Nursing Home Neglect

neglect-nursing-home-patientNursing home negligence is a serious problem affecting thousands of Americans annually. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 2,500 people died in US nursing homes in 2019 alone. That's roughly one person every two days.

Unfortunately, this growth hasn't come without problems. Many nursing homes fail to provide safe environments for their residents. They also often neglect to properly monitor and supervise them, leading to injuries and deaths among residents due to nursing home negligence.

Do you suspect your loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse? The nursing home abuse lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, are legal advocates for all residents harmed by others. Our nursing home neglect and abuse lawyers have helped many older adults and their families get compensation for their suffering in a nursing facility.

Call us today at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form for immediate legal advice and schedule a free legal case review. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

What Is Nursing Home Neglect?

According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nursing home neglect is a tragic but all too common issue in the United States. In 2017, over two million abuse allegations were reported, including elder abuse and neglect cases in nursing facilities nationwide.

And while many people associate nursing home neglect with physical abuse, it can also occur without physical contact.

For example, negligence can be in the form of medical neglect. It might include instances where a caregiver doesn't provide enough food, water, or medication, clean up spills, or adequately supervise a nursing home resident.

According to the National Center for Victim Services, 15.3% of elder abuse complaints involve nursing home neglect. Contrary to popular belief, most nursing home centers don't mistreat their vulnerable residents.

Unreported Cases of Negligence

Nursing homes prevent neglect by providing adequate staffing and training caregivers to recognize signs of elder abuse and negligence. However, even well-intentioned nursing homes sometimes fall short when protecting their vulnerable residents.

In addition, nursing home neglect often goes unreported because victims fear retaliation from facility staff. Call the Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, for a free legal case review if you suspect your loved one has suffered nursing home negligence, such as elder abuse or lack of essential medical care.

We have extensive experience representing clients who have suffered from nursing home neglect. Our attorneys will investigate your case thoroughly and aggressively.

Nursing Home Neglect Versus Abuse

Nursing home neglect involves failing to provide necessary care, whereas nursing home abuse is intentional injury or maltreatment.

Nursing homes are required to report suspected incidents of elder abuse or neglect of older adults. If you believe another person has harmed your loved one, call 911 immediately. You can file a complaint against the abuser with local authorities.

What Causes Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect occurs when a resident suffers serious harm due to a lack of proper care. While many factors contribute to nursing home neglect, inadequate staffing is one of the most common reasons. A study published in 2018 found that almost 20% of nursing home residents suffer abuse and neglect annually.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services defines "nursing home neglect" as "any act or failure to act on the part of a facility or its employees that creates a risk of substantial physical or psychological injury, disease, impairment, or death."

Negligence in a nursing facility includes things like failing to prevent falls, failing to protect against infections, or failing to ensure adequate nutrition.

Neglect in nursing homes can take many forms, including:

Inadequate Staffing

Nursing home staffing levels are often inadequate, leading to poor supervision and poor quality of care, including mental health and medical neglect.

A study published in 2018 found that about one-third of caregiving facilities had fewer nursing home employees, including nurse aides and registered nurses, per patient day than recommended by federal regulations.

Negligent Hiring Practices

Nursing homes across America often fail to properly screen potential employees. They may not conduct adequate background searches, check references, or interview applicants. Some nursing homes don't require applicants to take standardized tests like the GRE or ACT.

Some nursing homes simply ignore federal laws requiring them to ensure workers aren't convicted felons. These lapses put nursing home residents at risk of nursing home abuse and neglect. One study found that nearly 15% of nursing home staff working in skilled nursing facilities had histories of prior incarceration.

Poor Training In Nursing Homes

According to the World Health Organization, the death rate in nursing homes is higher than in hospitals, which is a problem. The US Department of Health and Human Services says there are more than one million deaths yearly among people 65 or older — nearly one-third of all deaths. But only about 10 percent of those deaths occur in nursing homes.

Neglect in nursing homes partly occurs because they don't always follow standard procedures when caring for their residents. For example, they might use outdated equipment or fail to implement new safety measures.

Lack Of Oversight By State Agencies

Many states don't adequately oversee nursing homes. That means they cannot enforce standards and hold nursing homes accountable if they violate them.

For instance, Illinois requires nursing homes to have an infection control plan. However, the state doesn't inspect these plans until after a resident dies from an infection or suffers significantly declining health.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing homes are supposed to provide high-quality care for older adults with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, physical disabilities, or other physical and mental health conditions. However, there are many ways nursing homes fail to meet those standards.

