Our Nursing Home Abuse Frequently Asked QuestionsGet Help Now
Our FAQ section is where you’ll find the answers to your questions regarding nursing home abuse. We provide valuable information that can help you decide how to hold the person or facility responsible for the abuse or neglect of your loved one. If the answers you need are not there, feel free to call us with any questions you have.
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Are Louisiana nursing homes and long-term care facilities allowed to use restraints?
The use of restraints in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is controversial. While restraints do serve a purpose in certain circumstances, many experts believe they are overused. If your loved one is being inappropriately restrained, you may have a valid Louisiana nursing home abuse claim.
A physical restraint is described as any item attached to or near a person's body that restricts movement and can't be manipulated or removed without outside assistance. Types of restraints that might be used in a nursing home or long-term care facility include:
- Straps or belts
- Bed rails
- Bedsheets tucked in tightly to restrict movement
- Limb ties
- Wheelchair bars and brakes
- Chairs that tip back
The term chemical restraints is used to refer to sedatives and other medications given without a legitimate medical reason as a form of discipline or convenience for caretakers.
Effects of Restraints
The use of restraints can be associated with complications such as:
- Respiratory problems
- Loss of strength and muscle tone
- Loss of cardiovascular endurance
- Loss of balance
- Severe constipation
Restraints can also cause severe emotional trauma for the person being restrained. Nursing home or long-term care facility residents who have been restrained often report feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, and fear. They may also view the use of restraints as violating their right to dignity and independence.
In some cases, restraints have been linked to an increased risk of accidents. This may include falls, head trauma, entrapment, or strangulation when a resident attempts to escape a restraint in an unsafe manner.
How Restraints Are Linked to Abuse
Restraints may be used inappropriately due to:
- A lack of awareness of the dangers of inappropriate restraint use
- Negative or parental attitudes toward the elderly or disabled
- Ignorance of effective alternatives to restraints such as modifying the resident's environment or routine to lessen the risk of accidental falls
Louisiana's Department of Health & Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services states that restraints may not be used for staff convenience. Convenience is defined as "any action taken by the facility to control a resident's behavior or manage a resident's behavior with a lesser amount of effort by the facility and not in the resident's best interest."
However, if a resident requires emergency care, restraints are allowed for brief periods as necessary for medical treatment to proceed—unless the resident has previously made a valid refusal of the treatment in question. If a resident is not able to make a refusal, a legal surrogate such as a spouse or an adult child can state preferences regarding care.
In the event of unanticipated violent or aggressive behavior, a resident or his legal surrogate does not have the right to refuse the use of restraints. Restraints are allowed as a measure of last resort to protect the safety of the resident, caretakers, or others at the facility, as long as the restraint usage does not extend beyond the immediate behavioral episode.
Filing an Abuse Claim
Problems with the care your loved one is receiving should first be addressed with the facility administration. However, if you don’t believe the administration is responsive to your concerns, you should consult an attorney to learn more about filing a nursing home abuse claim.
A nursing home abuse claim is a type of civil legal action seeking monetary compensation for medical expenses related to the abuse and the physical and emotional pain and suffering the resident experienced. Punitive damages may be available in some circumstances, as well.
Louisiana's statute of limitations allows you one year to file a nursing home abuse claim. However, since supporting evidence may become more difficult as time passes, it's recommended that you take immediate action.
Because nursing home abuse cases can be quite complex, retaining the services of an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's dedicated legal team.
Are bruises a sign of nursing home abuse?
When your loved one is unable to care for himself, it's understandable to be worried about the risk of nursing home abuse. Although bruises on their own may not be evidence of abuse, they could represent a sign of a problem with the care your loved one is receiving.
Reasons for Bruising in the Elderly
To some extent, bruising in the elderly is normal. Reasons for this include:
- Aging makes elderly people more prone to bruising because their skin is thinner. Additionally, the tissue underneath becomes more fragile as someone ages.
- Some medications that are commonly used by the elderly can make bruises more common or severe in nature. For example, blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), or clopidogrel (Plavix) are often associated with increased bruising.
