There are well over one million nursing home residents in the United States, and nearly 10 million elderly individuals, those over the age of 65, are in need of assistance to complete everyday tasks. In the not-so-distant future, those numbers will raise considerably, which is why it’s imperative for long-term care facilities to be able to provide their residents with the care they need and deserve.
Nursing home residents require access to proper medical care, basic necessities to live like food, clothing, and shelter, and opportunities for social interaction. Many families need to trust assisted living or long-term care centers to provide a high quality of life for their loved ones. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen for a number of unintentional and intentional reasons.
If you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected, you need to act quickly. After getting your loved one to a safe environment, you can seek to recover damages with a Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer from Shrager & Sachs through a thorough investigation of the facility.
We will fight to get your loved one fair compensation for what they’ve been through. They may be eligible to receive damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and more. We’re determined to protect the seniors of Philadelphia and the greater Pennsylvania area.
Nursing Home Residents’ Rights in Pennsylvania
Nursing homes are regulated by state and federal guidelines. These laws ensure that each resident is provided with the care they need and the respect they deserve. It also informs facilities how they should be caring for their residents. While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services establish the federal laws, the Pennsylvania Department of Health regulates the state guidelines. It’s important for residents and family members to understand what the existing rights are to ensure illegal actions are not taking place.
Our attorneys know what your loved one’s rights are when they live in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility in Pennsylvania. If you believe your loved one’s rights have been violated, you can take legal action on their behalf.
Every resident in the home is entitled to:
- Freedom from any form of abuse. This includes physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.
- Protected personal information. Facilities are not allowed to give out a resident’s information or medical history without their consent.
- Safe and secure living conditions. This includes living in sanitary, comfortable conditions and having the right to personal privacy. Living conditions should provide residents with a high quality of life. Physical health, mental health, nutrition, and hydration should not be negatively affected.
- Being treated with respect. Residents have a right to practice their own religions and customs, without fear of mistreatment.
- Always given information regarding care, treatment, and their living situation. Seniors should be aware of their conditions, allowed to choose a doctor, have the ability to make decisions regarding treatment, and be fully informed about their care.
Care institutions are also under regulations to provide a duty of care to their residents. When these guidelines are followed, the above rights will remain intact. Staff must do the following:
- Create an abuse-free environment protected by policies and procedures. All staff members should be properly trained and ensure they understand how the facility’s policies work in order to provide residents with the best care.
- Report allegations of resident abuse and investigate them. Nursing home employees are not allowed to harbor evidence of abuse or hide instances of abuse occurring. Abuse allegations need to be properly investigated by authorities.
- Provide individual care and accommodations tailored to each resident’s specific needs. Every resident will have different needs. As such, facilities should ensure those needs are met with reasonable accommodations.
- Give residents the opportunity to maintain a high quality of life. This includes providing residents with the proper care they need to maintain a quality of life that is best based on their condition.
When a facility fails to take a resident’s abuse allegations seriously or denies them any of their rights, they need to be held accountable for their actions. Our lawyers will investigate your loved one’s case, see if any of their rights were violated, and determine who is liable.
The Reality of Nursing Home Abuse
People taking advantage of the elderly is a recurring problem each year. The statistics on elder abuse may be lower than the real amount of abuse that’s occurring because seniors may be too scared or unable to report what’s happening.
- The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reported the Ombudsman program that advocates for seniors received 14,258 complaints about abuse and neglect in 2014.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that hundreds of thousands of seniors over 60 years old are abused, neglected, or financially exploited each year.
Seniors are vulnerable to abuse and they deserve representation that will stand up for their rights. At Shrager & Sachs, we will make sure your loved one’s voice is heard and the people who are responsible will have to answer for their actions.
Common Causes of Abuse in Nursing Homes
There are a number of reasons nursing home abuse occurs; however, those reasons are never looked at as excuses. It’s likely you’ll do an extensive amount of research when you’re looking for a home for your loved one. Even the safest facility could make a mistake and harm your family member. It’s a fact that professional caregivers are capable of making mistakes; however, when harm is involved, that individual needs to be held accountable so the mistake does not happen again.