Nursing home neglect occurs partly due to poor management practices. Other times it's due to negligent acts committed by employees.

In either case, the consequences can be devastating. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, one out of every five deaths among seniors living in a caregiving facility is caused by nursing home neglect.

If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect, here are some signs of mistreatment to watch for in your family's demeanor and overall appearance:

  • Poor personal hygiene: Residents should bathe regularly and keep clean, including washing hands with soap before meals and using hand sanitizer.
  • Lack of medical attention: Nursing home centers should ensure that residents receive adequate medical treatment. They should monitor vital signs such as blood pressure and temperature regularly. Otherwise, the repeated lack of a doctor in the facility could be considered medical neglect.
  • Unsafe environment: Nursing homes and assisted living facilities should protect residents from falls and infections. They should make sure that rooms are well-lit and free of clutter. A hazardous environment is nursing home neglect.
  • Nursing home abuse: Every nursing home staff member must prevent elder abuse and neglect. They should keep records of incidents of nursing home abuse and report them to law enforcement officials immediately, as required by law.
  • Lack of food: Residents should eat three balanced meals each day. They should get enough calories and protein. Not getting adequate nutrition clearly shows nursing home abuse or neglect.
  • Loneliness: Residents should access activities like group exercise classes, art therapy, music therapy, and social visits. They should help residents to participate in religious services and cultural events.
  • Unsanitary environment: Residents should not live in unsanitary areas. All areas of the nursing home should be kept clean and sanitized. Additionally, nursing home patients with mobility issues should be able to wash with assistance at regular intervals.
  • Disrespectful treatment: Nursing home staff members should treat residents respectfully. They should avoid yelling and screaming at residents. Unacceptable verbal communication is blatant nursing home abuse.
  • Denial of medical needs: Nursing homes should give residents all necessary medications.

If your loved one has been neglected or suffered nursing home abuse at an assisted living facility, contact our experienced nursing home neglect lawyers today for a free legal case review. We will help you pursue justice on behalf of your family member.

Signs & Symptoms of Elder Neglect In Nursing Home Residents

Nursing home centers and assisted living facilities are supposed to provide quality care for seniors and prevent elder abuse. But many elderly residents aren't getting the best medical attention because of poor staffing levels and inadequate training.

Pressure ulcers, broken bones, bruises, burns, dehydration, and urinary tract infections can occur if a nursing home resident isn't receiving proper care.

If you suspect your loved one is being neglected, here are some warning signs:

  • Bruises: Bruising occurs when blood vessels break and leak blood into surrounding tissues. It's most common in areas where bone meets muscle, including the arms, legs, back, neck, and face.
  • Unexplained injuries: Unwitnessed falls and altercations could lead to unexplained injuries, including physical harm like sores, welts, and cuts.
  • Broken bones: A fractured hip, broken leg, or skull fracture could indicate nursing home abuse or a negligent fall.
  • Burns: A burn occurs when heat damages cells in the body. The damage may cause scarring and permanent disfigurement.
  • Dehydration: When people lose too much water through their urine, or sweat, or don't get enough fluids daily, they become dehydrated. Signs include dry mouth and tongue, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and confusion.
  • Infections: An infection is an abnormal growth of germs in the body. Common diseases include colds, flu, pneumonia, ear infections, sinusitis, strep throat, UTIs, and other bacterial infections.
  • Lack of nutrition: People who don't receive adequate nutrition often suffer from weight loss, weakness, and low energy levels.
  • Unnecessary pain medication: Some drugs used to control pain can make it harder for patients to sleep, leading to insomnia.
  • Unsanitary conditions: Poor hygiene can spread disease-causing bacteria throughout a nursing home.
  • Malnutrition: Malnourished residents have difficulty eating correctly and digesting food. They're more likely to get sick and require hospitalization.
  • Physical nursing home abuse includes hitting, kicking, shaking, pinching, biting, burning, choking, and restraining.
  • Sexual abuse includes non-consensual fondling, oral sex, anal sex, and rape. It is the most heinous type of nursing home abuse.
  • Falls happen when someone loses their balance. Falls can be caused by weak muscles, lack of coordination, dementia, medications, or vision problems. If a resident is prone to falling, they should have staff always ready to help them ambulate.
  • Medication errors: Medications prescribed for older adults can be confusing and dangerous. Errors can result in side effects like diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness, hallucinations, confusion, and death.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infections of the bladder, urethra, kidneys, or prostate gland. Symptoms include frequent urination, painful urination, cloudy urine, fever, chills, and general discomfort.
  • Physical or chemical restraints are a clear sign of nursing home abuse. They happen when staff restraints the resident with no apparent medical benefits, which can be physical or chemical. The latter happens when employees give residents too much of a drug to make them tired or sleepy so they don't require much attention.

Bedsores And Nursing Home Neglect

Pressure ulcers (bedsores, pressure sores, pressure wounds, decubitus ulcers) are open skin lesions that develop when soft tissue under the skin becomes compressed. Pressure ulcers usually form over bony prominences, such as heels, elbows, knees, hips, shoulders, and head.

They are quick to develop if nursing home staff is not attentive enough, especially with patients with low or zero mobility, from being bound to a bed or a wheelchair for long periods.

Stages of bedsores:

  • Stage 1 is when the skin is mildly irritated and red but does not have open wounds. There are no breaks in the skin, and the only symptoms are pain and redness. The redness doesn't blanch, meaning it doesn't whiten when you push your finger on the reddened area.
  • Stage 2: The skin has peeled away and most likely produced an ulcer at this stage of bedsore, which would be quite painful or uncomfortable for an elder. These sores may resemble a scrape, blister, or shallow crater inside the skin and will continue to spread into deeper layers of the tissue. The skin is already undergoing severe, possibly permanent damage.
  • Stage 3 involves a deeper sore than stage 2, which usually extends into the deeper layers beneath the broken skin. A small, visible crater is formed that may have dead or fatty tissue in it. While deep, it does not show bone or tendon involvement.

Surgery is just one of the methods that must be used to remove dead tissue. After that, the wound is treated to prevent infection. Treatment for bedsores in stage 3 can be challenging, mainly if pressure is not released from the affected area.

  • Stage 4: Due to the extensive tissue loss and dead nerve endings at this stage of bedsore, the elderly person may not even feel sore or perceive pain. However, the wound is severe, with a vast crater that might be exposing joints or perhaps bones. This stage of bedsore may harm deeper bodily tissue, tendons, and joints. If a sore becomes severely damaged, medical attention is vital.

Consequences of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing homes are supposed to provide quality care for residents, but many nursing facilities fail to meet basic standards of cleanliness. A recent survey found that nearly half of nursing home centers and assisted living facilities had been cited for patient safety and infection control violations.

Some nursing homes fail to provide adequate care because of poor housekeeping practices.

A lack of proper cleaning can lead to numerous problems, including:

  • Bad odor
  • Dirty skin
  • Ill-fitting, unclean or damaged clothing
  • Unclean bed linens
  • Infection risks

The consequences of nursing home neglect can include:

  • Physical injuries
  • Emotional neglect leading to distress
  • Personal injury
  • Loss of independence
  • Death

Steps to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Nursing homes are one of the most dangerous places for older adults. But there are ways to prevent nursing home neglect.

The problem is that some nursing home centers don't take proper precautions to avoid neglect, leaving residents vulnerable to elder abuse and mistreatment.

Nursing home neglect or abuse is generally caused either by inaction or action. Inaction can include failure to provide adequate staffing levels or training, inadequate screening of prospective employees, lack of proper communication among nursing home staff members, or insufficient oversight of residents.

Action includes physical abuse, sexual assault, drug use, financial exploitation, and mental illness. These incidents can lead to serious injuries, infections, falls, dehydration, malnutrition, and even death.

Steps to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect include:

