No one ever expressed a desire to end up in a nursing home, but for approximately 1.4 million elderly or disabled people in this country, that’s where they reside. The giant Baby Boom generation is aging, and the demand for nursing home care grows.
For many of those who dreaded the idea of going into a nursing home, their worst fears are confirmed. Old people and the disabled are vulnerable populations, and abuse occurs far too often in nursing home and long-term care facilities. You may already feel guilty about having a loved one in a nursing home when you or other family members can no longer provide care. The knowledge that abuse occurred becomes too much to bear.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant in these situations, and a lawsuit shines light on these horrors.
The Nursing Home Industry – Highest Risk to Patients at For-Profit Facilities
According to the CDC, there are approximately 15,600 nursing homes in this country, and nearly 70 percent of them are for-profit. According to The Center for Medicare Advocacy, (CMA) those for-profit facilities tend to have:
- Lower staffing levels
- Highest number of deficiencies, as per public regulatory agencies
- Highest number of deficiencies “causing harm or jeopardy” to residents.
These for-profit nursing homes are indeed profitable. The CMA concludes, “The general rule is documented in study after study: not-for-profit nursing facilities generally provide better care to their residents.” Although abuse can occur in any long-term care facility, it is more likely to happen in a for-profit nursing home.
Horrific Faces of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home or elder abuse takes many forms. It may include physical or mental – even sexual – cruelty. The abuser may be a staff member or fellow patient. Residents with dementia may not realize they are being abused and/or cannot inform family members.
The latest phenomenon involves staffers taking pictures of residents, some of whom were nude, and posting them on social media. On the flip side, the prevalence of smartphones makes capturing abusive situations more common.
- False imprisonment – Nursing home residents are not prisoners. They should not have to stay in their rooms, or become deprived of the ability to leave. Deprivation includes a staff member removing a resident’s crutches or wheelchair.
- Financial exploitation
- Lack of supervision and security – each year, hundreds of patients wander out of nursing homes. Some never return, dying of exposure or hit by motor vehicles. Others go missing, probably dead but never located. Patients may fall and seriously or fatally hurt themselves because no one is supervising them.
- Neglect – this form of elder abuse occurs all too often in nursing homes. Bedridden patients aren’t repositioned, resulting in bedsores. Residents may lack the ability to properly feed themselves, but staff ignores the issue and the affected patients end up with malnutrition.
- Restraints – The staff can’t restrain a resident simply because it is convenient. That’s true whether they use a drug to knock a resident out or physically restrain someone, such as fastening a patient to the bed rails.
A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that as many as 20 percent of nursing home residents suffer abuse from a fellow resident. The forms of patient to patient abuse are also physical, mental and often sexual.
If one patient abuses another patient, that doesn’t let nursing home staff and management off the hook. Even if no one witnessed the incident, signs of physical trauma require an explanation and nursing home staff must investigate.
Behavioral changes may result from emotional abuse, and it is the nursing home’s duty to notice and report such changes. If staff observes one resident abusing another, they must take action and keep the abuser and victim separated.
Civil Lawsuit – Get Legal Help Quickly
The statute of limitations for filing an elder abuse lawsuit depends on the jurisdiction, but in many states such a suit must be filed within two years from the time the abuse was discovered.
A lawsuit filed against an unscrupulous nursing home operator by the victim or their personal representative may result in various forms of compensation, including that for pain and suffering.
In some cases, punitive damages are awarded. Punitive means “punish,” and that is what such damages are intended to do – punish the defendant and make an example of the individual or entity. Such damages may make other nursing home operators take pains to ensure that elder abuse does not occur in their facilities.