Nursing home abuse claims involving dementia patients can present special challenges, but this should not deter you from seeking compensation for the harm your loved one has suffered. The term dementia is used to refer to a general decline in a person's cognitive abilities. Dementia often starts off very mild but will progress to the point where the affected person can no longer live independently.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia?
Symptoms of dementia vary depending on individual circumstances but often include:
- Memory loss
- Trouble paying attention
- Language and communication difficulties
- Issues with visual perception
Healthcare professionals use 7 stages of dementia to indicate how far the condition has progressed:
- Stage 1: No Cognitive Decline. The person is considered mentally healthy and does not have a dementia diagnosis.
- Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline. The affected individual has displayed some difficulty remembering familiar objects and or locations.
- Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline. The affected person is having difficulty concentrating and experiences decreased work performance.
- Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline. The individual has trouble managing his finances and struggles to socialize with others.
- Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline. The individual requires help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, cooking, and cleaning.
- Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline. The affected person requires extensive daily assistance and is unable to remember the names of close family members or recent events.
- Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline. The individual displays a near total loss of the ability to communicate with others.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that primarily affects people over age 65. It causes memory loss as well as changes in mood and behavior. Between 60% and 80% of dementia patients are eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Dementia and Nursing Home Abuse
Caring for a dementia patient can be very difficult. When the affected individual is not able to communicate his needs or remember simple instructions, this can be frustrating for untrained, inexperienced, or overwhelmed caregivers. Additionally, dementia patients can sometimes take out their frustration in ways that cause serious harm.
Patients with dementia have a higher than average risk of becoming victims of a variety of forms of nursing home abuse, including:
- Physical abuse - slapping, kicking, pinching, punching, pushing, shoving, or other actions designed to cause pain or injury
- Emotional abuse - verbal assaults, harassment, intimidation, or threats of physical harm
- Neglect - failure to provide essentials such as food, clothing, and medical care
- Confinement - isolating or otherwise restraining a person unnecessarily
- Sexual abuse - touching, fondling, or otherwise engaging in sexual activity with a person who is unable to consent
- Financial abuse - withholding or misusing the elderly person's financial resources
Nursing home abuse can be perpetuated by a number of care workers including nurses, personal care attendants, dietary aides, housekeepers, and facility administrators. Resident-on-resident abuse is also a concern.
Proving a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
Cases of nursing home abuse involving dementia patients can be difficult to prove because the victim cannot reliably testify regarding the events that have occurred. However, there are other types of evidence that may be used to prove the claim. For example:
- Evidence of bruises, cuts, and other injuries that indicate physical mistreatment
- Bank account records indicating misappropriation of finances
- Testimony from friends and family about incidents that have been directly observed
- Testimony from individuals who work in the facility
- Testimony from the resident's healthcare provider about how mistreatment has affected preexisting health issues
- Records indicating previous problems with the nursing home's level of care, including fines and citations
Since an adult who is suffering from dementia lacks the cognitive ability necessary to understand legal proceedings, he will need to have a guardian ad litem file the claim. This is normally a spouse, adult child, or other family member, but it can also be a court-appointed individual, if necessary.
The best way to protect your loved one's rights is to retain the services of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can gather evidence to support the claim for damages and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with the legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault.