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A Congressional report from 2001 revealed that 5,283 nursing homes — more than 30% of the 17,000 nursing homes licensed to operate in the US at that time — were cited for nursing home abuse during 1999 and 2000. 30%; that’s nearly 1 in 3!
Nursing home abuse, nursing home neglect and senior citizen abuse or elderly abuse are all outrageous, despicable and disgusting crimes perpetrated against some of the most helpless and most defenseless among us; senior citizens. Senior citizens are supposed to be treasured custodians of our past; not just easy targets for thugs.
The cowards who would take advantage of them and seek to harm them physically deserve the harshest punishment our legal system has to offer. There are few crimes as heartbreaking or as reprehensible as the mental or physical abuse of the elderly or financial exploitation crimes against the elderly.
Elder Abuse: Going On The Record
Abuse of the elderly, both at home and in nursing homes, frequently goes unreported and often happens within a family but also occurs in professional settings such as hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. All 50 states have laws against nursing home neglect, nursing home abuse and elderly abuse, and while they differ from state to state, all states have systems for reporting suspected acts of abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Abuse of the elderly can be a single or repeated act, or a lack of appropriate action – either doing something or failing to do something – within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes physical, mental, financial or emotional harm or distress to an elderly person, or that puts an elderly person at risk of harm.
This frequently includes physical, sexual, mental or emotional abuse, neglect or desertion of an elderly person or the theft or misuse of an elderly person’s money, property or financial assets. Extreme elder abuse and neglect can result in wrongful death.
It’s quite common for people who are involved in elderly abuse and neglect lawsuits to need extra money – primarily to find, relocate to and pay for new living arrangements. A lawsuit loan or litigation funding can give senior citizen plaintiffs the money they need now to regain control and get their lives back on track.
What Is Up With Nursing Homes These Days?
Evidently, nursing homes were created to care for and attend to the needs of the elderly. What most people don’t realize, however, is that abuse in these nursing homes are more prevalent than what most people think it to be. In most cases, this abuse is attributed to lack of staff or inadequate training of the staff. The elderly residents in these nursing homes usually are not able to communicate these abuses, and in some cases, they are not lucid enough to be aware of what is going on.
It is important for loved ones to select a nursing home that has no abuse of any kind. However, it is sometimes unavoidable for loved ones to place the elderly in abusive nursing homes. In cases such as this, loved ones must also look out for signs of abuse in the residents to identify, report, and take proper action against the abuse that was happening in the nursing homes.
While lawsuits for nursing home abuse or neglect are pretty straightforward, the difficulty lies in proving that the claims are perfectly true. It is expected of defendants to deny such abuse and possibly get away with it. Abuse and/or neglect in nursing homes result in personal injury to these residents, especially when nursing home staff members or health care professionals breach their duty of care for the patients and/or residents. It is the right of a resident or a loved one in behalf of a resident to pursue legal action in cases with claims such as this.
Depending on each case, plaintiffs can opt to sue the nursing home, the abuser, other health care professionals under the nursing home, or the staff member/s for the abuse or the neglect that was inflicted upon the resident. When plaintiffs opt to take these claims to court, they often seek compensation for damages such as injuries, pain and suffering, abuse, and neglect.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
As long as residents are judged to be mentally sound and capable of testifying, then the residents can file nursing home abuse lawsuits. However, most of the lawsuits of this nature are filed by a family member or another loved one in behalf of the resident.
When nursing home residents start to suffer from injuries, illnesses or any form of harm or neglect due to improper care or lack of attention that is supposedly provided by the nursing home or similar institution, a lawsuit can be filed under a nursing home neglect claim against any of the health care professionals or the nursing home itself.
As long as an injury that could have been prevented resulted from inadequate standards of care, a plaintiff can opt to sue under personal injury and nursing home neglect claims. Plaintiffs can receive personal injury compensation for damages such as, injuries, pain and suffering, abuse, and neglect.
Background on Nursing Home Abuse
The elderly is the most common form of resident in nursing homes. These people require a lot of attention and care, as their age and body deterioration has made it difficult for them to care for themselves. Normally, the residents are unable to communicate to their loved ones or others about the abuse or neglect they experience from caregivers in these homes. Emotional, psychological, and financial abuse is too often. Abuse has caused illness, discomfort, and death in some nursing home residents. This abuse is also known as institutional abuse.
Abusers can range from staff members to other residents to visitors. Abuse may be happening when staff members refuse to allow family members or friends to see or visit the nursing home residents; or when the staff member/s are persistent on being present during the visit.
Common situations of abuse include withholding of food or refraining from giving food at the prescribed time or schedule, dehydration due to limited access to water, medication errors, poor facilities (especially lavatory facilities), improper care and grooming on a daily basis, abandonment, failure to diagnose serious illnesses (i.e. Heart attack or stroke), failure to treat or give emergency care for serious illnesses such as stroke and heart attack, wandering – when a patient leaves the facility without authorization, and intimidation or threats. Other forms of nursing home abuse include sexual abuse, physical assault, over medication, use of unreasonable and/or forceful physical restraints, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse.
