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South Bend Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Are you concerned that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home? If so, it is crucial to take action. Proactively protecting your loved ones can get them the help they need.
The affiliate Indiana personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC legally advocates for nursing home victims harmed by abuse, mistreatment, and neglect. Our legal team can advise your family on how to recover damages and help you file a claim against the abuser and facility.
Contact our South Bend nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.What Is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Many people in Indiana require the need of caregivers to provide care and assistance while disabled, rehabilitating, or during their golden years. Unfortunately, many patients become victims of mistreatment by staff or others when the facility fails to protect their wellbeing.
The National Center on Elder Abuse identifies mistreatment in nursing facilities as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to a vulnerable elder.”
Despite the efforts of lawmakers and advocacy groups, nursing home abuse is still a persistent problem in the United States, increasing the risk to the well-being of millions. Mistreatment is more likely to happen to the most vulnerable nursing home residents, including the disabled, elderly, and cognitively impaired.South Bend, Indiana
Out of a population of more than 101,000 residents, South Bend, Indiana, is home to almost 13,000 senior citizens, with nearly twice that number living in surrounding communities. Many of these elderly residents are in nursing homes in and around the South Bend area.
Unfortunately, the truth about Indiana nursing homes is often cold and sobering. Many nursing home residents are mistreated by caregivers and other individuals in the facility.
Abuse, mistreatment, and neglect are not new problems to aging citizens who often have no option but to move into an assisted-living center, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility.
Statistically, a high number of nursing homes fail their inspections multiple times every year by not meeting acceptable standards for providing safety and healthcare to meet the needs of their residents.
For decades, Medicare has partnered with state governments to accurately inspect and assess nursing homes and investigate all file complaints by victims, families, and other residents. However, the task is monumental as isolated cases of abuse, where the mistreated, neglected, and sexually assaulted, can easily fall through the cracks.Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
Data released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in 2018 revealed the following nursing home abuse statistics nationwide include:
- One in 10 people aged 60 and older has experienced elder abuse.
- Elder abuse is most likely perpetrated by a family member, followed by a caregiver or nursing home staff working in a long-term care facility.
- Only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
The Indiana Department of Public Health nursing home abuse statistics reveals that there are more than 700 nursing homes statewide with over 80,000 residents.
According to the agency’s 2017 Data Book, these long-term nursing homes had 1,637 complaints involving the elderly, disabled, and cognitively impaired. Of those complaints, 814 were found to have credible evidence of abuse or neglect.
Additionally, data from Indiana Adult Protective Services (APS) shows that in 2017 there were 6,311 reports of nursing home abuse made to the agency. Out of those reports, 3,770 cases were substantiated, a 61 percent increase from 2016, when only 2,334 out of 4,606 reports were verified.Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
The type of elder mistreatment can range from financial exploitation and emotional abuse to physical and sexual assault. Unfortunately, many victims suffer from multiple forms of abuse.
- Physical abuse: nursing home residents may be subjected to physical altercations by the nursing staff, visitors, family, employees, or other patients involving hitting, spitting, slapping, pushing, burning, or biting.
- Sexual abuse: this type of nursing home abuse involves any type of sexual contact or conduct without the victim’s consent. It can include rape, sodomy, forced nudity, fondling, and sexually explicit photography.
- Psychological/emotional abuse in a nursing home environment can involve yelling, mocking, name-calling, intimidation, humiliation, and isolation.
- Neglect: Any negligent action of the nursing staff could be considered nursing home neglect. Typically, neglect can involve failing to provide nursing home residents with necessities, including food, water, clothing, hygiene, and medical care.
- Financial exploitation: This mistreatment occurs when someone uses the victim’s money or property without their permission for personal gain.
According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, neglect is “the failure of those responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult to provide the services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of that adult.”Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Identifying the signs and symptoms of elder abuse can be challenging, mainly if the victim cannot communicate or has cognitive impairments. Family members and friends should look for any changes in the victim’s mood or behavior and any physical changes.
Some common signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Bruises, cuts, bedsores, or burns
- Unexplained weight loss or sudden gain
- Soiled clothing or bedding
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Changes in mood or behavior (e.g., sudden depression, anxiety, or aggression)
- Unusual financial activity
- Dirty or unsanitary living conditions
- Unsafe living conditions, such as exposure to cold temperatures, trip hazards, or lack of access to call buttons or other means of summoning help
- Fearfulness around certain individuals
These are just some of the signs that may indicate mistreatment. If you notice any changes in your loved one’s behavior or appearance, trust your instincts and investigate further.How Nursing Home Neglect Can Lead to Preventable Pressure Sores
While bedsores (pressure sores, pressure wounds, pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers) are common occurrences in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes them as "never events."