  • Criminal background checks: A criminal background check can help identify people who aren't suitable for elder care positions.
  • A flexible care plan: An assisted living facility should keep track of a patient's health and change care plans as needed. If someone needs more attention because they accidentally set their house on fire, the facility must provide extra care.
  • Staff training: Staff must understand how to handle emergencies and recognize signs of nursing home neglect. They should receive regular training about safety issues and know what to do if they see suspicious elder abuse.
  • A system of checks and balances: The facility should have an internal review process that allows nursing home staff members to report any concerns. It also should have an external review process that involves independent agencies.
  • Regular inspections: Facilities should be inspected regularly to meet state requirements. Inspectors look at whether staff members are appropriately trained, whether the facility has enough supplies, and whether it provides safe conditions for residents.
  • Ensure there are enough staff members on duty: Nursing home centers often hire temporary workers when they're shorthanded, meaning fewer staff members could be available to watch over elderly residents during peak hours.
  • Keep records: Records are essential in case something goes wrong. For example, if a resident dies unexpectedly, the facility must show that it followed all necessary procedures and that it wasn't caused by nursing home abuse.
  • Have a plan for when residents become ill or injured to ensure that the person receives appropriate medical treatment.
  • Provide adequate supervision and training for staff members: Nurses and nurse aides should be able to spot problems before they lead to harm. Staff members should be trained to respond appropriately to situations such as when a resident becomes agitated or aggressive. Failure to notice this behavior change is a form of nursing home neglect.

How Do I Report Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home centers are required under federal law to provide adequate medical care to residents. But it doesn't take much elder abuse and negligence to put someone at risk. Residents might fall out of bed, suffer a broken hip, or even die because they did not receive proper care.

Neglect can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status. And it happens every day across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of nursing home residents experience some form of mistreatment during their lives.

If you suspect your loved one is suffering some form of elder abuse or negligence, don't wait. You must report your elder abuse allegations immediately. Your action could save their life. Nursing home administrators must take quick action to resolve any issue compromising your loved one's physical, emotional, or mental health.

All immediate family members can file elder abuse complaints with local authorities, such as police departments or county prosecutors. Or you can call a hotline staffed by trained advocates at the state's Adult Protective Services. They help you navigate the process and take your concerns seriously.

The National Center on Elder Abuse provides information about reporting nursing home neglect.

Who Is Legally Responsible for Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home facilities are supposed to take excellent care of elderly patients. But sometimes things go wrong. Long-term care facilities have a legal responsibility to ensure that every patient receives proper medical attention from enough nurses and doctors who adequately treat residents.

When a person privately owns the facility, they could be liable for negligence, even if the owner wasn't present during the incident. However, if the nursing home is operated as a corporation, the owners aren't necessarily liable unless they knew the problem and failed to correct it.

In either case, the facility itself may be held liable for nursing home neglect. Even if the owner isn't directly involved, the facility still must protect nursing home residents from harm. And failing to fulfill that obligation could lead to liability. For example, the facility could be negligent if a nurse doesn't give medication to a resident because their shift didn't start on time.

If you suspect your loved one is receiving substandard care, you don't have much time to act. You'll want to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer immediately. A skilled lawyer can help you determine whether you have grounds for filing a lawsuit against the facility.

When Can I Sue for Nursing Home Neglect?

Did you or a loved one suffer serious injuries or illness because of negligence or substandard care while living in a nursing home? You could be entitled to seek financial compensation.

In many cases, nursing home centers are required to provide adequate care to residents, including food, shelter, medicine, and other necessities. A nursing home failing to meet those standards can lead to severe injury or even death.

Nursing home neglect involves failing to provide basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and proper sanitation. Some examples include:

  • Failing to provide necessary medication
  • Not providing enough food or water
  • Exposing nursing home residents to dangerous conditions like fire hazards, flooding, or mold
  • Leaving nursing home residents unattended
  • Denying access to doctors or emergency equipment
  • Refusing or failing to treat residents

The Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for filing a claim varies depending on where you live. The vast majority of states require claims to be filed within three years of the date of the incident. However, there are exceptions.

For example, Illinois requires claims to be filed within twenty-four months of the incident. However, there are exceptions to the length of time you might have to file.

Contact a personal injury attorney to learn more about how to file a claim for nursing home neglect. A competent nursing home abuse lawyer can explain your options and answer questions.

Do You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse Harmed Your Loved One? Speak With an Attorney Now

From the moment you decide to house a family member in a nursing care home, you expect the staff to serve your loved one with the highest possible care, whether it's a for-profit company or not, irrespective of the location of the care home.

When your loved one has suffered an injury at a nursing home due to understaffing, abuse, or neglect, you do not merely have to accept it and move on. You could retain a lawyer and file a compensation claim against the nursing company, primarily when the injury suffered by your loved one occurred at a chronically understaffed facility.

You might be eligible for financial compensation from the nursing home chain for the harm your loved one has suffered. Contact our law offices today at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Our lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis, so you don't have to pay us any attorney fee for our legal services unless we win your case.

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