As a community, we must protect the most vulnerable. That includes protecting and honoring our elderly citizens. The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home (or assisted living facility) can be one of the most emotional and heart-wrenching decisions of all. We want the best for our loved ones. When families place a loved one in a nursing home, they expect the facility will provide a safe and engaging environment with the best care possible. Many nursing homes understand their role and honor our loved ones. But, a few do not.
When a nursing home neglects or abuses an elderly loved one, the harm is tremendous. Your loved ones are entitled to safety and respect. They do not surrender their rights or dignity by living in a nursing home.
Because our elderly are especially vulnerable targets for abuse and neglect, they need our support. If your loved one is a resident in a nursing home, you should monitor their care. Engage your loved one and the caregivers around them.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we do one thing – We represent people and their families who have suffered serious personal injuries. We have one goal – To help injured families obtain the maximum compensation possible for their injuries. We focus all our time and attention toward (1) studying Alabama personal injury and wrongful death law; and, (2) preparing our injury cases for the maximum recovery possible. If you have questions about nursing home neglect or abuse injuries, get in touch with our hardworking injury attorneys. We want to provide information and answers. Call a Huntsville nursing home abuse lawyer to learn more.
What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse takes many forms. Elder abuse is not limited to nursing homes or assisted living facilities. In some cases, elder abuse is financial. Our elderly relatives can be vulnerable to financial scams. They can be vulnerable to financial abuse. Frequent types of financial abuse include theft, misuse of a power of attorney to steal property, or undue influence in an effort to obtain assets. They also include taking advantage of elderly patients who have dementia or diminished capacity to steal money, transfer assets or change intended inheritances. In recent years, we have helped many families recover assets and property wrongly taken by an abuser.
On this page, we will focus on elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. While this abuse can also be financial, it is most often physical. What are some common types of elder abuse in nursing homes? They are:
- Physical Abuse – The use of physical force that hurts, causes pain or inflicts injury upon the elderly. This includes physical punishment or humiliation by abusers.
- Emotional Abuse – The infliction of mental distress or torment. This can include insults, threats, humiliation, or intimidation.
- Restraint / Confinement – The isolation or restraint of the elderly for a reason that is not medically necessary.
- Sexual Abuse – The unwelcome or nonconsensual sexual contact or conduct with the elderly.
- Neglect – The failure of caregivers to provide basic necessities, such as food, water, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
- Intentional Deprivation – The intentional (willful) denial of things like medication, medical care, shelter, food, assistance, or activities.
- Financial Exploitation – The misuse of an elderly person’s property, money, or financial resources. Financial exploitation can be the result of direct theft. Often, the abuser uses his or her position of power and influence to control the elderly person. The abuser may take advantage of an elderly person’s diminished capacity, dementia or needs, to coerce financial benefits.
In some cases, elderly abuse goes beyond physical injury and causes the death of a loved one. In those especially tragic cases, Alabama law allows families to pursue a wrongful death claim against the abuser. If you have questions about a death pertaining to elder abuse, it is essential you seek the help of an attorney in Huntsville who is experienced in preparing these unique cases.
Many nursing home residents are physically dependent upon others for care. Many nursing home residents also suffer dementia or diminished capacity. These physical and cognitive issues make elderly patients especially vulnerable to abuse and injury.
What are the Common Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect?
What are some common signs or “red flags” of potential elderly neglect or abuse? As a family member, loved one or friend of a nursing home patient, what warning signs may be important?
Nursing home abuse and neglect may take many different forms. Here are some common red flags or warning signs:
- Unexplained changes in behavior or alertness. Withdrawal from normal activities is an example of this red flag.
- Social isolation.
- Caregivers who are too aggressive (verbally or physically), demeaning, insulting, controlling, uncaring, or who are overly concerned with spending any money.
- Fearfulness around other residents or caregivers.
- Lack of basic hygiene, food or clean clothes.
- Lack of available medical aids (such as glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc.).
- Patients with dementia or confined to a bed but left without care or supervision.
- Pressure Sores, especially untreated ones (often called bed sores).
- Unexplained wounds or injuries (such as fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, burns, or bloody clothes).
This list of red flags is not exhaustive. These are just a few red flags which may warn of abuse or neglect. Take them seriously.