Major issues with skilled nursing facilities revolve around the high turnover rate and understaffing. Nursing homes may not hire enough people to effectively run the home in an attempt to save money. Employees are often overworked and underpaid, which can increase their chances of working while they’re fatigued or frustrated.
When there aren’t enough people on staff, your loved one won’t get the full attention and care they deserve. Residents may need help doing everyday tasks like getting dressed, using the restroom, and walking. If they aren’t supervised and not getting the help they need, they may lay in bed all day or attempt to do these tasks on their own and potentially fall and injure themselves. Fall injuries are dangerous for elderly people because the injuries can get infected and it often takes longer for them to recover. Sometimes, falls can be lethal if they don’t get the help they need in time.
Understanding the Types of Elder Abuse
Nursing home neglect and abuse can occur in different forms. Residents may be targeted because of their mental and physical states. Many seniors in long-term care communities may have dementia or other forms of memory loss. These people may have a more difficult time fighting back or verbalizing what’s happening to them. The following are forms of elder abuse:
- Physical. Shoving, hitting, or gripping too tightly can cause physical harm to the resident. Overmedicating and using restraints are also forms of physical abuse that results in dangerous injuries.
- Emotional. This includes shouting, insulting, or putting down the senior and making them feel terrible and have low self-esteem.
- Psychological. While similar to emotional, this form of abuse occurs when a caregiver doesn’t acknowledge when a resident speaks or does anything, making them feel isolated.
- Neglect. Homes may not be able to provide your loved one with the care they need, like making sure they’re regularly hydrating or exercising, and your loved one’s health can suffer because of this.
- Financial. Some people may try to take advantage of an elderly person and steal their money. Someone could forge their signature, use the senior’s card without permission, or take money from their wallet.
- Sexual. This form of abuse is when sexual contact occurs that the resident either didn’t provide or isn’t able to provide explicit consent.
Staff Abuse vs. Resident-On-Resident Abuse
There is more than one party who can perpetrate abuse against senior citizens. In a nursing home, one would usually suspect the staff of being guilty of abuse, but that isn’t always the case. While staff can be negligent or be abusive, there’s also the chance of other residents being abusive.
Resident-on-resident abuse is an issue in nursing homes because it’s difficult to recognize and prove. This is because the issue is not well documented, so it’s understudied. Residents can bully, terrorize, and hurt other residents. Issues can arise between roommates, and residents can make threats or destroy belongings that aren’t theirs.
Abusive residents may be bullying other residents intentionally, but there are situations where they may not be in control of their actions or inhibitions. Those who have memory issues, mood disorders, or have suffered from major medical events like a stroke may have moments where they are angry or upset and resort to shouting insults or profanity, without realizing how their actions impact others.
But no matter how or why the abuse happens, no one deserves this kind of treatment. When long-term care facilities fail to protect their residents, that’s where we come in. The personal injury lawyers at Shrager & Sachs are understanding and compassionate people who won’t stop until your loved one gets justice.
The Symptoms of Elder Abuse
Nursing home abuse symptoms can present in a number of ways. Some may think that a resident is acting a certain way if they have memory loss or have had health complications in the past. But if the change seems sudden and if they haven’t had a medical event, there’s a chance the symptoms are indicative of abuse.
- Unexplained Injuries.Physical injuries like broken bones, welts, and bruises could be evidence of abuse. While an occasional bump and bruise isn’t anything to worry about, noticing injuries on a regular basis isn’t normal.
- Change in Mood. Your loved one may show a sudden change in demeanor. If they don’t seem like themselves, something more could be going on.
- Appearing Withdrawn. If your loved one is usually present and aware when you visit and now seems like they’re completely zoned out, this could be a sign of overmedication, a form of abuse that makes senior citizens easier to control.
- Easily Agitated. While those with memory loss can get agitated, a sudden switch to an agitated state that doesn’t seem like how your loved one usually behaves can show that something is wrong.