- Doctor visits can cause bruising for seniors who need intravenous (IV) procedures performed.
- Seniors who have trouble with balance and coordination can accidentally fall and injure themselves.
- Individuals with dementia may engage in self-harming behaviors as part of their condition.
The complexion of your loved one can also make a difference. Fair skinned people tend to have more noticeable bruises, regardless of age.
Bruises on the elderly often take longer to heal than bruises on younger adults, which means they should be monitored closely.
In a young, healthy person, bruises fade away within two to three weeks as the body absorbs the blood pooling in the ruptured vessels near the skin's surface. Bruises will be reddish when they first appear, turn bluish black or purple when healing begins, and then become yellowish green or a lighter brown before they disappear.
In the elderly, bruises can take several weeks or even months to heal completely. Keeping the bruised area elevated higher than the heart during the first 24 hours and using alternating cold and warm compresses for 20 minutes at a time can speed healing by keeping swelling and inflammation to a minimum.
Bruises that harden, become increasingly painful, grow in size, or do not seem to be healing require a thorough medical evaluation to rule out more serious internal injuries or a medical condition affecting healing.
Determining If Bruises Are a Sign of Abuse
Signs that might suggest bruises deserve a closer look include:
- Location. A study by the National Institute of Justice found that bruises on the torso, neck, or head are more strongly associated with elder abuse than bruises on other locations on the body. Bruises that are the result of a genuine accident are more likely to occur on the hands, arms, feet, or legs.
- Pattern. A cluster of small linear bruises could indicate that someone grabbed your loved one forcefully enough to leave finger mark bruises.
- Repetition. A single bruise could very well be an isolated incident. However, bruises that repeatedly occur on the same part of the body are unlikely to be accidental. For example, frequent bruises on the wrists and/or ankles may suggest that restraints are being used on your loved one.
- No concrete explanation. If you receive a vague or contradictory explanation when you ask about bruises on your loved one, it’s cause for concern.
- Accompanied by attitude changes. If your loved one seems anxious or fearful around caregivers, this suggests that abuse may be occurring. Depression and withdrawal from friends and family may also be signs of nursing home abuse.
Protecting Your Loved One's Legal Rights
If you think that your loved one is being mistreated, it's important to act quickly. Nursing home abuse often progresses in intensity, especially when the abuse is due to inexperienced, overworked, or frustrated caregivers or a prevailing problem of understaffing in the facility. Bruises may very well be followed by broken bones, burns, or other severe injuries.
When you have a problem with the care your loved one is receiving, you should first attempt to resolve the issue with the nursing home administration. If you are still not satisfied that your loved one is being properly cared for, you should consult an attorney to learn more about filing a nursing home abuse claim. Contact us online or call our office directly 318.541.8188 to schedule a no-fee consultation.
How does a nursing home end up on Medicare’s Special Focus Facility List?
Nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments are required to be inspected regularly by representatives of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). If you believe your elderly loved one has suffered harm due to nursing home abuse or neglect, the results of these inspections may be valuable evidence in your case. A nursing home that is on the Special Focus Facility (SFF) List may have deficiencies that placed your loved one in unacceptable danger.
About the Special Focus Facility List
Typically, inspections are conducted yearly to determine if a nursing home is providing the quality of care legally required for continued participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
These inspections are very thorough. It is normal for a nursing home to have six to seven deficiencies on each survey. Nursing homes are allowed to take care of their issues within a reasonable timeframe, which is then verified by a follow-up inspection.
Nursing homes can be placed on the SFF List if they have:
- Significantly more deficiencies than average
- More serious deficiencies than average, especially if these deficiencies involve harm caused to residents
- An ongoing pattern of serious problems providing quality care
What it Means to Be a Special Focus Facility
If a nursing home is placed on the SFF List, it will be inspected twice a year. Within 18 to 24 months, its position will be reevaluated. At this time, one of three things will occur:
- The nursing home will be shown to have made significant and sustained improvements. As a result, the facility will graduate from the SFF program.
- The nursing home is determined to have made progress but is granted additional time to continue with its improvement program.
