As our loved ones grow older, we may find ourselves in charge of finding them long-term care for when they are unable to do so themselves.
The thought of making the wrong decision and putting them in a position of abuse is unthinkable.
But it happens more than we think.
Nearly 1 in 10 of the 52 million American’s over 65 suffer from elder abuse every year, according to some estimates.
And with the spread of the coronavirus, these types of care facilities are more locked down than ever, making it harder to contact our loved ones and check in on them.
With so much care for our loved ones going on behind closed doors, it is our hope that these facilities are taking the necessary precautions to help keep the virus from being another issue to contend with.
Research into how nursing homes are handling COVID-19 is starting to say otherwise.
What is Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse?
Nursing home abuse differs from neglect.
Nursing home abuse is when specific and intentional harm is caused to someone in an extended care facility by someone who is meant to be a caregiver.
Types of abuse can be financial, sexual, and physical.
Nursing home neglect on the other hand is a lack of meeting the resident’s needs. This may mean leaving residents alone, not cleaning their clothes often enough, forgetting to give food or water at appropriate times (or at all), etc.
Types of neglect may include emotional, hygiene, medical, and basic needs.
Your concerns about how the facility is handling coronavirus outbreaks and the spreading of the disease would fall under neglect.
Proper hygiene and precautions should be taking place to help ensure the safety of residents and to help stop the spread as much as possible.
Full Episode Transcript
Stay tuned to learn more about nursing home abuse and neglect, what can you do to ensure that your loved one is being properly taken care of?
Hi, I’m Dennis VanDerGinst being an attorney, I know that the law can get confusing. In Legal Squeaks, we provide you with useful and easy to understand squeaks of information on legal and consumer issues that you can apply in your daily life. Let’s get started.
Welcome to Legal Squeaks, I’m your host, Dennis VanDerGinst.
Before we get started, I’d like to remind you all, please be sure to subscribe to Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform. It’s free, it’s easy, and we would be most grateful. Today, we’re going to discuss a very sad topic, nursing home abuse and neglect. As we get older, many of us are faced with the responsibility of being a caretaker for our aging parents or grandparents. We all hope to assist our loved ones in being independent as long as possible.
However, for many, skilled nursing care in a residential environment is the only option. Placing a loved one in a nursing home is one of the most difficult decisions that people have to make. Now, nursing homes are supposed to provide residents with the level of care that they’d not otherwise receive in their own homes or on their own. And most nursing homes do a fairly decent job of doing so. Nursing homes are often tasked with caring for residents who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases like dementia or who are physically disabled or incapacitated and can’t perform self care.
And there’s this expectation that we have that the nursing homes going to provide a high level of care to our loved ones as residents and treat them with respect, compassion and even love. The Nursing Home Abuse Center estimates that about one to two million U.S. citizens 65 years of age or older have been mistreated, exploited, or injured by a caregiver. Unfortunately, a study of 2000 nursing facility residents indicated that an abuse rate of 44 percent and the neglect rate of 95 percent exists in nursing homes, according to the NHAC.
So even after a tireless search and due diligence, you can sometimes end up placing a loved one in a nursing home that ends up not providing quality treatment and care. Sometimes this is because they’re understaffed. Sometimes it’s due to poor hiring policies or poor supervision. Poor h–or poor care in a nursing home can constitute negligence or even abuse. We like to believe that when we turn care of a loved one over to a nursing home, that they will be well taken care of.
And in many instances they are. But sometimes they’re clearly ignored and or abused. Some of the neglect or abuse that takes place is absolutely appalling. And I don’t say this to scare anyone, but it does exist and people need to monitor the care that their loved ones receive in a nursing home. This is even more important when your loved one suffers from a form of dementia or another malady which makes it either difficult or impossible for them to relay their own concerns or complaints about their treatment.
Abuse or neglect in a nursing home doesn’t only encompass the actions or inactions of the nursing home staff, but it can also include the actions of residents toward each other. In other words, sometimes residents of nursing homes hurt each other. The nursing home might be liable for the actions of those residents if they knew or should have known or should have anticipated that a potential danger existed and did nothing about it. In other words, if they know or they should be aware that one resident may harm another resident, then they need to do what they can to diffuse the situation and or to warn residents or their loved ones that it exists.