Medicare regulators recognize that nearly every bedsore can be prevented when the nursing staff follows established protocols and procedures when managing the resident's skin.
Pressure wounds typically develop in as little as 90 minutes when the resident's position is unchanged and pressure restricts blood flow to the skin and underlying tissue. Bedsores commonly develop on bony prominences of the body, including the toes, ankles, knees, hip bones, sacrum, shoulder blades, elbows, and back of the head.
A pressure wound appears as a reddened area or discolored skin in its initial stage. If left untreated, the damaged skin can degrade further, causing life-threatening problems.
Pressure sores are categorized in six stages, including:
- Stage I – In its initial stage, the pressure sore appears as a reddened area of the skin or a discolored patch of skin. The site may feel warmer or cooler than the surrounding skin.
- Stage II – At Stage Two, the pressure sore has progressed to a shallow crater. The ulcer will appear as an open wound with damaged skin.
- Stage III – By the time a pressure sore reaches stage three, it has deepened further into the skin and now resembles a crater with dead tissue.
- Stage IV – A Stage four pressure sore is very deep, extending through all layers of skin and often down to the bone. The ulcer will appear as an open wound with exposed bone, tendon, or muscle.
- Unstageable – An open cratered wound filled with debris or necrotic (dead skin tissue) makes it difficult to assess the bedsore stage accurately. Cleaning the wound or debriding (cutting away) dead tissue might make it easier to accurately identify the extent of the damage.
- Deep tissue injury – A deep tissue injury is a bruise of the deep tissues below the skin that has not yet broken through to the surface. A deep tissue injury may appear as a purple or maroon localized area of discolored intact skin or blood-filled blister due to damage to underlying soft tissue from pressure or shear. The site may be painful and tender.
Once a pressure sore is present, it can quickly become infected. Signs of infected bedsores include increased pain, warmth, redness, swelling, foul-smelling drainage, and fever.
An infected pressure wound is a severe medical condition requiring immediate treatment to prevent the infection from spreading to other body parts.Common Reasons for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
While most care facilities provide quality, compassionate care, some do not. It is vital to be aware of the common reasons why abuse and neglect occur should your loved one live in a nursing facility so that you can be on the lookout for signs of trouble.
Some of the most common reasons for mistreatment include:
- Staffing shortages or inadequate staffing levels – According to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), every nursing facility must maintain a regulated staff-to-patient ratio to ensure adequate staffing to meet every resident's needs.
- Poor training or lack of staff training – Not all caretakers receive proper training or there are simply too few staff members with competent training to provide quality care.
- Budget cuts – Any nursing facility struggling financially may cut corners to save money. Severe budget cuts can result in poor living conditions, lack of necessary medical supplies and equipment, and staffing shortages.
- Physical or mental health problems of the staff member – Some caregivers abuse or neglect residents because they deal with personal or family issues, such as addiction, mental illness, or financial difficulties.
- Lack of supervision – If a nursing facility does not have adequate supervision, the staff may feel that they can get away with abusing or neglecting patients.
- Ignorance of residents' rights – Unfortunately, some nursing staff members are unaware of the rights that residents have and, as a result, may violate those rights.
- Unrealistic expectations about how much work residents can do – In some cases, the staff may abuse or neglect residents because they expect them to do more than they are physically or mentally capable.
- Pressure to get residents ready for discharge as soon as possible, even if they are not prepared – Some staff members may feel pressure to discharge residents quickly so that the facility can free up beds for other patients, often leading to hasty or improper discharge planning, lacing residents at risk of being sent home too early.
The best way to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect is to involve your family member’s care. Get to know the staff members, visit often, and communicate closely with the facility’s administrator.
Don't hesitate to investigate further if you notice any changes in your loved one’s mood or behavior. These changes could result from negligence, medical malpractice, medication error, or other health care issue.
You should also familiarize yourself with the Residents' Bill of Rights, which outlines the rights of all nursing home residents in the United States.Nursing Home Resident Rights and Protections
Federal law dictates every nursing home resident's rights and protections to ensure they receive the necessary care and services. Every patient has the right to be informed, keep all personal information private, and make their own decisions.
The nursing facility must tell every patient their rights with a full explanation in writing in their native language. Nursing home residents have the right to:
- Be treated with respect: Every nursing home resident has the right to be treated with courtesy and respect at all times. The staff should avoid using physical or verbally abusive behavior, threats, restraints, or coercion.
- Maintain privacy: Every nursing home resident has the right to keep their personal information private. This privacy extends to their personal medical records, financial information, and correspondence.
- Express their views: Every nursing home resident has the right to express their views and grievances without fear of retaliation. It includes being able to complain about the quality of care they receive without fear of retribution.
