It might be an accident. It might not be obvious. It might not be “standard practice” in the establishment.
However, neglect can cause serious consequences for people who have entrusted their health and wellbeing to the care of a nursing home.
It can lead to falls, injuries, infections, diseases, and worse.
However, many cases go unreported and, therefore, unresolved.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is the victim of neglect in a nursing home, what can you do? Can you sue for losses? Our lawyers at Sinel & Olesen, PLLC may be able to help you.
What is nursing home neglect?
The federal government regulates nursing homes and other care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid. This ensures an adequate level of safety for residents.
The individual state governments lay out more precise guidelines that must be followed.
Nursing home neglect occurs can be defined as follows:
“a failure, intentional or not, to provide a person with the care and services necessary to ensure freedom from harm or pain; a failure to react to a potentially dangerous situation resulting in resident harm or anxiety.”
Many victims of nursing home neglect are not even aware of it. They may sense that something is wrong but a concerned loved one is often the first to raise the alarm.
Patients in nursing homes are usually at their most vulnerable. They may have suffered mental decline and not be in a position to recognize the signs of neglect, let alone do anything about it.
Neglect can take many forms and it helps to be aware of the various situations that may arise in a nursing home environment.
Common examples of nursing home neglect
The signs of neglect may involve actions not taken. This may make them more difficult to identify than signs of abuse.
The following are all common examples of neglect in nursing homes:
- The presence of bedsores
Bedsores or “pressure ulcers” are a typical sign of neglect as they result from a lack of movement when a patient is confined to a bed or wheelchair.
- Unexpected weight loss or dehydration
Residents in nursing homes have a basic right to receive adequate nutrition and hydration. If your loved one starts losing weight, this could be a sign of neglect in this respect.
- Inadequate supervision of residents
Residents often require help performing basic daily duties like going to the bathroom, bathing, and so on. Without adequate supervision, they may fall and injure themselves.
- Unsanitary conditions
If a resident’s clothing, bedsheets, bedroom, or common areas are left in unsanitary conditions, this type of neglect raises the risk of disease and infection.
- Illness or injury
If your loved one falls sick in a nursing home with conditions unrelated to the primary condition, ask whether this could be due to neglect? Signs of injury may also point to an avoidable fall and should be investigated.
- Mistakes with medication
If nursing home carers are tasked with administering medication for your loved one, mistakes can be serious. Failure to follow the required schedule may constitute neglect.
- Unsafe living conditions
This encompasses a wide range of conditions, such as poorly heated or ventilated rooms, wet floors, lack of hot and cold running water, fire hazards, and so on.
The effects of such neglect are often worse for people who are already in a frail and vulnerable condition, leading to:
- Serious physical injury from slips and falls
- Hospitalization for medical conditions such as infections
- Mental health issues
- Stress and emotional trauma
Can you sue for nursing home neglect?
Yes. If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to neglect in a nursing home, you can file a lawsuit against the nursing home.
However, each state has different definitions of neglect and processes for dealing with neglect claims.
In most cases, your complaint will not go too far without the help of a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice.
When should you contact a lawyer?
Instances of neglect in nursing homes are often first observed initially by friends or relatives visiting loved ones.
Going to court is rarely the first option.
Most people will raise the issue with relevant authorities in the nursing home and try to improve the situation. The nursing home will have a grievance procedure to follow if it is Medicare-certified.
However, sometimes it is too late. At other times the nursing home fails to correct the situation and the situation deteriorates for the patient.
You may need to speak to a local long-term care ombudsman or the adult protective services agency.
If you are still unable to rectify the situation, contact a lawyer about your situation and discuss your options. You may decide to file a case against the nursing home.
This can bring compensation for the physical harm, distress, and expense caused by nursing home neglect.
However, be warned: this is no simple process.
Nursing homes often have powerful legal representation. The burden of proof can be high and you may require the assistance of professional witnesses to demonstrate the losses suffered.
Hiring an experienced lawyer who understands the local state court system and has represented victims of nursing home neglect will help.
It doesn’t matter if the neglect was intentional or not…
When a loved one enters a nursing home in the U.S. you are entitled to believe that they are safe and will receive a reasonable level of care.
When these standards are not met, you can claim for losses through the legal system – whether or not the neglect was intentional.
Being understaffed or having inadequately qualified, trained or supervised carers is not an excuse.
If you identify the warning signs of neglect and a loved one’s health or wellbeing has suffered, you can hold the nursing home liable.