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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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.
Is financial exploitation a type of nursing home abuse?
When most people think of nursing home abuse, they imagine a resident who is being neglected or physically assaulted. However, financial exploitation can be just as harmful.
Seniors Make Easy Targets for Financial Scams
The elderly are considered prime targets for unsavory individuals looking for a quick payday. Roughly 70% of the wealth in the United States is owned by people over the age of 50, which means that seniors have substantially greater savings than younger individuals. Seniors are also more likely to lack an understanding of modern technology, which means they are less likely to use real-time methods of monitoring their assets.
Forms of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse includes a wide range of actions intended to misappropriate the victim's income or assets. For example:
- Forging checks to purchase items for personal use
- Forging signatures on titles or deeds
- Stealing jewelry, cash, or other valuables
- Using deception to obtain power of attorney
- Engaging in investment or insurance scams
- Engaging in identity theft
Financial abuse is most often perpetrated by someone the victim is close to. In cases involving nursing home residents, this might include:
- Family members
- Close friends
- Nursing home staff members
- Other nursing home residents
The perpetrators of financial abuse are often dealing with substance abuse, mental illness, personal debt, or recent stress. However, this is no excuse for taking advantage of a senior's trust.
Uncovering Financial Abuse
Despite the effects financial abuse can have on a senior's quality of life, financial exploitation of nursing home residents often goes unreported. In fact, the National Adult Protective Services Association estimates that just 1 in 44 cases of elder abuse involving financial exploitation is reported to the proper authorities. Reasons for this include:
- The victim suffers from mental illness or cognitive impairment.
- The victim trusts the person committing the abuse.
- The victim is embarrassed or ashamed of being victimized.
- The victim still cares about the perpetrator and does not wish to see him punished.
- The victim is simply unaware of what has happened.
Uncovering financial abuse of your loved one may take some detective work. Signs to watch for include:
- Out of the ordinary transactions on bank statements
- Overdue bills
- Missing checks
- Missing possessions
- Transactions a senior is unaware of or can't explain
- Inflated charges for routine services such as maintenance on a property the senior still owns
- Abrupt changes made to a senior's will
- Additional names added to a bank account signature card
- Lack of basic provisions for daily living such as toiletries or appropriate clothing
- Reluctance to talk about financial matters that were once considered routine
- Isolation from friends and family
Financial abuse often occurs alongside verbal abuse, physical abuse, medication theft, or neglect. However, it is important to keep in mind that a resident can be a victim of financial abuse even if no other types of nursing home abuse have occurred.
Preventing Financial Abuse
Preventing financial abuse of an elderly loved one can be difficult, but the following measures are often viewed as good safety precautions:
- Set up automatic bill pay for living expenses.
- Use direct deposit for checks.
- Visit your loved one regularly to watch for changes in mood or behavior that could indicate a problem.
- Carefully review qualifications of anyone providing nursing care.
- Consider hiring a geriatric care manager to oversee the complete care of your loved one, including managing his finances.
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you believe your loved one has been a victim of financial exploitation or other forms of nursing home abuse, contact an attorney immediately. A skilled attorney can help determine what forms of abuse have occurred and decide the best way to proceed. For example, if someone has fraudulently obtained power of attorney, your attorney can help revoke the power of attorney and take steps to make sure that a senior's assets and savings are returned. Punitive damages may even be awarded in some circumstances.
The legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to protecting the interests of Louisiana's vulnerable seniors. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule your free consultation.
Can nursing home understaffing be a form of neglect and abuse?
Understaffing is an issue that affects the vast majority of nursing homes, with some studies indicating as many as 90% of facilities lacking the staff necessary to ensure resident safety. If your loved one has suffered injuries due to understaffing, you may be to take legal action by filing a claim for nursing home abuse.
Issues Contributing to Understaffing
A number of issues can contribute to a nursing home failing to have the necessary number of staff employees on duty. For example:
- High staff turnover due to the stress of the work environment
- Employees being unable to work due to the flu or other contagious illnesses
- Scheduling conflicts such as parents of young children not wanting to work weekends or holidays
- Inability to replace staff members who quit due to low pay or a tight local job market
- A deliberate effort by management to keep costs down by having minimal staff on duty
How Poor Staffing Leads to Nursing Home Neglect
Poor staffing can lead to a number of issues that might be considered neglect. For example:
- Bed sores
- Broken bones
- Chronic infections
- Poor hygiene
- Resident-on-resident abuse
- Unexpected weight loss
Understaffing affects all residents, but those who are confined to a wheelchair or suffering severe cognitive impairment are most at risk. When staff members are forced to care for a large number of residents in a short time period, those who have the highest needs are inevitably shortchanged.
How Understaffing Creates a Toxic Environment
Employees who are forced to work in a facility that is chronically understaffed are likely to become frustrated with their jobs. They may realize that residents need more care, but they feel powerless to provide the necessary assistance due to a simple lack of time.
If they are forced to work overtime to compensate for short staffing, they may suffer from chronic fatigue. This can lead to mistakes due to inattentiveness or oversights as staff members rush through tasks in an effort to finish their work as soon as possible.
Identifying Nursing Home Understaffing
Many different people work in a nursing home, but understaffing is most problematic when it involves positions that directly provide resident care. These include:
- Registered Nurses (RNs)
- Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)
- Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
- Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)
- Physical Therapists (PTs)
The law only requires that a nursing home have different staff to provide proper resident care. There is no requirement to have a specific staff/resident ratio. To determine if a nursing home is understaffed, you will want to look for the following:
- Are staff members constantly rushing through their tasks?
- Do staff members seem tired or distracted when you attempt to ask questions about your loved one's care?
- Does your loved one mention being unable to obtain assistance for essential tasks such as going to the restroom or showering?
- Does the facility seem to have an unusually high number of new employees?
If You Think Your Loved One Is a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse
The first step whenever you have concerns about the care your loved one is receiving is to report the issue to the facility administrator. The nursing home office is required to investigate your complaint and file a report to the state authorities.
If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, contact adult protective services or the office of aging in your area, and call an attorney to initiate a nursing home neglect or abuse claim.
A nursing home neglect or abuse claim is a civil proceeding that includes compensation for medical treatment and pain and suffering. If your loved one receives Medicaid or Medicare benefits to cover the cost of nursing home care, however, these programs will have a lien on a percentage of any funds recovered in the claim.
The experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can help you obtain justice for a loved one who has suffered injuries due to nursing home understaffing. To learn more, please contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 for a free consultation.
Is a nursing home liable for abusive acts committed by one resident against another?
When most people think of nursing home abuse, they imagine acts committed by nurses or other caregivers. However, nursing home abuse can also involve residents who mistreat others in the facility.
Types of Abuse Committed by Nursing Home Residents
It is estimated that about 20% of nursing home abuse cases involve acts committed by residents. Types of abuse residents may perpetuate against each other include:
- Screaming, yelling, or using foul language
- Pushing, shoving, kicking, or other acts of aggression
- Throwing things or purposely damaging someone's personal possessions
- Invasion of privacy
- Sexual abuse
Resident-on-resident abuse is most common when two people are sharing a single room, but abusive acts can also occur in dining areas, recreation rooms, and shared spaces within the facility. Chaotic and noisy environments can increase stress levels in many elderly people, thus increasing the risk of abusive behavior.
Causes of Resident Abuse
When nursing home residents perpetuate abuse against other residents, it is most often attributed to the effects of dementia. Aggression and anger are common dementia symptoms, especially in patients with Alzheimer's disease or those who have a past history of mental health disorders. The behavior may be triggered by frustration with the limitations of the nursing home environment or the occurrence of physical pain. However, abusive behavior can also occur without any provocation at all.
Residents who are cognitively impaired but physically mobile may be more likely to lash out at residents who are confined to wheelchairs or otherwise unable to defend themselves. Those who are socially isolated can also become easy targets for abusive behavior.
How Understaffing Contributes to the Problem
Nursing homes are required to have staffing levels that ensure adequate resident care, but there is no mandatory staff/resident ratio. As a result, it's estimated that 90% of facilities are understaffed. This can be due to high turnover, a lack of qualified candidates, and the desire to maximize profits in a facility.
When a nursing home is understaffed, caregivers must focus on meeting specific medical needs. This gives them less time to monitor residents and look for signs of abusive behavior. Since residents who are being mistreated are often reluctant to report the problem due to fear or embarrassment, understaffing allows the abuse to continue.
Understaffing can also contribute to abuse by making it more difficult to determine who is the aggressor in an incident. If the staff doesn’t clearly witness a confrontation, they may be reluctant to take sides and instead label both residents as equally responsible for the problem.
Additionally, understaffing minimizes opportunities for resident activities that provide stimulation and relieve boredom. Keeping residents active and engaged in their surroundings is often thought to be the best way to diffuse abusive behavior.
Liability for Abusive Acts Committed by Residents
A nursing home has a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe environment for residents. This means providing medical care as well as preventing residents from being victimized by others in the facility.
If you are concerned that a loved one is being abused by a fellow resident, report the issue immediately to the facility administrator. If the administrator is not able to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, file a report with adult protective services or the office of aging in your area. At this time, you may also wish to call an attorney to initiate a nursing home abuse claim.
Civil proceedings involving nursing home abuse committed by other residents can include compensation for medical treatment and pain and suffering related to the abusive behavior. However, it is important to keep in mind that Medicaid or Medicare will have a lien on a percentage of funds recovered in the claim if these programs are currently being used to pay for your loved one's care.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team is committed to advocating for the rights of elderly and disabled nursing home residents. Our attorneys can help you gather evidence, document damages, and negotiate with the insurance company on behalf of your loved one. To learn more, please contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 for a free consultation.
Are bedsores evidence of nursing home abuse?
Bedsores are preventable, which means that a nursing home resident who is experiencing bedsores is not being properly cared for. In this case, filing a nursing home abuse claim may be an appropriate course of action.
Bedsores are most often caused by constant pressure on the skin, which occurs if a person is left to lie in bed all day or sit in a chair for extended periods of time. However, shearing motions and friction from inappropriate transfer techniques can also create bedsores. Bedsores are sometimes known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers.
Bedsores from being in a wheelchair often appear on the buttocks, back of the legs, back of the arms, spine, or shoulder blades. Bedsores from being confined to a bed can occur on the back of the head, outside of the ears, shoulders, lower back, hips, knees, heels, or ankles.
Complications Associated With Bedsores
Bedsores can cause serious complications. For example:
- Joint and bone infections can damage cartilage and surrounding tissues, severely restricting range of movement.
- Sepsis is a reaction to a bacterial infection that can cause organ failure and septic shock.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can develop in a patient suffering from chronic bedsores.
- Cellulitis makes the skin red, hot, painful, and tender due to an inflammation of connective tissues.
- Meningitis can be a complication of cellulitis from bedsores.
Although some nursing home residents can make a full recovery from bedsores, complications may be fatal in someone who already has poor overall physical health.
To prevent bedsores, nursing home caregivers are asked to take the following steps:
- Have residents change position once every 15 minutes in a wheelchair or once every two hours in a bed.
- Encourage residents to get regular exercise that's appropriate for their physical limitations.
- Promote good nutrition, as a balanced diet allows the body to better fight the development of bedsores.
- Inspect skin daily for the signs of bedsores, seeking prompt treatment when needed.
A facility that is not taking these approved precautionary measures may be mistreating or neglecting residents in other ways. For example, problems with choking on food or repeated UTIs are also considered indications of negligence.
Options for Handling Nursing Home Abuse
If your loved one is experiencing bedsores due to poor quality nursing care, you should report your concerns to the facility administrator. By law, the administrative office of the nursing home must investigate your complaint and file a report to the state authorities.
If you don't believe your complaint is being taken seriously, you should contact adult protective services or the office of aging in your area. At this time, it is also appropriate to retain the services of an attorney to initiate a nursing home abuse claim.
Seeking Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
A nursing home abuse claim is a civil proceeding that includes compensation for the following damages:
- Medical treatment such as antibiotics and a hospital stay to address complications of bedsores
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental pain and suffering
- Punitive damages, if the nursing home is found to have engaged in a severe pattern of neglect
In assessing the value of the claim, several different factors will be considered. This includes the resident’s overall physical health, the severity of the bedsores, whether the facility has a past history of neglect, and if an investigative agency's findings support the claim for negligence.