- Receive quality care: Every nursing home resident has the right to receive high-quality care that meets their individual needs. It includes access to medical care, rehabilitative services, and any other type of care their physician ordered.
- Keep their belongings: Every nursing home resident has the right to keep their personal belongings with them in their room unless it presents a safety hazard.
- Manage their finances: Every nursing home resident has the right to manage their finances or have someone else manage them. The nursing facility is required to assist residents who cannot control their finances.
- Choose their roommates: Each patient has the right to choose their roommates, as long as it does not violate the rights of other residents.
- Participate in activities: Every nursing home resident has the right to participate in social, religious, and recreational activities. The nursing facility is required to provide residents with access to these activities.
- Voice their complaints: Every nursing home patient has the right to voice their complaints about the quality of care they receive without fear of retaliation.
- Be free from chemical and physical restraints: No nursing home patient can be subjected to chemical (like medications) or physical (like bed rails) restraints used for the staff's convenience or to discipline the resident.
- Receive visitors: All patients have the right to receive visitors at any time unless a court order prohibits it.
- Have access to their personal medical records: Every nursing home patient has the right to access their medical records.
- Consent to or refuse treatment: Every resident has the right to consent to or refuse treatment of any kind, except in emergencies in most situations.
- Be informed of their rights: Every nursing home resident has the right to be informed of their rights in writing and their native language.
- Be free from being neglected and abused: Each resident has the right to be free from any type of neglect or abuse, including physical, mental, or financial. The patient has the right to be free from being sexually assaulted or abused.
- Receive discharge planning: All patients have the right to receive discharge planning services when they are ready to leave the facility. It includes help with making the transition to another type of care, such as a nursing center or assisted living facility.
The above rights are outlined in the federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments, passed in 1987. These rights are designed to protect residents from being abused and neglected.What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Do you suspect your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect? If so, there are steps you can take to help them, including:
- Talk to your loved one about what you’ve observed, Even if it is a difficult conversation. Allow them to share their experiences with you.
- If your family member cannot communicate, ask them if they are being hurt or mistreated. If they are reluctant to talk about it, try asking open-ended questions about how they’re feeling and if anything has been bothering them.
- If your loved one discloses they have been abused or neglected, listen carefully and offer support. Thank them for trusting you enough to speak up. Reassure them that they did the right thing by telling you, and that you will do everything you can to help.
- If communication or interaction is challenging, look for physical signs of abuse or neglect. Bruises, cuts, bedsores, and sudden weight loss could indicate nursing home abuse or neglect.
- Assess their living environment and identify any places that are unclean or unsafe.
- Watch staff members to see if they are attentive and respectful or if the other residents seem unhappy or discontent.
Do you have concerns about the care your family member is receiving? Do not hesitate to talk to the facility administrator or contact Adult Protective Services (APS). The administrator and APS are required to investigate the allegations and take appropriate action.
You can also consult with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to learn about your legal options and learn more about how to protect your rights.When Nursing Home Mistreatment Leads to Wrongful Death
Many families in Indiana have had to deal with losing a loved one through the mistreatment or abusive behavior at their loved one's nursing facility. By federal and state law, the surviving family members can take legal action to hold the facility, staff, and others financially accountable for their actions or inactions.
A spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, sibling, or others could file a civil personal injury lawsuit citing wrongful death to ensure they are adequately compensated for their damages. Successfully resolving a case might involve compensation for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Any hospital bills or medical costs
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- The decedent's pain and suffering before dying
- The family's pain, sorrow, emotional trauma, and grief due to losing a loved one
- Punitive damages in some cases
However, receiving compensation is not automatic. The plaintiffs (the decedent's loved one) must prove their case by identifying the four elements of civil tort law to resolve their nursing home abuse case, including:
- The defendants (nursing facility, staff, resident, or others) at a duty of care to provide the resident's safety
- The defendants breached that duty
- The breach led to the victim's harm or death
- The plaintiff's damages are actual and provable in court
Successfully resolving any personal injury case or medical malpractice lawsuit can be challenging and often requires the skills of a lawyer specializing in nursing home abuse cases. Call our law offices to arrange a free initial consultation.Hire Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers to Resolve Your Compensation Claim
Do you suspect that your loved one has been victimized by mistreatment, sexual assault, physical abuse, or neglect while residing at any facility in South Bend? The personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC can take immediate legal steps to stop the harm.
Our personal injury team of dedicated South Bend nursing home abuse attorneys can provide various legal options to recover damages.
Call our nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 or use a contact form to pursue justice and recover damages. Schedule your free case review to discuss your case for financial compensation.
Our nursing home abuse legal team handles all personal injury cases and nursing home abuse claims for payment on a contingency fee arrangement. This agreement ensures that our nursing home abuse lawyers provide your legal services without an upfront fee.Resources: