Many elderly Pennsylvania residents require additional assistance as they grow older. Unfortunately, too many of them fall victim to elder abuse in a nursing home.
Elder abuse can take many forms, from neglect to improper medical care to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Nursing facilities have a legal responsibility to ensure that they carry out the highest form of care to their patients. And yet studies estimate that one-third of all nursing home patients in the U.S. are malnourished. 5,000 nursing home residents die annually due to nursing home neglect or abuse. In a self-reported study, 64 percent of nursing home staff admitted to perpetrating some form of abuse within the past year.
When elder abuse occurs, it must be opposed in the strongest manner possible. The nursing home attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt can assist your family as you deal with the difficulties such abuse carries with it.
The Forms Elder Abuse and Neglect Take
If it can be demonstrated that a nursing home or its employees have acted negligently, they may be held liable for any resulting damages. The following may be grounds for filing a nursing home abuse claim:
- Aspiration and choking events: Care facilities have a responsibility to take choking risk into account and develop protocols that guard against this danger.
- Broken bones and fractures: Broken bones and fractures are often more than freak accidents for nursing home residents. Many are caused by a lack of preventative nursing home protocols or outright abuse.
- Dehydration and malnutrition: One report found that as many as one-third of all nursing home residents suffer from dehydration and malnourishment. Half of all residents in some nursing homes are underweight.
- Elopement (wandering off): Residents who leave their facilities without proper care and supervision are at heightened risk of injury and death. If a resident is not located within the first 24 hours of elopement, there is a 1 in 4 chance they will not survive.
- Falls: A fall prevention protocol is considered part of a nursing facility’s standard of care.
- Infections (failure to diagnose and treat): Each year, around 25,000 nursing home residents die in hospitals while suffering from sepsis, which is often brought on by neglect and made worse by untimely diagnosis and treatment.
- Medication errors: Studies have shown that 800,000 medication-related injuries occur in nursing homes yearly.
- Mismanaged conditions: Nursing home facilities have a duty to manage all of their residents’ medical conditions.
- Pressure wounds and bedsores: These injuries affect between 11–28 percent of nursing home residents yearly, and are often just the start of residents’ health struggles.
- Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse: Intentional abuse of all kinds is widespread among nursing home residents. These sickening acts have real costs — victims of elder abuse are twice as likely to die prematurely as non-victims.
- Transportation errors: When residents travel, facilities are responsible for providing or ensuring their safe transportation.
- Unexplained injury or death: When a nursing home resident dies suddenly and unexpectedly without a diagnosed, life-threatening condition, it may be cause for concern.
- Wandering: Unmonitored wandering throughout care facilities exposes at-risk residents to harm. Each year wandering is responsible for 100,000 preventable injuries.
- Coronavirus: In 2020, mismanaged and unsafe conditions in eldercare facilities led to clusters of coronavirus taking the lives of or leading to longterm Covid-19 complications in nursing home residents all over the United States.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
When questioned, abusive nursing homes will often try to pass off a resident’s injuries as complications of old age, dementia, or other conditions. If your loved one resides in a nursing home, it’s important that you are able to recognize signs of mistreatment.
These are some of the most common signs of abuse and neglect:
- Bills left unpaid
- Bruises, bleeding, cuts
- Changes in a resident’s will and/or power of attorney
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Unexplained diseases or infections
Nursing Home Neglect May Violate Federal Law
Families of Medicare and Medicaid patients should consider reporting problems at the healthcare facility to the U.S. government under the False Claims Act. This employment of whistleblower law allows an individual to sue on behalf of the government for claims that don’t deliver on their promise.
When the U.S. government pays for nursing care that is essentially worthless, the claim for payment is fraudulent and violates the law. A False Claims suit authorizes triple repayment of damages, as well as reasonable recovery of the costs involved.
When to Consult with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney
Elder abuse and neglect are always avoidable. But even injuries that seem unavoidable may come down to issues within the facility’s control, such as appropriate staffing and regular monitoring.
The best course of action if you feel that nursing home abuse or neglect has harmed you or a loved one is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in nursing home injury cases, our lawyers are well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if abuse or neglect played a part.