- Malnutrition and Dehydration. Seniors need to have healthy, nutritious meals and constant hydration to maintain their wellbeing. Sudden weakness or fatigue could be signs that your loved one isn’t getting enough nutritious food or water.
- Poor Living Conditions. Your loved one should be in clean clothes, fresh bedsheets, and their room should be clean as well. If you notice your loved one in dirty or soiled clothes or bedsheets, the home may be neglecting them.
Recognizing Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities
Apart from recognizing symptoms of abuse, what are other indicators that your loved one isn’t in a healthy environment? There are a few major red flags you can see when you’re visiting your loved one.
- Unhygienic Environment. The nursing home should be clean. While occasional spills or accidents do happen, these are supposed to be dealt with as soon as possible. A home with a foul odor and obvious lack of upkeep is a dangerous environment because it will be easier for illness to spread.
- Visitors Need Supervision. You should be able to visit your loved one without a staff member supervising the entire interaction. A situation where it seems like you can’t speak to your loved one by themselves is suspicious.
- Speaking to Other Residents or Families. While you’re visiting, see what other residents and their families think about the care they’re receiving. You may get more information about the quality of care in the nursing home.
You may want to visit your loved one at uncommon times, so you can see what the home is like outside of peak visiting hours. Your chances of catching signs of abuse may be greater because there won’t be a crowd of visitors.
How Facilities Can Provide Better Elder Care
There are certain qualities a nursing home must possess to provide quality elder care to their residents. Recognizing these elements can make it easier to choose a facility for your family member. Making an informed decision is one of the best ways to ensure your loved one’s safety.
All residents should be treated with the utmost respect – no matter their physical or mental condition. Staff members should be friendly, supportive, and caring, while respecting the privacy of residents by doing simple things like knocking on doors before entering and providing clear communication when procedures are being done. The facility should be clean and orderly, and residents should be well-dressed and groomed.
There should also be a variety of activities for the residents to participate in. Social, physical, educational, and creative activities should be provided. Not only with those opportunities provide social interaction, but the mental stimulation is beneficial as well.
It’s also important for your loved one to be comfortable. The facility should look homelike and comfortable, not sterile like a hospital. Residents should be allowed to bring some of their own furnishings and pictures. The food should be attractive, well-balanced, and available in a pleasant setting.
Unfortunately, even if a facility possess the qualities discussed above for proper elder care, there’s always the chance your loved one could come into contact with an abusive employee or the quality of the home could begin to decrease. If you believe your loved one isn’t receiving the care they are entitled to, there are steps you can take to remedy the situation.
Steps to Take If You Suspect Your Loved One Is Being Abused
If you’re are concerned about your loved one’s safety in their facility, your first priority is going to be getting them into a safe environment. It’s important to remember that there are plenty of services that will help you and your loved one.
You can contact a Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocate, for those who live in assisted living communities and facilities. Their priority is making sure senior citizens are getting the care they need and are in safe and healthy environments. The Ombudsman program isn’t funded or run by nursing homes, so there is no incentive for them to ignore your loved one’s complaints against the institution.
You can also file a complaint with your state about how your loved one was treated at their nursing home. This alerts the state’s department of health that there is a potentially abusive environment for senior citizens.
Depending on what has happened, your loved one’s abuse may have occurred with intent from the abuser. This may be considered a crime. While contacting services to help your loved one, you may also want to call the police.
After you have ensured your loved one is safe, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced law firm. It can be challenging to go up against a long-term care facility on your own. Our Philadelphia lawyers will ensure your claim is thoroughly investigated, so you have a complete understanding of what your loved one has been through. Once a strong case has been built in your family’s favor, your personal injury attorney will be able to prove how the facility wronged your loved one and that compensation is owed for the sustained damages.
When your loved one has suffered because of elder abuse, you can make sure they get justice. Our skilled Philadelphia nursing home attorneys will do everything to get your loved one the compensation they deserve. Your actions may also spark change within the long term care facility, so policies and procedures are implemented that ensure this never happens again.
We’re ready to help you. Get in touch with us to schedule a consultation, free of charge.