The majority of nursing home abuse cases are settled out of court, with attorneys for both sides working together to negotiate settlement terms.
If the 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.
Schedule a Free Consultation
Nursing home abuse claims often present challenging legal issues, but the experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can advocate for your needs throughout the process. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
What are the most common types of elder abuse?
Elder abuse can occur in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, as well as in a home setting. Perpetrators may be professional caregivers but are often family members or trusted friends.
Abuse can take many forms and may progress in severity over time.
Neglect Is Elder Abuse
Failing to perform basic caretaking duties for an elderly person constitutes neglect. Examples of neglect may include:
- Not administering necessary medication or failing to seek medical care for an injury or illness
- Failing to provide appropriate meals
- Not supervising the mealtimes of a person prone to choking
- Allowing an elderly person to sit in a wet or soiled diaper for hours on end
- Not taking reasonable precautions to prevent falls or wandering into unsafe areas
- Attempting to punish the elderly person for bad behavior by withholding food, water, medicine, or other forms of essential care
Neglect can be either passive or active. Passive neglect refers to being unaware or in denial about an elder's caregiving requirements. This form of neglect is most commonly seen in family caregivers who may not fully understand an elderly person's limitations. Active neglect refers to willful deprivation of necessary care.
Emotional Abuse To Nursing Home Residents
Emotional abuse refers to a pattern of behavior designed to make an elderly person feel isolated, alone, and afraid. Examples of emotional abuse may include:
- Making threats
- Blaming or scapegoating
- Humiliating or publicly shaming
- Restricting visits from family and friends
An elderly person who is being emotionally abused may exhibit sudden changes in mood or behavior that indicate high levels of anxiety and depression. He may attempt to avoid the abuser but may also seem to withdraw from loved ones due to shame and embarrassment.
Emotional abuse is considered dangerous because it's often a warning sign that other inappropriate activities are taking place. For example, a caregiver who is emotionally abusing an elderly person due to frustration may eventually progress to physical abuse.
Physical Abuse In Nursing Homes
Physical abuse refers to any non-accidental use of physical force that causes pain and/or injury. For example:
- Using inappropriate restraints
- Force feeding that leads to choking
Elderly people who are being physically abused are often too frightened to report the mistreatment. As such, any signs of bruises, cuts, or unexplained injuries should be thoroughly investigated.
Sexual Abuse In Nursing Homes
Sexual abuse of an elderly person includes any form of sexual activity that occurs when the person is forced or unable to provide consent. This includes:
- Forced nudity
- Sexual photography or filming
- Touching or fondling
Elderly women are significantly more likely than men to be victims of sexual abuse, with the risk increasing if the woman suffers from Alzheimer's or dementia.
Fraud and Financial Abuse In Nursing Homes
Fraud and financial abuse refers to behaviors that undermine an elderly person's sense of financial security. For example:
- Misusing Social Security or other government benefits
- Using the person's credit card or bank account without permission
- Stealing household goods or necessary medication
- Forging the person's signature on legal documents
- Stealing the elder’s identity - identity theft
- Participating in investment fraud
- Soliciting donations to phony charities
Fraud and financial abuse is problematic because it often goes on for quite some time until the perpetrator is caught. Elderly people often lack the cognitive ability to actively manage their finances, which means they miss the early warning signs of this form of abuse. When the deception is discovered, it's often too late to fully recover the missing funds.
Receiving Compensation For Elder Abuse
Elder abuse cases can involve compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Disability and/or disfigurement
- Violations of dignity
- Funeral and burial costs
When the elderly person lacks the mental capacity to participate in legal action, a guardian ad litem (GAL) must be appointed. This is typically a spouse, adult child, or close family member but can be someone chosen by the court, if necessary.
In cases where the abuse has led to the elderly person's death, a surviving family member can initiate a wrongful death claim.
If you or a loved one have been abused in a nursing home you need to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.