Generally speaking, abuse and neglect in nursing home settings fall under several general categories. Probably the most obvious would be physical abuse and neglect, but that can encompass a lot of different scenarios. The most obvious would be those situations where a resident is attacked or struck or otherwise physically harmed by a staff member or another resident. But it can also include such situations, such as placing a resident in an improper body position or not properly turning a resident who is bedridden in order to avoid bedsores.
That can be another way in which a resident is physically harmed, physically abused, physically neglected. It can involve failing to bathe a resident. It can include not giving proper toileting opportunities to resident. It can involve failure to give a resident proper nutrition. I’m sure you can imagine any number of similar situations that might arise which constitute physical abuse or neglect. Physical abuse might be indicated if you see any of the following situations. First of all, unexplained broken bones, dislocations, sprains, bruises or welts, signs of restraint having been used.
In other words, if you see in your loved ones a room that there’s a sign of restraint that might indicate that there is some physical abuse taking taking place, and you’re going to want to be aware of that. If you see broken eyeglasses, if you notice that your loved ones, tooth or teeth, are loose or missing, if you notice a traumatic hair loss, if you see unexplained burns or scratches. If it becomes necessary–and there are reports to you that there are various emergency room trips, including two different emergency rooms, or if there’s a history of hospitalization for the same injuries.
That’s also indicative of physical abuse. If there’s a refusal by the caregiver, in other words, a staffer at the nursing home to let you be alone with your loved one, that’s usually a good indication that something untoward is occurring. If there are unusual behaviors that you’re noticing from your loved ones, such as mumbling or rocking back and forth, that can also be an indication that some type of physical abuse or neglect is occurring. Medical negligence is another form of abuse or neglect that can occur in nursing homes. Anytime there’s a digression from the acceptable standard of care with respect to a nursing home resident,
and when that lack of care then leads to an injury or illness, that can constitute medical negligence. It can arise in the context of failing to dispense a resident’s medication or giving the wrong medication or the wrong dosages. It can result as as a failure to properly position or turn a bedridden resident, as I indicated earlier. It can occur when a resident is improperly transferred from a bed or or to to or from a bed or to or from a seat which results in a fall.
It can occur if a wound is not properly addressed and becomes more dangerous, or when a nurse or other staff member fails to seek further and proper medical care in the midst of a medical emergency. Those are all indications that medical negligence may be occurring, which is a form of nursing home abuse or neglect. Something that isn’t often discussed but is fairly prevalent in nursing homes is the issue of sexual abuse. That is something that takes place in nursing homes.
Any sexual contact between a resident and anyone else may constitute sexual abuse. Now, this can take place between a nursing home resident and a staff member, or it can take place between residents. If it’s non-con–if it’s non consensual, it is a form of sexual abuse. Even if it appears to have been consensual, it may still be a form of sexual abuse, if your loved one, as the resident, is not is not capable of giving proper and reasonable consent due to their medical or their mental condition.
In a situation like this, there might not only be civil consequences, but also criminal repercussions available as well. This is also a good example of how and when a nursing home may be liable for damages that result, even if it’s another resident guilty of the sexual assault or abuse rather than a staff member. Because if employees or management or ownership of the nursing home knows or should be aware that there’s a risk that such activity may or is taking place between residents or with staff, they have to take measures to reduce that possibility and or to warn both the resident and or their loved ones that something like that is going on.
Otherwise, if they fail to do so, they can and should be liable for the damages that result as a consequence of that kind of sexual abuse. Now, some signs of sexual abuse would be indicated if you, as a loved one, notice unexplained STDs or other genital infections. If you notice bruising near or around the genitals or the breasts, if you notice stained bloody or torn underwear or clothing, if you notice vaginal or anal bleeding, which is not related to a medical condition, those can all be an indication that there is some kind of sexual abuse taking place and should be a red flag for you to follow up on.
Abuse may also be emotional or psychological as opposed to physical. Bullying, taunting, teasing residents, those are common examples of emotional abuse. Refusing to allow residents to participate in social activities or to spend time with loved ones are also examples of psychological abuse. Some of the indications of emotional abuse may be if, for instance, if you are visiting a loved one and you witness that any of the staff members are exhibiting a controlling or threatening behavior, or if you see just a lack of friendly interaction between the staff and your loved one, that is an indication that you should be very tuned in to what is going on with respect to your loved one and others.
