residents Face Elder Abuse?
Different studies and surveys put forward a variety of different elder abuse statistics, but none of them paint a positive picture of the situation. In a survey from the The Atlanta Long Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program, 44% of nursing home residents reported abuse, and 48% reported that they had been treated roughly.
States are supposed to monitor the condition of nursing homes, but according to the US Government Accountability Office, 70% of federal comparative surveys find mistakes and deficiencies in state surveys. In 45 states, 40% or more state surveys overlooked issues, and these surveys aren’t just overlooking the small issues. Approximately 15% of federal comparative surveys found that state surveys failed to report issues of serious harm to nursing home residents.
Who Is Most Likely to Suffer from Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse affects a range of people, but there are certain risk factors that can make someone more susceptible to abuse. Female nursing home residents are more likely to be affected by nursing home abuse than their male counterparts. Abuse is also much higher among disabled patients, especially those with dementia. Additionally, elders in poverty, with low levels of social support, and previous histories of abuse are at a higher risk of facing abuse.
What Are the Results of Elder Abuse?
In addition to physical responses such as bruises, broken bones, and constant pain, seniors face a lot of other reactions to elder abuse. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a direct link between nursing home abuse and increased mortality risk. On top of that, many elders suffer from emotional distress and depression, and based on the True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse, financial abuse costs elders $36.48 billion per year.
Elder abuse statistics are shocking, but the fact that this situation is common does not make it okay. If you or a loved one has been affected by nursing home abuse, we can help. Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today at (855) 693-9084.
Sadly, women are generally more likely to be affected by nursing home abuse than men. There are multiple reasons for the increased risk, and to protect yourself or your loved ones, you should understand the signs and be proactive in cases where you believe abuse is occurring.
1. The Majority of Elders Are Women
A primary reason more women are likely to face nursing home abuse than men is simply because there are more women than men in long term care facilities. There are only 89 men for every 100 women between the ages of 65 and 69, and the difference grows as people get older. For people over the age of 90, there are only 38 men for every 100 women. Overall, there are approximately 3.6 million more women over the age of 65 than men.
2. Women Often Have More Risk Factors Than Men
There are certain risk factors that are strongly linked to nursing home abuse, and women are more likely to have these risk factors than men. Women live longer, and age typically correlates with an increased risk of elder abuse. Additionally, many elder women are widows, and social or familial isolation can also cause someone to be more prone to abuse.
A prior history of abuse has also been linked to an increased risk of nursing home abuse, and throughout their lives, women have statistically faced more abuse than men. For example, 90% of sexual assault victims are women.
3. Many Women Face Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Women often deal with physical, emotional, and financial abuse in nursing homes, but they may also face sexual abuse and rape in care facilities. There are limited statistics on the number of women who experience sexual abuse in nursing homes, but federal data shows 16,000 complaints from 2000 to 2017. That’s approximately 1,000 cases per year, but many cases go unreported so the actual numbers may be even higher.
4. Women with Disabilities Often Deal with Higher Rates of Abuse
When a woman has a disability, she may face an even greater risk of nursing home abuse. In one study of institutionalized adult women, 21% reported nursing home abuse in the form of interpersonal violence, but one third of women with disabilities reported issues. That is an increase of over 50%.
5. Many Nursing Homes Have Multiple Citations Against Them
The federal government has cited over 1,000 nursing homes around the country for sexual abuse. When you take into account that there are only 15,600 nursing homes in the country and that many cases of sexual abuse are never reported, those numbers are shocking. Additionally, 100 of these nursing homes had multiple citations related to rape or sexual assault.
6. There Are Many Signs of Nursing Home Abuse in Women
Generally, if a woman is facing nursing home abuse, there are often visible signs. Victims of physical abuse may go to the emergency room more often, and they tend to have unexplained bruises and fractures. In cases of sexual abuse, women may have urinary tract infections, pelvic pain, or bruises on their upper thighs.
These women may be reluctant to let anyone see their injuries because they often fear that their abuser may retaliate if anyone finds out about the abuse. They may start showing changes in emotions or behavior, and they may begin to recoil when friends or loved ones try to touch them.
7. Financial Abuse is a Factor for Women Too
Women often face financial abuse as well, especially in cases where a woman may be suffering from medical conditions that result in deteriorating memory or a decreased ability to communicate. The signs of financial abuse can be easy to spot if you know what to look for. For example, an elderly woman who is facing financial exploitation may not have enough money to pay her expenses. She may suddenly change her will, give possessions to others, or make unusual purchases with her credit card.
If your loved one is female and currently lives in a nursing home, it’s even more important that you are aware of the signs of nursing home abuse. If you suspect that abuse is happening, get help as soon as possible. Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC to learn about your rights and determine if you should bring forward a lawsuit.