Nursing Home Negligence

Nursing home abuse is a pervasive problem in this country and in Massachusetts. It is tragic that that a facility to whom we trust will take care of our loved ones in their final days often fails to properly care for its residents and in some cases, is grossly negligent in how it treats members of our family.

Estimates are that up to one-third of all nursing home facilities have some kind of state or federal regulatory violation. With the baby boom generation quickly entering its elderly years, the population of nursing home residents is expected to soar in the next few years.

Examples of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Nursing Home NegligenceAbuse or mistreatment need not be physical, although physical signs may be the most readily apparent. Common types of abuse to be aware of include the following:

  • Physical abuse: The obvious signs are bruises, burns, broken limbs, bedsores, dehydration, malnutrition, poor hygiene, drug overdose, and indications of restraint.
  • Sexual abuse: Any non-consensual sexual contact is abuse and includes sexual contact with a person incapable of giving consent. Signs are venereal disease, bruising in the genital area or breasts, and torn clothing.
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal assaults, humiliation, threats and intimidation are examples. Isolating an elderly person from friends, family or regular activities are other instances. If your family member exhibits signs of fear or appears intimidated around staff, this should be a matter of concern.
  • Neglect: Failing to fulfill an obligation or duty is considered neglect. A caregiver or staff who neglects to give prescribed medication, leaves the individual in unsanitary living conditions, fails to bathe the person, or fails to properly nourish, shelter, or provide a safe environment can be civilly liable.
  • Financial exploitation: Evidence of significant withdrawals from the elder’s bank accounts, sudden changes in wills or insurance policies, unnecessary expenditures, sudden creditor notices or collection actions are indications.
  • Fraud: Overmedication or undermedication, false entries in a patient’s elder care records, duplicate billing, or obviously understaffed and poorly trained staff could be evidence of fraudulent practices.

Staffing Issues

As noted, a major shortcoming of nursing homes is under-staffing and training of staff.  This includes the following:

  • Insufficient staff at particular hours of operation
  • Poor training of nurse aides and staff
  • Lack of staff supervision
  • Staff history of abuses or mistreatment of residents
  • Failure to adhere to medical director and director of nursing requirements

Nursing homes are regulated by federal and state laws. If a nursing home fails to abide by the applicable state or federal rules and regulations, it may be held liable for substantial damages and fines.

They are also required to perform background checks of all employees and to properly train and supervise their staff to ensure their obligation to provide safe and sanitary living conditions. A facility is liable for the actions or failures of its employees.

Holding a Facility Liable

Should abuse be suspected, promptly consult with a nursing home liability lawyer to investigate your suspicions. Your attorney will have to gather and review the nursing home’s documents and your family member’s entire medical history from a number of sources, which may include numerous hospitalizations. Other vital records include incident reports, nursing notes, doctor’s orders, care plans, and intake and outtake records. Your family member’s records from his or her physician before admission should also be reviewed.

Lawsuits against caregivers include allegations of understaffing violations in licensed facilities as well as for the types of abuse outlined above. Individuals can be prosecuted for rape, assault, and theft. Injuries and fatalities can be pursued in civil court against facilities as personal injury and wrongful death actions with compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, losses due to theft or deception, and loss of companionship if the resident died as a result.