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 rise 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 faced abuse or neglect, 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
State and federal guidelines regulate nursing homes. These laws ensure that each resident receives 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 about your loved one’s nursing home rights and can explain them to you. If you believe your loved one’s rights have been violated, you can take legal action on their behalf.
Every resident in the facility has the following rights:
- Freedom from any form of abuse. This includes physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.
- Protected personal information. A resident’s personal information or medical history is private unless there is consent to release them.
- 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.
- Respectful treatment. 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 cannot harbor evidence of abuse or hide instances of abuse occurring. Nursing home 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, for abuse and violations, 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 nursing home 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. Overworked and underpaid employees could neglect residents because they don’t have the numbers to be able to provide the care residents need and deserve.
In an understaffed home, those working there likely aren’t getting enough sleep and may become fatigued. When they’re supposed to provide care for too many residents, it’s likely some responsibilities are going to fall through the cracks. If staff members are fatigued or overwhelmed, they’re more likely to make mistakes that could put your loved one at risk. If emergency situations arise and they need to attend to that first, your loved one may suffer because there aren’t others to attend to their needs as well.
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 their injuries can be severe. If they hit their head, they can suffer a brain injury. One major concern is a broken hip. These injuries 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.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Their Symptoms
Nursing home neglect and abuse can occur in different ways. Residents may be targeted because of their mental and physical states and will have a more difficult time fighting back or verbalizing what’s happening to them. As a result, unexpected and sudden signs indicative of abuse can appear. The types and signs of abuse include:
- Physical. Shoving, hitting, or gripping too tightly can cause physical harm to the resident. As a result, lacerations, welts, and bruises could appear. More serious injuries, like broken bones or head trauma, will require medical intervention and could put the victim in serious danger. While the occasional bruise may happen from normal circumstances, if you consistently notice physical injuries, it’s likely your loved one isn’t being treated well in their home.
- Emotional. This includes shouting, insulting, or putting down the senior and making them feel terrible and have low self-esteem. Emotional abuse is used as a weapon to scare residents into complying with orders. The victim may become withdrawn and not seem like themselves. They may forgo their usual activities or dramatically change their eating or sleeping habits.
- 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. The resident could experience changes in mood or become easily agitated. If the psychological abuse involves fear, your loved one may appear scared or be unwilling to speak with you about their day-to-day life.
- 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. Residents who are intentionally or unintentionally ignored may suffer from dehydration or malnutrition. It’s also common for neglected individuals to fall and sustain serious injuries. The facility’s living conditions may be poor, which will affect hygiene and illness rates.
- 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. If you notice odd transactions on your loved one’s bank statements, changes have been unexpectedly been made to official documents like wills, or money or personal belongings are missing, exploitation is possible.
- 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. Sexual abuse can affect a person physically and emotionally. You may notice they have difficulty walking, torn or stained clothing, bruising or bleeding around the genitals, or signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
When you think of restraints, you may think about physical ones that would keep your loved one in their bed or chair. These can be dangerous for your loved one if someone applies them and they don’t do it properly. If the restraints are too loose, your loved one could slip out and fall, or they could get tangled within the restraints. Restraints that are too tight could cut off circulation or cause cuts. Sometimes, restraints that are too tight could also restrict your loved one from breathing, such as restraints that are applied too tightly around the chest. Incorrectly applied restraints could also cause strangulation.
However, there’s another form of restraints you should know about: chemical restraints. This is when a nursing home will use drugs to make your loved one more sedated or sluggish, which makes them easier to control. This can be extremely dangerous for your loved one. If they’re being given too much of a medication to put them in a subdued state, they could be at risk of overdosing. An overdose can harm the brain, cause seizures, put your loved one in a coma, and also put their lives at risk.
It’s important to know that use of restraint in any form violates your loved one’s rights. They’re protected from use of restraints as punishment or convenience. If restraints must be used, they need to meet specific parameters that typically include medical approval from a doctor, informing the resident of what’s happening, reporting the use of restraints and why to the family, and also not using them when they’re no longer necessary.
Instances where restraints may need to be used is in life-saving situations, where restraints would protect your loved one’s health and safety. But these are not supposed to be a regular option for everyday situations.
If you’re looking for signs of restraint use, physical ones may leave markings. You may be able to notice your loved one’s wrists or ankles when you visit them. Red marks, bruising, or cuts could indicate use of restraints.
Signs of chemical restraint use is slightly different and may be harder to notice. Your loved one may seem more out of it or slow to respond to you or the environment around them. This can be difficult to notice because your loved one may have a condition that means they’re not lucid all the time—dementia and other forms of memory loss can do this. Or, they may have a prescribed medication that already puts them in a more subdued state, but it’s a side effect of the drug in its normal dose.
While it can be painful to think your loved one’s nursing home is illegally using restraints, it’s important to remain vigilant and to keep an eye out for any sign of mistreatment. Your loved one may not be able to tell you what’s happening.
Staff Abuse vs. Resident-On-Resident Abuse
There is more than one party who can perpetrate abuse against senior citizens. In a long-term care facility, 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 nursing home 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. A nursing home abuse attorney from Shrager & Sachs in Philadelphia are understanding and compassionate people who won’t stop until your loved one gets justice.
Recognizing Abuse in Long-Term Care Facilities
Apart from recognizing symptoms of nursing home neglect, 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.
- Lack of Personal Hygiene. Your loved one should have fresh clothes, bed sheets, and their hygienic routines should be carried out each day. If they need assistance, a staff should help them maintain their hygiene. A negligent nursing home may fall behind on your love one’s needs. You may notice dirty clothes, bad breath, or an odor—signs that the nursing home isn’t meeting your loved one’s needs.
- Medication Errors. Your loved one may need medication on a regular basis. If they’re given the wrong medication, they may have an adverse reaction. The wrong dosage could either not be enough to treat your loved one’s ailment or it could put them in danger of an overdose. They may even go without their medication if nurses do not see them regularly.
- Bed Sores. If your loved one has trouble walking, they may be in their bed, in a chair, or in wheelchair during the day. During this time, staff should reposition your loved one and use support from cushions. If they don’t, then they can suffer from pressure sores. These can form when pressure is consistently on an area of the body. If these injuries get infected, they can cause severe issues.
- Noticeable Change in Behavior. If your loved one seems more withdrawn or fearful or otherwise aren’t acting like themselves, this could be indicative of abuse or mistreatment.
- Weight Loss. If your loved one is losing weight and you don’t know why, this could be from them not getting the meals they need. Lack of nutrition can weaken your loved one’s immune system and make them more susceptible to sickness. It also makes it difficult for them to maintain muscle and strength.
- 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.
- You Cannot See Your Loved One. If the nursing home prevents you from seeing your loved one with no explanation, this may indicate that abuse is occurring. It could be to prevent you from seeing noticeable injuries.
- 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.
- Complaints. Your loved one may speak to you about their lack of care or abuse in their home. It’s important to take their complaints seriously and address them immediately. However, just because your loved one isn’t complaining doesn’t mean a lack of abuse or neglect. They may have trouble physically speaking or are afraid to speak up. That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye out for other signs of abuse or neglect.
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 seeing the regular day-to-day of the home is more likely. You may be able to catch signs of abuse more easily because there won’t be a crowd of visitors.
What Are the Types of Occupations in a Nursing Home?
If your loved one was abused or neglected, you may be wondering who sees your loved one on a regular basis. There are many different types of occupations in a nursing home and your loved one could see several people each day. Let’s go over the different people your loved one may interact with on a daily basis. According to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics Occupational Outlook Quarterly, the following occupations have the largest employment in nursing homes:
- Nursing Aides
- Licensed Practical Nurses
- Licensed Vocational Nurses
- Registered Nurses
- Home Health Aides
- Housekeeping Cleaners
- Food Preparation Workers
- Cooks and Cafeteria Workers
- Recreation Workers
- Laundry Workers
- Non-Restaurant Food Servers
There are other people your loved one may interact with as well:
- Physical Therapists
- Certified Nursing Assistants
- Administrative Workers
A nursing home needs these people so they can work to provide your loved one with proper medical care, a safe, clean environment, and nutritious meals. Depending on the symptoms of your loved one, it could indicate where the source of abuse or neglect is coming from.
For example, noticing a lack of hygiene could point to those who are responsible for helping your loved one bathe, brush their hair and teeth, and put on fresh clothes. If it seems like your loved one has physical injuries, those who help them move may be handling them too roughly.
A nursing home abuse attorney will investigate who your loved one was in contact with on a regular basis to find the negligent party. We’ll look into medical records and further evidence to find the extent of your loved one’s physical injuries and the treatment necessary to get your loved one back to health.
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 upmost 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 during procedures. 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. Facilities should provide social, physical, educational, and creative activities. Not only will 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 inviting, not sterile like a hospital. Residents who can bring some of their own furnishings and pictures will be happier. The food should be attractive, well-balanced, and available in a pleasant setting.
Unfortunately, even if a facility in Philadelphia 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 deserve, there are steps you can take to remedy the situation.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Protect Your Loved One
A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and determine what has happened, if it’s assumed your loved one was abused. Your first priority, however, is going to be getting them into a safe environment. It’s important to remember that there are plenty of services you can find out about through the National Center on Elder Abuse 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 the Pennsylvania Department of Health about the treatment your loved one received. This alerts the state’s department of health that there is a potentially abusive environment for senior citizens. Keep track of the reports you make and who you speak with. Your Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to use that information to show how seriously you’re taking the matter.
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 and getting in touch with a lawyer, you may also want to call the police.
After you have ensured your loved one is safe, an experienced lawyer can help you start your claim. 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. To start the investigation, your lawyer will speak with your loved one, their facility, and any possible witnesses to the abuse. Medical records and video records can support claims and prove negligence.
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 what compensation is owed for the sustained damages. Calculating losses is complicated, especially when there are noneconomic damages, but your attorney will have access to the experts who can make those calculations and estimates.
When your loved one has suffered because of nursing home neglect or abuse, you can make sure they get justice. A skilled Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney from our firm will do everything to get your loved one the compensation they deserve. Your actions may also spark change within the long term care facility. New policies and procedures can ensure no one else suffers.
We’re ready to help you. Get in touch with us to schedule a consultation, free of charge.