Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Louisville KY
David Bryant Law, PLLC
If you have a family member or loved one who lives in a nursing home, their safety and treatment is sure to be high on your list of priorities. Residents of nursing homes deserve to be treated with kindness and respect without the fear of being harmed by someone they should be able to trust.
Unfortunately, many people living in nursing homes face serious abuses such as neglect, physical and emotional harm, and financial exploitation. According to a 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General, 1 in 5 emergency room visits by nursing home residents was attributed to abuse or neglect. A 2012 study by the University of Michigan showed that 24% of nursing home residents reported physical abuse by a staff member.
If you believe that your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect while living in a nursing home and you need an attorney who can handle their case with compassion, kindness, and experience, we are here for you. Don’t hesitate to give us a call.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living says that elder abuse, in general, refers to “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”
Nursing home residents are often dependent upon their caregivers for the help and support they need and, because of this dependence, they are often vulnerable to intentional or negligent harm. The responsible party for this harm may be a caregiver, nursing home staff member, or another resident.
Nursing home residents may be abused physically by someone or they may be experiencing neglect. This neglect can take the form of a lack of assistance in walking, eating and drinking, or toilet and hygiene needs.
A resident may be isolated from participating in activities or they may become the victim of financial abuse such as threats and intimidation from someone over money or the misuse of a resident’s property or money.
With an aging population and an increasing number of Americans over retirement age, it is likely that reports of nursing home abuse will grow in the future. However, many experts agree that the number of cases reported each year is only a fraction of the total number.
Why Does Elder Abuse Frequently Go Unreported?
Elder abuse may go unreported for a number of reasons and it is often up to the victim’s family members to discover that abusive behavior or neglect is occurring. Elderly patients may be unable to report what is happening to them because they fear retribution if they speak out or because their health or cognitive condition may keep them from saying anything.
The victim may not even recognize that they are being abused due to the state of their cognition or other health conditions..
Nursing home residents may be seen by abusers as easy targets who are unable to stand up for themselves due to their advanced age and physical frailty. Victims in these cases may be easy to take advantage of and signs of abuse and neglect may be easily explained away by the abuser.
Overworked or under-trained staff members may overlook signs of abuse or they may attribute the signs to dementia or other mental degradation. If a staff member notices something then they may be afraid that if they report signs of abuse, they could be punished by management.
Similarly, nursing home residents may not speak up because they are afraid of the facility dismissing them or that their abuser will not be appropriately handled and will, instead, retaliate against them. They may not want to get their abuser in trouble or may worry that they will be labeled a troublemaker for speaking out.
Family members who recognize signs of abuse may also be afraid to speak up out of fear that the situation may only become worse. They could fear that the abuser may not be removed or that the facility may not take the situation seriously enough.
Although federal and state governments have created laws, mandatory reporting requirements, and agencies such as Adult Protective Services, many cases of elder abuse taking place in nursing homes still remain unreported each and every year.
Legal Claims in Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Legal claims may be filed against a nursing home by either the victim or someone acting on their behalf. Allegations can include false imprisonment, physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse, and financial exploitation.
On the federal level, protections exist for residents of nursing homes in many forms and are designed to protect residents from poor treatment at the hands of facilities, staff, and other residents.
Under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, nursing homes receiving funds from Medicare or Medicaid are required to provide safe facilities for their residents. Federal laws also protect nursing home residents regardless of whether the facility receives funding from Medicare or Medicaid.
Regulations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid include protections for nursing home residents against abuse, neglect, and exploitation. In addition, the Affordable Care Act added requirements for reporting suspected crimes to law enforcement and stipulates that the facility may not retaliate against the person who made the report.
State, municipal, and local governing bodies have also created further protections for nursing home residents.
Nursing homes are required to provide reasonable care to their residents.If they fail to provide that reasonable care or to adhere to industry standards, they may cause harm or injury to a resident through neglect. Victims of such treatment may be eligible to file a lawsuit.
A lawsuit can be filed against nursing home facilities and they can be held liable for acts of abuse, negligence, or neglect resulting in the harm of someone in their care. In these cases, it is important to prove the facility had a duty of care, that they breached this duty, and that the victim was harmed by this breach.