Elder abuse is not confined to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Blackwell Law Firm has prepared and tried cases against abusers outside of facilities as well. Elder abuse can include physical neglect or abuse in the home. It can also include financial abuse. Elderly are especially vulnerable to financial abuse. Abusers often take advantage of senior citizens who are homebound or experiencing signs of dementia. If you suspect financial abuse of an elderly loved one, our knowledgeable lawyers in Huntsville can provide answers and advice on that issue as well. Under the Practice Areas section of our law firm website, we have included a page for Trust and Will Contest issues.
What Steps can you Take for Suspected Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
If you witness or suspect elder abuse in a nursing home, you should act. The health of your loved one depends upon it.
Bring your concerns about a loved one to the attention of the facility’s administrator. Do not wait. The administrator has a legal duty to protect resident safety. Then, follow-up with the administrator to make sure corrective steps are taken.
If you are not completely satisfied with the administrator’s response, you need to take additional steps to protect your loved one. You may report suspected neglect or abuse to the patient’s doctor or the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR).
You can contact the Alabama Department of Human Resources in your county or the main office in Montgomery. If worried about retaliation against the patient, you can even report suspected abuse anonymously. If you see signs of elderly abuse, you should act promptly. Talk to the facility administrator. Talk to other relatives. Report serious issues to state agencies. If the issue is an emergency or a potential assault, you may even need to call 911.
Nursing Home Patients Have Rights
Our elderly loved ones have rights. All nursing home residents have rights to safety, dignity and respect. Years ago, the U.S. Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. This Federal law provides nursing home residents with the right to:
- Accommodation of physical, mental, and psychological needs
- Communicate freely
- Be treated with dignity
- Be free from mistreatment, abuse, and neglect
- Exercise self-determination
- Voice grievances without reprisal or discrimination
- Be free from physical restraints
- Participate in family and resident groups
- Participate in their own care plan, including advance notice of changes in treatment, care, or facility status.
This law requires certain resident services, including:
- Access to nursing, social, and rehabilitation services
- Access to dietary and pharmaceutical services
- Periodic assessment of each resident
- A comprehensive care plan developed specially for each resident
- Access to a full-time social worker if the facility has more than a certain number of beds.
Nursing homes are required to meet these standards if they receive Medicare or Medicaid.
How Nursing Homes Choose Profit Over Staffing
Staffing is probably the number one issue in resident care. Yet, inadequate staffing is widespread in Alabama and across the United States. Many nursing homes fail to maintain safe and sufficient staffing.
When a nursing home is under-staffed, too few employees are left to safely care for residents. This leads to unsafe conditions for residents. It also leads to unsafe conditions for the under-staffed workers. When a nursing home chooses profit over safety by cutting needed staff, the results can be tragic.
Many nursing homes try to use arbitration clauses in their patient admission agreements. Arbitration agreements require disputes to be handled in a forum other than court. In recent years, patient advocates have worked to stop these clauses in nursing home agreements. If a family member signed an arbitration clause, can you still bring a claim for personal injury or wrongful death? Yes, you can. Many times, a skilled attorney can prove the arbitration agreement is not enforceable. Even if the arbitration agreement is enforceable, it just means an arbitrator decides your injury case instead of an Alabama jury. You still have a claim and need a dedicated attorney in Huntsville who can present the case in arbitration.
Poor Medical Care
When caregivers and medical professionals violate the standard of care owed a patient and cause injuries, they have committed medical neglect. Our elderly loved ones have a right to care and accommodations that are safe and supportive. While many negligent acts occur because nursing homes are under-staffed or under-supervised, these are not the only causes of neglect. Nursing home neglect is a choice. All nursing homes can choose to care for their elderly residents.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in Huntsville
If you suspect nursing home neglect, your loved one needs a legal advocate who will fight for them. First, report the suspected negligence to the agencies mentioned earlier. Then, contact one of the nursing home injury attorneys at Blackwell Law Firm.
Our Huntsville nursing home abuse lawyers will discuss the issues with you. We will investigate your nursing home claim and determine if the facility or staff are at fault. We work hard to protect our injured clients. We will work to prepare the claim and negotiate a fair settlement. And, we will file the case and go to trial when needed to protect your rights following an injury.
At our firm, consultations are always free and confidential. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis. This means there is no fee or cost unless we successfully recover compensation for you. From our office in Huntsville, we handle cases across Alabama.