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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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.
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.