Is medication theft a form of nursing home neglect?
Drug theft in nursing homes is on the rise, due to the continuing epidemic of prescription opioid abuse throughout the United States. If you believe your loved one has suffered harm due to the theft of his medication, compensation may be available.
About Medication Theft
Prescription pain medications are the most common targets for medication theft. Commonly abused prescription opioids include:
- Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze)
- Hydrocodone or dihydrocodeinone (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
- Morphine (Duramorph, Roxanol)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
Benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia are also frequently abused. Examples of medication in this class include:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Chlordiazepoxide hydrochloride (Librium)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Estazolam (ProSom)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
How Medication Theft Occurs
Theft of medication can take several different forms. For example:
- Not giving a resident a medication that has been prescribed
- Giving the resident an insufficient dose
- Substituting an over-the-counter drug such as Tylenol for a prescribed medication
- Forging a prescription in the resident's name
In most cases of medication theft, the culprit is a nursing home employee who suffers from a drug addiction and is using the pills to feed their habit. However, prescription medications can also be sold on the black market for a substantial sum. Employees who are struggling financially may find the temptation to supplement their income too difficult to resist when a single pill can be sold for up to $200.
Someone who is stealing medication from a nursing home resident may exhibit the following warning signs:
- Being eager to work the night shift, since there tends to be less supervision during this time
- Insisting on caring for residents who've been prescribed specific medications
- Making frequent trips to secured areas of the facility where medications are kept
- Sloppy record keeping such as "forgetting" to count pills or chart medication administration
- Decline in personal hygiene and appearance
- Poor relationships with residents and coworkers
- Legal problems such as arrests for shoplifting or disorderly conduct
In some cases, employees who are stealing medication may also be engaging in physical or verbal abuse of the residents under their care.
Nursing homes are supposed to have policies implemented to reduce the risk of medication mismanagement, including having two staff members verify the administration of medications and providing random drug tests for all employees. However, these precautions are often not enough to eliminate all cases of misconduct and nursing home abuse.
Effects of Medication Theft
It’s possible for theft of pain medication to go unnoticed for quite some time. Elderly nursing home residents may be unable to communicate their pain levels or be unaware that they're not receiving all of the medication they have been prescribed. Even an attentive friend or family member may not immediately notice that a resident's pain levels are not being properly controlled, since many elderly people are reluctant to discuss what they view as a natural side effect of aging.
Theft of medications used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia will result in a resident exhibiting an increase in unusual mental health symptoms. Any erratic behavior you notice should be reported immediately. If the nursing home staff aren't responsive to your concerns, seek a second opinion from another care provider regarding the possibility of medication theft.
Protecting the Legal Rights of Vulnerable Seniors
If you believe your loved one has been the victim of medication theft, it's important to talk to an experienced elder abuse attorney. A claim can be filed on behalf of your loved one to seek damages for medical expenses as well as pain and suffering. When medication theft contributes to the death of a nursing home resident, the next of kin can file a wrongful death suit to seek damages.
The attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are committed to helping Louisiana residents receive justice for a loved one who has suffered due to medication theft. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Is choking a sign of nursing home neglect?
The National Safety Council reports that choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death, with over half of all victims being more than 74 years of age. Countless other cases result in permanent cognitive impairment.
If your loved one has suffered a choking-related accident in a nursing home, this may be considered a form of nursing home neglect. As such, compensation may be available.
Risk Factors for Choking Among Nursing Home Residents
To some extent, it's normal for people to have trouble swallowing food as they age. This is due to the continued wear and tear associated with daily use of the throat muscles. However, a number of other conditions can also cause problems with choking while eating, including:
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Parkinson's Disease
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lou Gehrig's Disease
- Cancer-associated radiation treatment
Having dentures or being diagnosed with dysphagia (the medical term for difficulty swallowing) also increases the risk of choking in nursing home residents.
Choking is dangerous because it affects the flow of air to the lungs. Choking can be partial or complete, with someone who is partially choking having limited air flow and someone who is completely choking receiving no oxygen at all.
A choking episode that is quickly treated may result in no permanent harm. However, if the brain goes just two minutes without enough oxygen, permanent brain damage can result. In three minutes without treatment, choking can be fatal.