- The nursing home’s participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs will be discontinued due to its continued failure to provide quality care. When this happens, the facility often closes shortly after, and residents receive assistance from the State Medicaid Agency to move to another facility.
Facilities are grouped into five categories in tables that are available on the CMS website:
- New Additions - Nursing homes that were recently added to the list, but haven't had follow-up inspections to check their progress
- Not Improved - Nursing homes that have shown no improvement in a follow-up inspection
- Improving - Nursing homes showing significant improvement and labeled as on track to graduate from the program in a timely fashion
- Recently Graduated - Nursing homes that have recently graduated from the SFF program after showing they now meet quality of care guidelines
- No Longer in Medicare and Medicaid - Nursing homes that have had their funding pulled due to ongoing failure to improve
How the SFF List Affects Your Nursing Home Abuse Claim
If your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, the SFF List may be used as evidence in your case. Reviewing the results of surveys can establish that the nursing home knew of a violation and failed to correct it within a specific time frame. The survey can also help determine if the facility had a history of “wishy-washy” compliance—making the bare minimum improvements to pass a follow-up inspection and then failing the subsequent inspections.
Other evidence that may be used in your claim includes:
- Statements from the nursing home resident
- Testimony from family and friends who directly observed mistreatment
- Testimony from workers in the facility
- Medical records and statements from the resident's healthcare provider
- Photos of unsafe conditions in the facility or injuries the resident received
- Additional fines or citations the facility has received
The Value of Legal Representation
Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to protect your legal rights in a nursing home abuse case. Your attorney can document damages, establish liability, and negotiate on your behalf, so you are free to focus on providing your loved one with the necessary care and support.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault has extensive experience helping Louisiana residents obtain justice for their elderly loved ones who have been victims of nursing home abuse. Contact us online or call our office directly 318.541.8188 to schedule a no-fee consultation.
When is weight loss a sign of nursing home neglect?
Although weight loss isn't automatically an indication of nursing home neglect, changes in a loved one's weight should always be taken seriously. If you're worried about your loved one, seek a medical evaluation and consult a nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about your legal options.
How Age-Related Eating Difficulties Lead to Weight Loss
Cancer, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of medical conditions that could cause a senior to suddenly lose a noticeable amount of weight. However, nursing home residents who do not suffer from any of these problems still face a number of challenges related to maintaining good nutrition and a healthy body weight. For example:
- Appetite tends to decrease as people age, especially when they also suffer from depression.
- Aging affects perception of taste and smell, which makes eating less enjoyable.
- Medications commonly taken by the elderly may cause gastrointestinal upset.
- Swallowing disorders caused by dementia or stroke can compromise the ability to eat without choking.
- Dentures that don't fit properly can make eating foods physically difficult.
- Cognitive impairments and/or tremors can make it impossible for residents to feed themselves.
Due to these risk factors, elderly individuals often require a specialized diet and extra attention to make sure they are eating properly. When they do not receive the attention they need, malnutrition can result.
Signs of Malnutrition
Aside from visible weight loss, signs of malnutrition include:
- Thinning hair
- Fatigue and weakness
- Bruising easily
- Sunken eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heartbeat
- Decreased urine output
- Dark urine
- Minor wounds that seem to take a long time to heal
Malnutrition is dangerous because it can decrease the effectiveness of the immune system, making an elderly person vulnerable to illnesses. Malnutrition can also cause weakness that increases the risk of falls and other injuries.
Malnutrition is often accompanied by dehydration, which can lead to a number of dangerous complications such as seizures, blood clots, kidney failure, and hypovolemic shock. You can tell if a senior is dehydrated by gently pressing on the skin of the forearm or forehead with your index finger and thumb. Skin that maintains a pinched appearance instead of returning to normal momentarily indicates the person is dehydrated.
How Weight Loss Is Linked to Nursing Home Neglect
Weight loss can be linked to nursing home neglect in several ways. For example:
- A facility with high turnover may have staff members who do not know a resident's specific dietary requirements.
- Understaffing may leave a resident who is unable to self-feed without the necessary assistance.