And in an indication you should be looking for this kind of emotional or psychological abuse. Another area where nursing home residents are often exploited is financial exploitation. In that context of nursing homes. Sadly, some nursing home staff members take advantage of nursing home residents by exploiting them financially. They may directly steal from a resident. It could be money. It could be items that a resident has in their room or near their bed. They may ask the resident to borrow money or items and never have an intention to repay it.
Or even if they have the intention, they shouldn’t be asking anyway. And in some instances, in some instances, they even convince residents to change their will in order to include them as a beneficiary in the residents will. So be on the lookout for these types of issues to determine whether there is some type of financial exploitation going on. First of all, if you’re seeing that there are unusual packages, goods, subscriptions, or services that are being rendered in the name of your of your loved one, that’s a good indication.
If your loved one is not getting proper medical care, it may be because funds are are being diverted by a staffer. If you notice, unexplainable withdrawals from the accounts of your loved one. Again, that’s a good a good indication something bad is going on. If you notice that other names are being added to credit cards and bank accounts or that you’re just simply seeing that money and or other items are missing, those are things that you have to be on the lookout for and finally look to see if there are any changes in powers of attorney, life insurance, wills, deeds, etc.
So these are all examples of how nursing home residents might be abused or neglected. Sometimes, as I said, these can result from a lack of proper training. Sometimes they result as a lack of a proper ongoing supervision. Sometimes they result simply because the nursing home is understaffed. But most disappointing of all, however, is when these things occur because of deliberate intent. Some of the common injuries and ailments that occur as a result of these types of abuse of abuse include sepsis, bedsores, fractures, dehydration, infections, malnutrition, burns, breathing tube injuries, and other injuries, as well as emotional trauma.
Now, residents and their loved ones may be able to hold nursing homes accountable for damages that result as a result that result due to the nursing home abuse or neglect. In among those damages might be medical expenses that are recovered in order to pay for care related to addressing that neglect or abuse compensation for emotional or physical pain and suffering, certainly out of pocket expenses related to any losses that are incurred. But obviously, when you get to the point where you’re looking for damages to be recovered, that means that the harm has already occurred.
So that begs the question, what can you do to ensure that your loved one is as removed as possible from harm’s way when being relegated to a nursing home? Well, first of all, there is a five star quality rating system which acts as a tool to help consumers select and compare skilled nursing care centers. It was created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2008. The rating system uses information from health care surveys, quality measures and staffing.
And it’s a good idea to start there to review ratings before making decisions as to where to place a loved one with respect to nursing home care. However, it doesn’t always work as well as it’s intended. The ratings may not always represent the true history of the facility, especially because these facilities obviously behave differently when they know they’re being inspected. Further, you can’t trust reports concerning your loved ones from the facilities themselves because they’re not going to tell you anything that might get themselves into trouble.
So here are some other helpful suggestions. Always be looking for red flags that suggest abuse or neglect. If you have a loved one who’s bedridden, check for bed sores. Bed sores could indicate improper care by the facility beyond simply not turning them properly. It may just be an overall lack of care. So you want to look and see if there are bedsores. If you notice that your loved ones eyes are drawn or their skin seems sunken, that could be a sign of dehydration.
Other signs you want to look out for would include bruising, especially in odd places, as well as fractures, weight loss. You’re always going to want to monitor the medication to make sure that none of the medication is missing. That will indicate whether or not it’s being dispensed in the way it’s intended. And the best way to to monitor for these signs is to make trips to the nursing home and inspect your loved one as often as possible, inspect their room as often as possible.
That’s not always possible for some people. If, for instance, you don’t live in the area where your loved one is a resident. So then you might want to explore the possibility of video monitoring. Sometimes that’s not a realistic opportunity because your loved one may have a a roommate. And then there are privacy issues at stake. But you’ll want to see if that jurisdiction allows recording without people, you know, another person’s prior knowledge and consent. And you might also want to check with the nursing home to see if you are breaking any policies if you ask about video monitoring.
But it’s a great solution or at least a great way to address some of these concerns if it is available to you. If you suspect that your loved one has been abused or neglected in the nursing home, you can certainly raise the issue with the administration or management of the nursing home. However, that’s not always going to result in a viable remedy. So it doesn’t hurt to speak to an attorney right away in order to determine what the best course of action may be.
Be aware that sometimes when an untoward event occurs like a fall or what might appear to be a physical abuse or medical negligence situation, it’s not unusual for a nursing home to try to cover their tracks as quickly as possible. So if you suspect that there’s some abuse or neglect going on, speak to an attorney right away. In most instances, these attorneys, the attorneys that handle these types of cases do so on a contingent fee basis. Therefore, you’re not charged anything unless and only when there is a financial recovery.