Legal action can be brought against these facilities on the following grounds:
Negligent Hiring: Facilities can be held liable if they hire someone who abuses a resident or is unqualified to render care to a resident and their lack of qualifications results in injury to a resident. They may also be found liable for inadequately or improperly training or supervising their employees.
Negligent Supervision: If the facility fails to properly supervise its residents, it may be found liable for negligent supervision. For instance, if a resident who is at risk of falls were to fall over and get hurt because they were not adequately supervised, the facility may be at fault.
Failure to Keep the Premises Safe: Facilities have a duty to keep their premises safe. If it is found that they knew of a possible danger and did not fix it or if the staff caused a danger resulting in harm to a resident, then the facility can be found liable.
Failure to Provide Adequate Medical Care or Treatment: Facilities also have a duty to provide proper medical care and treatment to the residents. Charges of this type may allege medical malpractice and can result from giving the resident the wrong medicine or from failing to treat injuries and illnesses.
Failure to Maintain Clean and Sanitary Conditions: Facilities must keep their premises clean and sanitary. They must have in place and enforce policies designed to keep common areas and resident rooms clean and safe.
Warning Signs of Abuse
If you are concerned that a family member, friend, or loved one living in a nursing home is experiencing abuse or neglect, the best thing you can do is be aware of the types and signs of abuse.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse includes the infliction of pain and/or injury upon a resident. There may be obvious signs of abuse such as seeing someone hit a resident, but this form of abuse also includes unnecessary confinement, restraints, and other forms of punishment, as well as rough handling and using unauthorized medicines on the patient. Some signs include:
- Pressure marks
- Restraint marks on wrists or ankles
- Broken bones
Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse of a nursing home resident can include belittling, yelling, humiliation, threats and intimidation, and/or social isolation. Signs of this form of abuse include:
- Frequent arguments between caregiver and nursing home resident
- Unusual depression
- Changes in cleanliness and grooming habits
- Strained or tense relationships
- Sudden change in alertness
- Fear of particular staff members at the facility.
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
Sexual Abuse: Any kind of sexual activity – including touching, fondling, and intercourse – with a nursing home resident without their consent constitutes sexual abuse. Seniors with conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia may not understand their situation and are unable to consent. In other cases, a nursing home resident may be threatened or forced without their consent into sexual abuse. Some signs include:
- Bruises around the breasts or genital area
- Developing a sexually transmitted disease or STD
- Agitated behavior
- Signs of PTSD
- Social or emotional withdrawal
- Sustaining a pelvic injury
Financial Abuse: Nursing home resident’s may find themselves being exploited by an abuser for their money or their property. This form of abuse includes the theft, misuse, and withholding of a person’s money or property. Financial abuse accounts for over $2.6 billion dollars in costs for older Americans each year. A few signs of this form of abuse are:
- Sudden changes in financial situation
- Missing checks, credit cards, or debit cards
- Other missing property
Neglect: This occurs when a caregiver is derelict in their duty to provide the resident with life’s necessities such as food, shelter, and medical care. Signs of neglect include:
- Unattended medical needs
- Poor hygiene
- Unusual weight loss
Willful Deprivation: A form of neglect in which the caregivers intentionally deny a nursing home resident food, shelter, and/or their medication, medical treatment, or therapeutic devices. This deprivation may expose the resident to harm.
Seniors who are being abused are often suffering in silence and the most important thing you can do to protect your loved one is to remain vigilant and alert. If you start to notice changes in a nursing home resident’s personality or in their behavior, you should not just attribute it to their age or health conditions. You should start to question what may be going on in their lives.
We're Here to Help
Reporting the abuse is the first step, but that isn’t always enough to make things right. Ensuring your loved one is protected is important. Additionally, they may be entitled to compensation.
Nursing home abuse cases are complex, but we know the laws and have what’s needed to help you understand the available options and guide you through the process.
Contact our office at (502) 540-1221 for a free review of your legal rights and options.
David Bryant Law, PLLC
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A Local Kentucky Law Firm Helping Victims of Personal Injury