According to Adult Protective Services, reported cases of nursing home neglect and abuse are on the rise, even as the vast majority of incidents go unreported to authorities.
Great strides in medical technology have led to the longest-lived population in United States history. Today, more than 40 million people are aged 65 and older; of those, nearly 6 million are older than 85. Sadly as this trend continues, the number of nursing home neglect, abuse, and injuries is also steadily increasing.
If you suspect a friend or loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, read on to learn how to identify signs and symptoms, what elder-care facilities are required by law to provide, and how the Dysart Law Firm can help families in Missouri and Illinois seek financial restitution in cases of elder abuse and nursing home injuries.
What Constitutes a Nursing Home Neglect or Injury?
Mistreatment of the elderly at nursing homes, hospitals or long-term-care facilities includes abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and the signs can manifest in physical, emotional and financial ways.
Remember: Nursing home abuse can occur even if there was no intent of harm on behalf of the caregiver.
Examples of nursing home neglect and abuse include:
Physical Abuse: Physical violence and punishment, sexual abuse, strangulation, improper use of drugs and restraints, force-feeding.
Neglect: Unclean living environment, untreated bedsores or injuries, inadequate food or water, extreme temperatures, poor hygiene, falls, abandonment.
Exploitation: Nursing home fraud (under the federal False Claims Act), theft, providing and charging for unnecessary treatments or services, significant changes to a will or trust, unauthorized transfers in bank accounts, missing material possessions.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Nursing Home Injuries?
As the U.S. population ages, the need for skilled nursing home care is greater than ever. Unfortunately, the number of well-trained providers is not keeping pace with the growing demand, and as a result, many facilities are severely understaffed with high rates of turnover — and it’s to the detriment of their residents and families. Worse still are the facilities that intentionally run with fewer than needed workers in order to turn a larger profit (typically between 20 and 30 percent, according to a study from U.S. News & World Report).
And that’s not just bad business. It’s illegal. The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA) was passed in 1987, and it requires that nursing homes employ a “sufficient nursing staff to provide nursing and related services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.” Besides registered nurses, staff should also include licensed practical nurses, trained medication assistants and certified nursing assistants.
But that doesn’t always happen. Faced with chronically understaffed and overworked caregivers, elderly patients can suffer from isolation, bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration and increased risk of infection.
How Can I Take to Reduce the Risk of Nursing Home Neglect and Injuries?
Before entrusting a friend or loved one to a nursing home or long-term-care organization, it is vital to be prepared with research and questions. This nursing home checklist from Medicare.gov is a great resource. It provides dozens of questions, ranging from the frequency of the facility’s fire drills to availability of storage space to whether there has been a change in administration during the past year.
Listen to — and take seriously — the words of the patient concerning their care, and step in immediately if you suspect abuse. Consider too that you may have options other than nursing homes, such as adult day care and home healthcare.
How Can I Recognize the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse?
Patients with disabilities and dementia are among the most likely to abused. This stems from the increased amount of stress and depression that comes from caring for patients with additional needs, as well as the decreased likelihood that these patients will report the abuse. Look for:
Physical Signs of Abuse: Broken bones, unexplained bruising, and abrasions, restraint marks on wrists or legs, torn or bloody clothing, broken eyeglasses, bruising or infections in the genital area.
Physical Signs of Neglect: Poor personal hygiene, untreated bed sores, weight loss, dehydration, unsafe or unclean living environment.
Emotional Signs of Abuse or Neglect: Drastic changes in mental health or cognition, tense relationship between patient and caregiver, depression.
Financial Signs of Exploitation: Unexplained financial transactions the older adult would ordinarily be unwilling or unable to make, drastic changes to wills or other financial documents, missing personal effects, charges for unnecessary services, duplicate billings, inadequate staff.
How Can a Lawyer Help in Cases of Nursing Home Injuries?
Not only can Dysart Law Firm help gain compensation for losses the elderly and their families have suffered at the hands of abusive healthcare organizations, but it also sends a powerful message to other nursing homes and facilities: They are required by law to operate businesses that are properly staffed with well-trained, highly qualified personnel who respect the quality of life and dignity of the patients who are entrusted to their care.
One study showed that more than half of long-term-care residents who had been diagnosed with a painful medical condition reported that their caregivers failed to provide medication and pain relief in a timely way. (As an example, even bedsores are to be monitored and evaluated from week to week.) What’s more, federal guidelines that were put into place as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act require specific plans for pain treatment, how to implement that treatment, and patient reassessment should his or her condition change. If these steps aren’t taken, a supervisor and attending physician should be notified.
And yet they so often are not, leading to the worsening health or unnecessary suffering of a patient — avoidable side effects resulting from a facility’s systemic negligence.
Those in Missouri or Illinois who feel their loved ones have experienced pain and suffering in nursing home abuse or neglect cases have a right to seek financial restitution in a civil lawsuit. The Dysart Law Firm, P.C., offers free, no-obligation consultations to victims and their families who wish to learn more about their rights under the law.
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