Obviously, that is only is only going to, again, address the harm. It’s not it’s not going to keep the harm from occurring. However, by pursuing those types of remedies, it does present a chilling effect on nursing homes so that they try hopefully to remedy any problems that lead to these issues to begin with. So it’s certainly worth looking into if you suspect those types of things are going on. My law firm, VanDerGinst Law, is honored to help if you have any questions.
And as always, I want to thank you for tuning in to Legal Squeaks. Be sure again to subscribe to Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform. You can also go to LegalSqueaks.Com to suggest any other topics you’d like us to discuss and to watch the video version of this and all of our episodes. Also, please check out our other podcast, Uncommon Convos. If you have any suggestions in the future and you can’t reach us via the LegalSqueaks.Com, feel free to reach out at 800-960-VLAW and we’d be happy to talk to you.
Tune in next week when we discuss another legal or consumer issue that may impact your life. And in the meantime, have a great day. Stay safe. And I love you all.
How Many Nursing Homes are Affected by Coronavirus?
According to the New York Times, as of September 2020 7% of coronavirus cases are linked to nursing home staff and residents. The more shocking number is that 40% of all U.S. deaths from coronavirus are linked to these facilities as well.
That’s over 19,000 nursing home facilities nationwide that have been affected, with 77,000 residents and workers having died from COVID-19.
With such widespread infection and death rates, it begs the questions: how did this happen, and what are nursing homes doing to put a stop to it?
What are Nursing Homes Required to Do to Stop the Spread?
Residents of nursing homes are the highest risk category affected by COVID-19. This is because of their age as well as the common presence of underlying conditions.
For these reasons, the CDC has set out specific recommendations for these types of facilities to help combat the spread of the virus.
Some of these recommendations include:
- Appointing a staff member to be trained in infection prevention and control
- Reporting cases of staff and residents weekly to the National Healthcare Safety Network
- Educating staff and residents of current best practices and precautions
- Implementing control measures such as wearing of face masks by health care providers to help prevent the spread
- Making a plan for testing residents and personnel
- Actively taking temperatures and monitoring symptoms
- Providing necessary supplies for prevention
- Allowing separate facility space to care for residents with coronavirus
- Encouraging any visits to be virtual, or that visitors stay away if they are showing any symptoms
Other recommendations are listed on the CDC’s website, and more strict recommendations, such as forbidding all visitors, are also mentioned in more dire cases where nursing home facilities have already been hit hard with the virus.
These are all recommendations.
While a facility may not get into trouble for not following these rules, documentation of their negligence to follow these rules could be grounds for a lawsuit should COVID-19 cases arise.
Do I Have a Valid COVID-19 Nursing Home Case?
Nursing homes have a duty of care towards their residents, which means they may be seen as negligent if they aren’t taking the proper precautions and recommended actions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus through the facility.
This failure in the duty of care may result in a case being made that the nursing home is at fault for contracted cases of COVID-19.
That being said, in some states, such as Iowa, laws have been passed to protect businesses, nursing home facilities, medical facilities, and non-profits from people seeking damages for COVID-related incidents.
The exception to this law is in severe cases wherein the person who contracted the virus was hospitalized or died as a result.
In these severe cases, the situation may be reviewed to try to demonstrate that negligence on the part of the nursing home caused the death or hospitalization of the resident, and to evaluate whether the death or hospitalization could have been prevented had proper measures been implemented and followed by the nursing home and its staff.
A personal injury or wrongful death case may be valid in these case of negligence. Courts have largely been closed since the pandemic hit, and there are not many precedents that have been established.
It is important to speak with an attorney about the laws in your state and whether or not you may have a case.
VanDerGinst Law is currently not accepting Covid-19 cases at this time.
What Can I Recover for a COVID-19 Nursing Home Neglect Case?
In the case of a wrongful death or severe hospitalization, you may be able entitled to recover medical expenses and other damages due to the negligent practices of the nursing home facility.
As with any case, there are too many factors involved to give a certain dollar figure amount on how much you can recover if your loved one contracts coronavirus in a nursing home.
The laws protecting businesses and medical facilities make these difficult cases to explore.
VanDerGinst Law is currently not accepting Covid-19 cases at this time.
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