We are sometimes faced with the difficult decision of having to place one of our loved ones in a nursing home for their long term care. Unfortunately, senior citizens can be very vulnerable to negligence as their living arrangement necessitates that others take care of them. Many times, these facilities breach the standard of care that is required in the care of nursing home residents.
We entrust our loved ones to nursing home facilities, also known as retirement homes or assisted living residences, when they can no longer care for themselves or wish to live among other senior citizens in a safe and healthy environment.
Unfortunately, as many as 30 percent of all nursing homes in this country have had complaints of abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. These facilities are often corporate owned and operate with a profit motive, which causes many to cut corners, file false medical billings, and to hire ill-trained personnel, all to the detriment of its residents who rely on these centers for all of their medical and daily living needs.
What is Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing homes have an obligation, or duty, to their residents to provide them with a safe environment and to provide them with their nutritional, recreational, and medical needs. These facilities are strictly regulated by state and federal laws, which dictate the size of rooms, staff, and other requirements.
Examples of common nursing home negligence include the following:
- Physical abuse: Key indications are the presence of bedsores on residents, depression, broken limbs, bruises, and signs of restraint.
- Neglect: Nursing homes are required to provide adequate nutrition to residents and to maintain a healthy and safe facility. Residents who have not been bathed and display symptoms of dehydration, malnutrition, and whose rooms and environs are unsanitary are obvious signs of neglect. Your relative may also not be receiving the medications he or she requires.
- Psychological abuse: What may not be so obvious is emotional abuse. A resident who is suddenly depressed and uninterested in participating in activities or who exhibits fear when around facility personnel should be examined by a psychologist. If you observe residents being insulted, treated roughly, or intimated, this is cause for great concern.
- In many of these cases, a facility lacks sufficient staff or has personnel who are overworked, are unqualified, or unsupervised. Also, any change in a resident’s health must be reported to you and the resident’s physician and documented in the resident’s records.
Nursing Home Requirements
More specifically, nursing homes are regulated at a minimum by 42 Code of Federal Regulations Section 483, et seq. Many states have stricter laws but at a minimum, these regulations include the following:
- Provide an adequate nursing staff.
- Draft an assessment of a comprehensive care plan for each resident.
- Provide that each resident choose their own activities and schedule, if possible.
- Avoid medication errors.
- Ensure that each resident has the necessary services to carry out their daily living needs.
- Ensure individual dignity, respect and quality of life.
- Maintain accurate clinical records for all residents.
For example, if your loved one requires the use of assistive devices or has special nutritional or medical needs, the nursing home is under a duty to provide these and to monitor him or her. If you are the guardian, you have access to medical records.
The failure of a nursing home to provide these needs or to adhere to specific state or federal standards may be the basis of a negligence claim against the facility if it led to an injury.
Steps to follow if you suspect abuse include the following:
- Discuss the issue with the facility’s head of staff.
- Have your relative examined by a health care provider.
- If the issue is not resolved, contact the licensing or certification agency from your state’s health department and file a complaint.
- An investigation could uncover regulatory violations and the facility forced to remedy them.
- If the injury is severe, contact an attorney to file a possible lawsuit.
You are not required to satisfy all administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit, but the results of an investigation by the applicable agency can certainly be used in any civil suit you might bring on behalf of your loved one. If you feel that a loved one has been hurt by abuse or negligence at a nursing home facility, please contact The Law Offices of Duane O. King today for a free consultation and guidance during this difficult time.