Choking Prevention and Treatment
A nursing home is legally responsible for providing a safe environment for residents who are unable to properly care for themselves. When a senior is known to be at risk for choking, preventative measures must be taken to minimize the danger.
The risk of choking can be reduced in the following ways:
- Providing close supervision during mealtime or assistance with feeding
- Serving food that is soft and easy to swallow
- Making sure food is cut into very small pieces
- Changing a senior's position to reduce the risk of choking
- Implementing a pureed diet
- Initiating a feeding tube
When someone is coughing forcefully after eating, encouraging continued coughing is often enough to stop an episode of choking. However, when the person is unable to cough, speak, or breathe, immediate attention is necessary. The Heimlich maneuver can be performed until the food is expelled. If the person becomes unresponsive, he should be lowered to the ground for CPR.
Proving Nursing Home Neglect
Although some cases of choking-related injuries do qualify as tragic accidents, many are due to negligence. Untrained, inattentive, or overworked staff may fail to provide the necessary supervision and precautionary measures required by law.
To prove that choking is related to nursing home neglect, you must establish the following:
- The nursing home owed the senior a duty of care.
- The nursing home breached the duty of care to the senior by doing something it shouldn't have done or failing to take basic safety precautions to prevent choking.
- The senior suffered harm as a result of this breach of duty.
Evidence used in a nursing home neglect case may include medical records, testimony from staff, testimony from family members, expert witnesses, and/or surveillance video.
Types of Compensation Available
A nursing home neglect case can include compensation for the cost of medical treatment related to the incident, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental pain and suffering. If the choking incident results in a fatality, a wrongful death suit can be filed to seek compensation for medical expenses up to the time of death, funeral and burial costs, and loss of companionship. When the conduct forming the basis of the suit shows extreme negligence, punitive damages may also be awarded.
Seeking Legal Representation
Nursing home neglect cases can be quite complex, which means that skilled legal representation is a must. The attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are committed to helping Louisiana residents receive justice for a loved one who has been harmed as the result of nursing home neglect. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
What factors determine how much a nursing home neglect case is worth?
Although no two nursing home abuse cases are exactly alike and the specific terms of a settlement are generally confidential, there are a number of general guidelines you can use when deciding what level of compensation to expect from your claim.
Proving Nursing Home Abuse
No one wants to see a loved one suffer in a facility they trusted to provide appropriate care. However, the law has strict requirements for how to prove a case of nursing home abuse. You must establish three key elements:
- Duty of care. The nursing home owed a duty of care to the resident, based on the terms of the facility contract.
- Breach of duty. The nursing home failed to follow widely accepted standards for resident care.
- Damages. The resident suffered physical and/or emotional harm due to the nursing home's failure to provide appropriate care.
Since nursing home residents are unable to care for themselves due to physical and/or cognitive disabilities, an abuse claim is generally initiated by a relative who serves as the resident's legal guardian. Proving damages can be done using several different types of evidence. For example:
- Photographs of bruises, cuts, or other injuries
- Notes detailing conversations with staff or the resident
- Testimony from family members or people close to the resident
- Medical records
Types of Damages Awarded in a Nursing Home Abuse Case
When you file a claim against a nursing home for the physical, verbal, and/or sexual abuse of a loved one, you're allowed to seek damages for the harm the resident has suffered. This includes compensation for:
- Physical pain and suffering related to injuries
- Mental pain and suffering, including depression, anxiety, and feeling unsafe in the care facility
- Cost of necessary medical treatment related to the abuse
Factors Affecting the Nursing Home Abuse Compensation
The vast majority of nursing home abuse cases are settled out of court when attorneys for each side come to a mutually agreeable settlement. Factors that are considered include:
- Age of the injured resident. Cases involving younger and relatively healthier residents tend to settle for larger amounts than those involving older residents with complex medical issues.
- Severity of the injury. Serious injuries resulting in limitations that affect the resident's quality of life will generate higher settlements than those that are considered relatively minor.
- Track record of the facility. A facility that has had a pattern of poor care for residents may be more eager to settle than one that considers your case an isolated incident.