- Improper training can cause staff to ignore the signs of malnutrition or to be unsure of how to coax someone to eat.
- Frustrated or overworked staff members may cut corners and not allow enough time for a resident to eat properly.
Ideally, a nursing assistant should be responsible for no more than three residents during mealtimes. However, since there are no federal laws that set minimum staffing requirements for nurses' aides, it's not uncommon for a single individual to supervise as many as 15 residents during mealtime.
Protecting Your Loved One
If you believe your loved one's weight loss indicates improper care, you should first discuss your concerns with the facility administrators. If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, seek an independent medical exam, and contact a nursing home abuse attorney to learn how to protect your loved one's legal rights.
A nursing home abuse claim is a type of civil action that allows you to seek compensation for medical expenses related to the abuse, as well as any pain and suffering your loved one has experienced due to the actions of his caregivers. If your loved one has died due to malnutrition linked to improper care, you can seek wrongful death compensation for medical expenses up to the time of death, pain and suffering, and funeral and burial costs. In some cases, punitive damages may also be available.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's award-winning legal team is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents obtain justice for their elderly loved ones who have been harmed by nursing home neglect. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
What are OBRA standards, and how do they relate to my case?
Many different types of evidence can be used in a claim for nursing home abuse, including violations of OBRA standards. Retaining an attorney is the best way to learn what type of evidence will help you build a solid claim for compensation.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA), also known as the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, is federal legislation that sets standards for nursing home care and is interpreted within the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (42 CFR Part 483). The legislation was signed on December 22, 1987 by President Ronald Reagan after the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging conducted extensive investigations into the quality of care seniors were receiving in long-term care facilities across the country.
The law's impact was seen immediately. Facilities were required to eliminate physical or chemical restraints unless they were medically necessary, avoid the routine prescribing of antidepressants, and improve monitoring of medication therapy.
Today, individual states are responsible for certifying that their nursing homes meet OBRA criteria. To certify facilities, states must conduct extensive surveys no more than 15 months apart that include multiple resident interviews. If a specific complaint has been filed against a facility, a targeted survey must be conducted as part of the investigation.
Nursing homes that don't meet OBRA standards aren't allowed to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. They also face heavy fines, the appointment of temporarily assigned facility managers, or the permanent closure of their facilities. Specific penalties are determined by the nature and severity of the violation. In some cases, facilities are given a chance to correct the issue before a penalty is assessed.
Key OBRA Guidelines for Nursing Home Care
The most essential parts of OBRA guidelines are sometimes described as a Resident's Bill of Rights. Key points include:
- Create comprehensive care plans for each resident's unique needs upon admission, then update plans periodically
- Respect the dignity of each resident, regardless of mental or physical limitations
- Allow residents reasonable personal privacy
- Let residents communicate freely and voice grievances without fear of reprisal or discrimination
- Provide services that enhance each resident's quality of life to the fullest extent possible
- Allow residents the right to choose appropriate schedules, activities, and healthcare services
Some of the specific requirements that related to potential claims of nursing home abuse include:
- Provide balanced meals that maintain good nutrition and a healthy weight
- Promote fluid intake to prevent dehydration
- Take steps to prevent pressure sores, and properly treat any sores that do develop
- Provide grooming and personal hygiene services as needed
- Provide appropriate care to residents with urinary incontinence, but restore bladder function if possible
- Take steps to prevent falls, poisonings, and other accidental injuries
- Allow residents to use assistive devices as needed
- Take steps to prevent significant medication errors
- Keep complete, accurate, and easily accessible clinical records
- Have the nursing staff at levels sufficient to meet care needs
- Allow residents to safely bank funds for personal use
Using OBRA Violations to Support a Claim for Nursing Home Abuse
OBRA outlines the minimum level of accepted care for nursing home residents. If a nursing home violates OBRA standards and this violation is linked to your loved one's injuries, you have a valid nursing home abuse claim.
In this type of civil action, you can seek compensation for medical expenses related to the abuse and any pain and suffering your loved one has experienced. If your loved one has died due to improper care, you can seek wrongful death compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering up to the time of death, as well as funeral and burial costs. Punitive damages may also be available, depending on the circumstances.
Retaining legal representation is the best way to protect your loved one's rights throughout the process of resolving your claim. The award-winning attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are dedicated to helping Louisiana residents obtain justice for their loved ones who have been harmed by nursing home abuse. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
How can I get my elderly parent to talk to a nursing home abuse lawyer?
The recommended first step in any nursing home abuse claim is talking to a lawyer with experience in handling these types of civil actions. However, your elderly parent may be reluctant to speak to an attorney. In this instance, understanding your parent’s specific reasons for objecting and educating him about the process is the best approach.
Why Victims Are Reluctant to Come Forward
Some of the reasons victims of nursing home abuse are reluctant to come forward include:
- Shame or embarrassment
- Lack of understanding about what behaviors consistent abuse
- Being intimidated by the legal system
- Wanting to protect privacy
- Believing nobody will be able to change the situation
- Worrying about the expense involved in taking legal action
How to Convince Your Parent to Come Forward
There are several strategies you can use to persuade your parent to speak to a nursing home abuse attorney. You can:
Stress that they did nothing wrong.
There is no need for your loved one to feel shame or embarrassment because of the actions that have occurred. Nursing home staff have a professional obligation to assist residents, much like doctors have a professional duty to provide appropriate care for their patients. Abusive behavior violates this expectation and is never acceptable under any circumstance.
Offer to attend the meeting for moral support.
If your parent has not been involved in legal action previously, he may be nervous about understanding the process or worried about being taken seriously. Planning to attend the meeting together may offer him some comfort.
Explain that nursing home abuse comes in many forms.
Some residents may be reluctant to come forward if they believe that only physical abuse is against the law. Letting your parent know that verbal abuse, sexual abuse, medication theft, misuse of financial resources, and neglect related to understaffing are also against the law may help him see the situation in new light.
Outline what compensation is available.
A nursing home abuse claim can include compensation for medical expenses as well as pain and suffering. Punitive damages could also be received if there is a pattern of particularly severe neglect or a pattern of disregard for the safety of residents in the nursing home. Depending on the circumstances, your parent's testimony may also be used in a criminal case or an administrative action against the people involved in the abuse. These issues are separate from the nursing home abuse case, however.
Explain that taking action can help protect others.
Generally, nursing home abuse doesn't occur in a vacuum. If one resident is being mistreated, it's likely that others are, too. Let your parent know that his case could force the implementation of policies that could protect others from suffering similar abusive treatment.
Point out there is no upfront cost.
Nursing home abuse cases are a type of personal injury claim. Thus, lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means, they accept a percentage of the settlement as the fee for representation instead of asking for upfront payment. If the case can't be resolved, there is no charge.
Testimony From a Victim With Dementia
Nursing home abuse is against the law regardless of a resident's physical or mental limitations, but cases involving people with dementia can be more difficult. Your parent can still testify, but supporting evidence such as medical records, bank statements, or testimony from witnesses will also be needed.
If your parent's condition has reached the point where he can no longer understand the legal process of filing a claim, a guardian ad litem will be needed. This is a person, normally a spouse, adult child, or other family member, who files the claim on the victim's behalf and makes decisions to protect his best interests.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents obtain justice for their loved ones who have been the victims of nursing home abuse. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
Is aspiration pneumonia a sign of nursing home neglect?
The general public may be unfamiliar with aspiration pneumonia, but this is a serious illness that can compromise a senior's fragile health. If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia, this may be a sign of nursing home neglect.
About Aspiration Pneumonia
Aspiration pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that occurs when food gets caught in the airway. The lungs become inflamed as bacteria grows. Signs of aspiration pneumonia include:
- Bad breath
- Constant coughing
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Sudden weight loss
- Blue skin discoloration
Aspiration pneumonia can be diagnosed with a chest X-ray, CT scan, blood test, sputum culture, and/or barium swallow. Patients can be treated with antibiotics to kill the infection and steroids to reduce swelling in the lungs. Extra oxygen may be needed during the recovery process.
Complications of aspiration pneumonia can include:
- Lung abscess
- Empyema, a condition where pus collects inside the lungs
- Bronchiectasis, a compensatory thickening of the insides of the lungs due to chronic inflammation
- Increased risk of future episodes of pneumonia
Aspiration pneumonia can be fatal if the condition is not properly treated.
Aspiration Pneumonia Among Nursing Home Residents
Most healthy people can cough up food, liquids, or saliva from their lungs with no problems. However, aspiration pneumonia is a common illness in nursing homes. Nursing home residents at risk for aspiration pneumonia include:
- Alzheimer's patients
- Stroke patients
- People with cognitive impairments
- People with conditions that limit their ability to chew or swallow food
- People using feeding tubes
- People with weakened immune systems
- People who often take sedative medications
- Individuals with a history of smoking, alcohol use, and/or IV drug use
Care providers who work with elderly individuals are taught a number of safety precautions to reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia. These include:
- Serving soft foods and thickened liquids that are easier to swallow
- Having residents sit up while they eat or tilting the bed of bedridden patients to a 30- to 40-degree angle for mealtimes
- Having residents take small bites, eat slowly, and swallow with their head down
- Encouraging proper dental care to kill bacteria in the mouth that can cause infections
In the vast majority of cases, aspiration pneumonia is a preventable condition. If a resident is determined to be at high risk for developing aspiration pneumonia, there should be a care plan in place to take all appropriate safety precautions.
Aspiration Pneumonia and Nursing Home Neglect
Aspiration pneumonia is not automatically considered a sign of nursing home neglect, but it can be an indication that an elderly resident is not receiving proper care. The condition can suggest:
- Lack of proper supervision while feeding
- Inattentive or inexperienced staff
- Failure to monitor a resident's health and seek prompt medical treatment
If you believe your loved one may be a victim of nursing home neglect, you should first discuss your concerns with the facility administrator. If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, an experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you take legal action.
A nursing home neglect claim can include compensation for medical expenses related to care of aspiration pneumonia and associated complications as well as pain and suffering. Punitive damages, while not awarded in all cases, could also be received if there is a pattern of particularly severe neglect and disregard for the safety of elderly people left in the care of the nursing home.
If your loved one has died as the result of aspiration pneumonia, you may be able to receive compensation for funeral and burial costs and the loss of your loved one's care and companionship.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team has extensive experience helping Louisiana residents obtain justice for their loved ones who have suffered harm due to nursing home neglect or abuse. Cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis, which allows to you obtain quality legal representation without worrying about out-of-pocket payments. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
What are my legal rights if my loved one died of dehydration in a nursing home?
Dehydration is a common problem among nursing home residents, since many serious illnesses can interfere with person's natural desire to stay hydrated. However, nursing home staff members have a legal obligation to monitor residents for signs of dehydration and to take action before serious harm results.
If your loved one died in a nursing home due to dehydration, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the facility.
Signs of Dehydration
Studies estimate that at least 31% of nursing home residents suffer from some form of dehydration, which makes watching for signs of inadequate fluid intake a vital part of basic care a facility must provide.
Common signs of mild dehydration in a nursing home resident include:
- Expressions of thirst
- A sticky or dry mouth
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, and frequent headaches
- Dry, papery skin
Signs of moderate dehydration include:
- Decrease in urine output
- Decrease in urine frequency
- Dark yellow urine
- Inability to sweat
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
Signs of severe dehydration include:
- Sunken eyes
- High fever
- Confusion and irritability
- Fast breathing
- Loss of consciousness
When dehydration is not treated promptly, it can cause seizures, kidney failure, brain swelling, and coma. These complications are often fatal in elderly individuals who are already in poor physical health.
Dehydration often occurs in residents who are malnourished, which can cause additional health problems and increase the risk of fatal complications.
