Nursing Home Abuse

As our loved ones reach their golden years, often times our families do not have the resources or skills needed to address the needs of older individuals who are either sick or require special medical care.  Our only choice is to delegate that care to a skilled nursing facility. When these facilities assume the responsibility of caring for our elderly loved one, a trust relationship is created by the facility, the elderly person, and his or her family.

This is why it is especially sad to know that approximately one out of every ten elderly individuals will experience some type of abuse in a nursing facility.

As the baby boomer generation reaches its golden years, our reliance on nursing facilities is skyrocketing.  Last year, one in eight adults aged 85 or older resided in a nursing facility.  Nationally, 1.4 million of our grandparents, parents, siblings and other loved ones reside in a nursing home facility.

Why is nursing home abuse so common?

To understand why nursing home abuse is so common, it is important to understand how these facilities get paid.  A substantial portion of our population aged 65 or older, nearly 15%, live below the poverty line.  A much greater percentage of our population aged 65 or older rely on Medicare, Medicaid and other public assistance programs to meet their health care needs.

As a result, nursing home facilities bill Medicare and Medicaid for their services, and are paid set rates.  Since these facilities cannot increase the costs of their services without Medicare/Medicaid approval, to increase profit margins, these facilities will do one of two things:

  1. Accept a higher number of patients at their facility without increasing or improving staff and services or;
  2. Cut their costs. This usually comes in the form of the quality and quantity of staff.

What are examples of nursing home abuse?

Usually, nursing home abuse or neglect will come in the form of negligent conduct, or failure to provide adequate services.  Unfortunately, we have also seen many cases of intentional abuse against the patient as well.  The different types of nursing home abuse and neglect are wide ranging and can include:

  • Bedsores
  • Medical neglect, such as failure to provide needed medication or health care services, or adequately meet a patient’s mobility needs
  • Personal hygiene neglect, such as failure to provide adequate help with laundry, cleaning, bathing, brushing their teeth, or other forms of hygienic practices
  • Basic needs neglect, such as failure to provide reasonable food, water, or a safe and clean environment
  • Emotional abuse such as threats, humiliation or isolation
  • Unlawful use of a patient’s financial resources
  • Falls
  • Sexual abuse

What are the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect?

Although every patient is different, if you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected in their nursing facility, you should look for the common signs of abuse:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Bedsores, or pressure ulcers
  • Injuries from nursing home falls
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Withdrawn elder behavior, or unusual changes in behavior
  • Changes in personal hygiene or appearance efforts
  • A growing lack of friendly interaction with the nursing home staff
  • A growing lack of friendly interaction with the other nursing home residents
  • Environmental hazards, such as poor lighting, slippery floors, unsafe mobility equipment, or unsafe furniture in the nursing home patient’s room

Is nursing home abuse and neglect common?

Unfortunately, it is.  The following are just some of the statistics on nursing home abuse:

  • Between 1999 and 2001, almost one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violations of federal standards that could cause harm, or that did harm elderly residents of those facilities;
  • Nearly 10% of those homes had violations that posed a risk of serious injury or death, or that did cause deaths of elderly residents;
  • More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
  • Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
  • More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.

What should I do if I suspect that my loved one is being abused or neglected in their nursing home facility?

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from physical, medical, or emotional abuse at a nursing home facility, there are many legal remedies you should pursue immediately.

Nursing home facilities are heavily regulated at the Federal, State and sometimes local levels.  Your state has resources to have nursing home abuse investigated:

Maryland:  http://form.dhmh.maryland.gov/Pages/Complaint-Form.aspx

Virginia:  http://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/as/aps.cgi

District of Columbia:  https://dhs.dc.gov/service/adult-abuse

In addition to reporting abuse to the authorities, your loved one may have a claim for monetary damages against the nursing home facility.  It is important to consult with a experienced attorney who will properly investigate your loved one’s claim.  Unfortunately, your loved one is likely not the only patient who has suffered abuse in the facility, and it is important to discover whether an institutional failure led to the abuse or neglect.

For a free consultation, please call the nursing home abuse attorneys at Dross Berman LLC.