- Investigative agency findings. When incidents are investigated by state or federal agencies, this can entice a facility to offer a higher settlement, even when the findings are technically considered inadmissible.
Deciding Whether to Accept a Settlement
A settlement is by definition a compromise between two parties. This means that neither side is left completely satisfied. If you're trying to evaluate whether an offer is fair, you will need to weigh the dollar amount of the settlement against the expense and overhead associated with a trial. In addition, settling can have personal benefits if you're worried about protecting the privacy of your loved one or placing family members through the emotional stress associated with court appearances and depositions.
How Medicaid and Medicare Affect Settlements
In the United States, the majority of nursing home residents receive Medicaid or Medicare benefits to pay for their care. As you're evaluating a settlement offer, keep in mind that any program used to pay for your loved one's nursing home care will be entitled to a percentage of funds recovered in a lawsuit.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Since nursing home abuse claims can present challenging legal issues, it's important to enlist the assistance of an attorney who can advocate for your needs throughout the process. The experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are dedicated to helping Louisiana residents protect their right to compensation in nursing home neglect cases. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Can a nursing home restrict family visits against a resident's will?
Nursing home residents have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their physical or mental limitations. This means they must be given the ability to make decisions that allow for as much independence as possible. Part of the ability to make daily decisions involves being able to see visitors.
Setting a Reasonable Visitation Policy
Nursing homes must allow residents to receive visitors, but they do not necessarily have to allow people into the facility 24/7. They are allowed to set reasonable visiting hours, so guests do not interrupt the ability of the staff to perform essential care tasks. An exception to a visiting hours policy is made for registered medical personnel, who must be allowed access to a resident at any time.
Choice of Visitors
The law states that residents must be allowed to choose who they wish to see as visitors. This includes family members as well as personal friends and professionals such as lawyers or social workers.
Residents can add or withdraw consent for visitors at any given time. The nursing home can't interfere with the resident's choice of visitors unless there is evidence that a visitor poses a threat to staff or other occupants of the faculty. A verbal disagreement between parties is not evidence of a threat, however.
If a resident does not wish to see a certain person, such as an estranged family member, he can't be forced to allow that person into the facility. The nursing home must respect the resident's decision.
If a resident has a legal guardian, the guardian also has the authority to make visitation requests. If appropriate, the guardian may choose to deny visitation to someone he believes will try to harm or take advantage of the resident.
Residents have a right to privacy when speaking with visitors. They do not need to have a nurse or other staff member present during visitation.
Roommate Rights During Visitation
Many residents in a nursing home have a roommate. Sharing a room does not affect a resident's right to receive visitors. However, a resident may be asked to meet visitors in an alternative area to avoid disturbing a roommate who is sleeping or ill.
Visitor Refusal and Abuse
If you are suddenly denied access to visit a loved one, this may be a sign of nursing home abuse. For example:
- Hiding evidence of abuse. A facility may try to restrict visitors to prevent family members and friends from seeing signs of neglect such as bed sores, cuts, bruises, or weight loss.
- Minimizing effects of understaffing. A nursing home that is short staffed and cutting corners on patient care may try to restrict visitors to avoid alerting family members or friends to the problem.
- Ignoring a poorly maintained facility. If there are problems with a poorly maintained facility itself or maintenance issues, visitation denial may be to avoid having family members demand that these issues be addressed.
- Isolating or punishing residents. Denial of visitation rights may be used as a means to isolate a vulnerable elderly person, thus making him less likely to protest further abusive treatment.
When you suspect your loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse, the first step is to notify the nursing home administrator. The administrative office is required to investigate your complaint and report it the appropriate state authority. However, if you don't feel your complaint is being taken seriously, you can contact Adult Protective Services or the Office of Aging in your area in addition to retaining the services of an attorney.
Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse
Victims of nursing home abuse are entitled to compensation for medical expenses as well as pain and suffering. However, Medicaid or Medicare may be entitled to a percentage of any funds recovered in a settlement if these programs were used to pay for nursing home care.
To learn more about protecting a resident's rights in a nursing home abuse case, please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review with one of the experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault.