NURSING HOMES ABUSE / NEGLIGENCE IN NURSING HOME
Nursing Homes Must be Free from Abuse and Negligence, and as Safe as One's Home
Even though Americans are living longer, healthier lives, ultimately we all have to watch our parents and other elderly loved ones enter the final chapter of life. The difficult questions about the cost of quality care have grown common enough to be part of the national debate.
Most would prefer to care for their elderly parents, or parent, in the safety of the family home, but sometimes this is simply not feasible. Adult children today tend to put in longer hours at work for lesser pay, and simply cannot find or afford someone to watch over their elderly family member. If this family member is suffering from a medical condition, home care is even more difficult on the family. When elderly loved ones can no longer take care of themselves, and when keeping them in your home simply is not feasible, a difficult decision must be made: that of putting mom and/or dad into a nursing or other long-term care facility to provide the attention they require. The types of residences available for elderly loved ones range from assisted-living facilities to full-care nursing homes.
At the same time, you should not have to lay awake at night worrying about how your loved one is faring in a nursing home. They deserve to be safe and properly cared for; furthermore, it is the law.
If you suspect a loved one is being abused by nursing home staff members, you have the legal right to take action based on your suspicions. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents tend not to mention instances of abuse; they may fear that the mistreatment will get worse. Possibly it is because of a medical condition that affects their ability to communicate or to even recall recent events.
U.S. Bans Forced Arbitration, Gives Nursing Home Abuse Victims the Right to Sue
In September 2016, the U.S. government moved to ban forced arbitration, giving nursing home abuse victims and their families the right to file a lawsuit against long-term care facilities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency under Health and Human Services (HHS) that controls more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funding, issued a rule on September 28, 2016 that prevents nursing homes from forcing claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment, and wrongful death into arbitration. The rule is a large victory for nursing home abuse and neglect victims and their advocates.
The rule was issued in light of the fact that nursing homes slip arbitration clauses into the fine print of their admissions contracts. By signing, residents are forced to go through the private system of arbitration when they have a dispute rather than retain their right to sue. According to a September 29, 2016 article published in The New York Times (NYT), forced arbitration has even been used in cases involving murder and wrongful death. NYT reports one case involving a 100-year-old woman who was strangled to death by her roommate at a nursing home. Another 94-year-old woman died of a head injury at a nursing home in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. In both cases, the families were initially not able to sue due to arbitration clauses.
Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat-Vermont) issued a statement saying, "The sad reality is that today too many Americans must choose between forfeiting their legal rights and getting adequate medical care."
The arbitration rule was issued after officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia called on the government to cut off funding from nursing homes that use arbitration clauses. Officials argued that these clauses help hide patterns of abuse and neglect.
The arbitration rule will go into effect in November 2016.
Companies who use arbitration clauses claim that arbitration offers a quick, simple, and less costly alternative to litigation. NYT points out, however, that these claims are hard to back up because arbitrations are confidential. NYT conducted a year-long investigation into arbitration, examining records from over 25,000 arbitrations between 2010 and 2014. The investigation found many disturbing examples in which abuse and neglect were never publicized because victims were barred from litigation. For instance, in May 2014 a woman with Alzheimer’s was sexually assaulted two times in two days at a nursing home in California. When her family tried to file a lawsuit, the case was blocked due to an arbitration clause. They ended up settling. A subsequent government investigation found that the facility "failed to protect" the woman.
Being Able to Decode the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect can often be a hidden problem due to the inability of victims to express pain and neglect. As for the physical signs, caregivers can easily overlook them, often because many nursing homes are understaffed, with overworked nurses and care providers. Sometimes it is up to you to notice if there is anything wrong with your loved one-especially if your loved one is unable to communicate and there is no one else to watch out for him/her.
Some common "hidden" problems at nursing homes:
- Bedsores: These are created by unrelieved pressure, friction, humidity, and poor nutrition, coupled with an inattentive caregiver who leaves a patient alone in bed for long periods without repositioning.
- Weight Loss: Negligent nursing homes often do not have the staff or dedication needed to ensure residents receive necessary nutrition and hydration.
- Injuries from Falling: Nursing home management is legally responsible for developing a care plan for each resident to prevent falls.
Number of Nursing Home Victims Reaches Epidemic Proportions
Nursing home negligence is an ongoing, serious problem. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that one nursing home patient out of 20 has been the victim of negligence and/or injury, and notes the number may be much higher. Additionally, the National Center reported that 57 percent of nurse’s aides working in long-term care facilities have admitted to witnessing-and some, even participating in-acts of negligence and abuse against elderly residents.
Due to limited staff and overpopulated facilities, elderly or disabled patients living in long-term care facilities often lack the attention they require. Moreover, elderly residents who require assistance to get through daily life-such as eating, bathing, walking, etc. -do not receive this assistance. The results can be disastrous: debilitating falls, painful and immobilizing bedsores, malnutrition, and sometimes death.
If you feel that a loved one has been a victim of elder care abuse or neglect, you both may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman LLP is prepared to investigate and pursue all available civil damage remedies. Please complete our online form or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) today.