Abuse can be identified through a number of ways through emotional, physical, or sexual states. Personality changes, dementia, depression, anxiety, fearfulness, agitation, or more withdrawn or less communicative residents may exhibit emotional behavior that may be caused by abuse. Physical conditions such as unexplained accidents or injuries, bedsores, frozen joints, muscle stiffness, burns, brittle bones, broken eyeglasses, rapid unexplained weight loss, or unwarranted use of physical restraints can also occur in these abused patients. Abuse may also be happening if the resident has sexual changes such as unexplained venereal disease, genital infections, vaginal or anal bleeding, torn or stained underclothing or underwear, bruising around the breasts, upper abdomen or inner thighs.
State Elder Law
As stated by the law, nursing homes are required to provide care to the patients and residents in order to uphold the highest practicable physical, mental and psycho-social welfare and well-being of each nursing home resident. There have been federal and state laws that were creating to protect these nursing home residents and the abuse or neglect that they experience within the nursing home and other similar assisted living facilities. Many states have required nursing homes to uphold the individual state standards with regard to the type and quality of care that is required.
Many states have enforced laws that require doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to report any suspicion of neglect to a designated state office in order to address the nursing home abuse issues across the United States. Laws have also required these institutions to investigate and report incidents of abuse that arise within their facilities. The following professionals are bound to provide adequate care, medical treatment and protection to residents and patients in their respective facilities: physicians, hospitals, nurses, therapists, aides, orderlies, and administrators.
Frequently, state laws require nursing homes to (1) be licensed to operate; (2) provide for inspections annually; (3) set up procedures to handle complaints; (4) prohibit discrimination; and (5) impose sanctions for violations (i.e. license suspension and revocation). Reports of alleged abuse or violations are investigated by the state regulatory agency.
Federal Elder Law
The Nursing Home Reform Act or NRA was passed by the federal government in 1987. Nursing homes that receive federal funds are required to comply with the NRA. The reform act was established to set a standard of care for the patients and residents, to inaugurate a list of rights for the residents, to put up monitoring systems for nursing homes, and to establish sanctions for non-compliance. The rights of the residents as stated in the Nursing Home Reform Act includes the right to be treated with dignity and to exercise self-determination.
The act not clearly states resident or patient care and their rights, staffing, quality of care, record keeping, restraints, and privacy. This law is applicable to all kinds of nursing homes and institutions that receive funds under the programs of Medicaid or Medicare.
Other nursing home requirements to meet the basic principles of the Nursing Home Reform Act among many others include:
Regularly maintained clinical records on each resident in accordance with accepted professional standards, practices and methods that are complete, accurate, accessible, and organized according to a system.
Guarantee that residents are able to choose their own activities, schedules and health care that is in compliance with each individual’s interests, assessments, and plans of care.
Endorse resident care in an environment in such a way that it would heighten the dignity and respect of each individual resident to fully recognize individuality.
Care for residents in such a way that it would promote preservation or improvement on the residents’ quality of life.
Impede errors in medication.
Cater fluids to residents in order to prevent dehydration and maintain health.
Make sure that residents preserve acceptable standards of nutritional health (i.e. body weight and protein levels).
Make sure that the residents are given adequate supervision and assistive devices to prevent falls.
Ensure that each resident receives proper treatment and are given devices to aid or maintain hearing and visual abilities.
Supply treatment and services to unbridled residents to reinstate more normal bladder function as possible and to avoid urinary tract infections.
Make sure that residents do not sustain pressure sores and in cases of patients that have such ailments, the nursing homes must provide necessary treatment to aid in healing and prevent infection and further progression or new development of new sores.
Give necessary services and assistance to the residents so that good nutrition, grooming, personal and oral hygiene are maintained for residents who have impairments with daily living activities.
Avoid the depreciation of the resident’s ability to bathe, dress, groom, transfer and ambulate, toilet, eat, speak or otherwise communicate.
Provide supervised medical care by a physician. Nursing homes must provide or arrange for the services of a physician on a 24 hours per day basis in case of emergencies.
Supply pharmaceutical services to meet the needs of each patient (including procedures that assure accurate acquisition, receipt, distribution, and administration of all drugs).
Employment of sufficient and adequate nurses and staff to provide nursing and related services.
Administration must be performed in a way such that nursing homes are able to use resources effectively and efficiently.
Perform an initial comprehensive, accurate, standardized, reproducible assessment of each resident’s functional capacity within 14 days of admission. Assessments must also be performed after significant physical and mental changes have occurred in the resident and/or at least once every 12 months.
Create and develop comprehensive care plans for each individual resident. Care plans must include measurable objectives and schedules to reach each resident’s medical, nursing, mental and psychosocial needs as identified in the comprehensive assessment. The care plan must also be developed within 7 days upon completion of the comprehensive assessment. It must also detail the services that are going to be provided for the resident. Care plans must be periodically reviewed and revised by a team of qualified persons after each assessment.
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