How Dehydration Occurs
Common causes of dehydration in nursing home residents include:
- Medical conditions that interfere with the perception of thirst
- Language barriers or an inability to speak well enough to request fluids
- Not being offered fluids that meet a patient’s taste preferences such as tea or juice instead of plain water
- Physical conditions that make it difficult to drink without assistance
- Lack of easy access to beverages in patient rooms or facility common areas
- Caretakers who fail to provide the special diet a resident requires
- Caretakers who insert a feeding tube incorrectly due to inexperience or inattentiveness
Nursing home staff members have an obligation to monitor the health of residents and to provide the assistance necessary for eating and drinking. If the nursing home fails to meet this obligation due to understaffing or gross neglect, this can be the basis of a wrongful death claim.
About Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is a type of civil action alleging that someone's death was the fault of another person or corporation. It is separate from any criminal charges related to the death, although evidence from a criminal case can be used to support a claim of negligence in the wrongful death claim.
Only certain family members can file a wrongful death claim. In cases involving nursing home residents, the surviving spouse or adult children are typically the ones who must file the case. If there is no spouse or adult children, the surviving siblings or the estate of the deceased person must file the claim.
Damages in a nursing home wrongful death claim include:
- Medical bills related to the final care of the deceased
- Applicable pain and suffering from the conduct that caused the wrongful death
- Funeral and burial costs
- The family's loss of the deceased person's care and companionship
- Punitive damages, if the case involves a pattern of severe negligence
There is a one-year statute of limitations in Louisiana for filing wrongful death claims, so it's important to act quickly if you want to take legal action regarding the death of your elderly family member due to dehydration. The longer you wait to seek legal representation, the more difficult it will be to locate the evidence necessary to win the wrongful death claim.
The dedicated legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault has extensive experience handling both nursing home abuse and wrongful death claims. We can locate evidence of negligence, document damages, and negotiate on your behalf for the highest possible settlement.
Filing a wrongful death claim won't bring your loved one back, but the process can provide a sense of closure and help to ensure that other vulnerable nursing home residents won't be subjected to similar mistreatment. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
Is patient dumping a form of nursing home abuse?
Patient dumping is not discussed as often as other forms of nursing home neglect, but it can cause serious harm. This practice can lead to a lack of necessary medical care as well as great psychological trauma. For this reason, victims of patient dumping are entitled to monetary compensation via a nursing home abuse claim.
About Patient Dumping
Patient dumping is perhaps one of the most disturbing forms of nursing home abuse. Patient dumping occurs when a nursing home gives away a resident's bed while he is receiving hospital care. When the resident is discharged from the hospital and wants to return to the nursing home, he is told there is no bed to return to. The resident's family must then struggle to find a suitable placement, since the resident cannot live independently under any circumstances
Reasons for Patient Dumping
Unscrupulous nursing homes are trying to illegally evict residents in order to maximize profit. Patient dumping victims are often those who require the most staff time and the highest levels of care. By illegally evicting these residents, a facility is free to offer beds to new residents who will use fewer company resources.
Medicaid recipients are also vulnerable to patient dumping due to Medicaid low reimbursement rates. By replacing Medicaid patients with those who can pay for their care with private, long-term care insurance or their own personal resources, the facility is able to maximize profit with a minimal amount of effort.
Patient Dumping Is Illegal
Federal law prohibits patient dumping. Under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 42 CFR 483, a nursing home must permit a resident to remain in the facility unless one or more of the following conditions apply:
- The nursing home is closing its doors and will no longer be in business.
- The resident's presence is endangering the safety of individuals in the facility.
- The resident's presence is endangering the health of individuals in the facility.
- The resident's health has improved to the extent that he no longer needs the services provided by the facility.
- The resident's condition has changed, and the facility is no longer able to meet his care needs.
- The resident has failed to pay for his stay at the facility, despite having received reasonable and appropriate notice of the charges.
If a facility wishes to evict a resident, the reason for eviction must be specifically documented, and the appropriate parties must be contacted to ensure that the resident's future care needs will still be met.
Relationship to Other Forms of Nursing Home Abuse
Patient dumping can occur alongside other forms of nursing home abuse, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, medication theft, or understaffing. Talking with your loved one as well as other family members and visitors to the facility can help you determine if there are additional concerns regarding the quality of care that your loved one has received.
Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
A nursing home abuse claim is a type of civil proceeding that requests compensation for medical treatment and pain and suffering related to the actions of the care facility. However, if your loved one is currently receiving Medicaid or Medicare benefits, these programs will have a lien on a percentage of any settlement that you recover.
To have a successful nursing home abuse claim, you must be able to establish the following three key elements:
Duty Of Nursing Home Care
Based on the terms of the facility contract, the nursing home had a legal duty to provide care to your loved one.
Breach Of Nursing Home Duties
The nursing home failed to provide an acceptable level of care to your loved one.
Damages In A Nursing Home Neglect Case
As a result of the nursing home's actions, your loved one suffered specific damages. This can include the worsening of a pre-existing medical condition or psychological distress due to being illegally evicted from the facility.
Retaining the services of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney is the best way to protect your loved one's legal rights. The dedicated legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can locate evidence of negligence, document damages, and negotiate for the highest possible settlement. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
How can a nursing home abuse lawyer help my elderly relative?
If your elderly relative has been the victim of physical abuse, medication theft, financial exploitation, or other forms of nursing home abuse, hiring an attorney can be very beneficial.
6 Ways a Nursing Home Lawyer Can Help
Every case is different, but there are 6 ways a nursing home lawyer can help you get justice for your loved one.
- Interpret the Law. Nursing homes have a legal duty of care to provide a safe environment for residents, but what this means isn't always clearly spelled out. For example, there is no specific staffing level requirement for nursing homes even though understaffing increases the risk of resident injury. A lawyer can review requirements for facilities and develop a case that best demonstrates how the nursing home's conduct meets the standard of negligence. If appropriate, a lawyer can also build a case for awarding punitive damages as part of the settlement.
- Document the Damages. Nursing home abuse can provoke intense reactions in the friends and family of the victim, but emotional responses aren't considered evidence in a court of law. A skilled lawyer can help document the damages your loved one has suffered, including obtaining expert witnesses to testify about specific aspects of the case. This maximizes eligibility for compensation.
- Handle the Effects of Financial Abuse. Often, financial exploitation is an overlooked type of nursing home abuse. If your loved one was defrauded in an investment or insurance scam or someone with power of attorney mismanaged assets, a nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to recover the affected property or assets.
- Allow You to Focus on Your Loved One's Recovery. If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, you need to be able to devote your attention to her mental and physical well-being. Having a skilled lawyer to handle the case ensures that you can receive a fair settlement without taking time away from your loved one's care.
- Persuade the Nursing Home to Do the Right Thing. Although there are many caring and compassionate people who work in nursing homes, it's important to keep in mind that a nursing home is ultimately a business. The goal is to make a profit, which means keeping expenses down by minimizing damages and refusing to admit liability for the harm your loved one has suffered.
- Protect the Rights of Other Vulnerable Seniors. Nursing home abuse often goes unreported, so it's important to think of the vulnerable seniors who are in the same position as your loved one but don't have the support necessary to take legal action. By retaining a nursing home abuse lawyer, you may be able to inspire the changes necessary to protect the rights of other residents and prevent similar injustices from occurring in the future.
What You Need to Know
Before searching for a lawyer to handle a nursing home abuse case, there are a few things you should know:
- This area of the law is quite complex, so it's important to choose someone with specific experience in obtaining compensation for the victims of nursing home abuse.
- You must act quickly. There is a one-year statute of limitations for nursing home abuse cases in the state of Louisiana.
- If your loved one suffers from dementia or a cognitive impairment that prevents her from understanding the legal process, you may be able to file the lawsuit on her behalf.
- If your loved one has passed away, you should contact a lawyer to file the claim on behalf of her estate.
- When a nursing home resident receives Medicaid or Medicare benefits to cover the cost of care, these programs will have a lien on a percentage of any funds recovered in the claim.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's dedicated legal team is committed to serving the needs of Louisiana residents who've suffered harm due to nursing home abuse. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule your free consultation.