Elderly Neglect and Abuse Lawyers
The thought of nursing home abuse can be almost incomprehensible to family members. Nursing homes assume a fiduciary relationship (special trust relationship) with residents when they accept financial compensation under a contractual agreement to provide for the care of elderly and disabled residents. Nursing homes do not take on the task of caring for our elderly and disabled loved ones simply because they are “benevolent organizations.” On the contrary, nursing and rehabilitation facilities are lucrative businesses that, in exchange for compensation, make a promise to provide basic care to seniors unable to provide for their own needs and to ensure a safe environment free from abuse, neglect, physical assaults and threats.
Families looking for answers as to why their loved ones fell victim to abuse or neglect struggle to understand the factors that lead nursing homes to violate this special trust relationship and disregard their responsibility to provide reasonable care and protection to its residents. Whether the neglect or abuse is the result of inadvertent or intentional malfeasance, the effects are devastating all the same. While there are many factors that contribute to nursing home abuse, including a focus on profits over quality of care, challenges of caring for seniors by staff with limited training and resources, and staff members that are stressed out or exhausted, the common thread is that the factors are largely due to administrative inadequacies and shortcomings.
National Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Advocating for Vulnerable Seniors
Abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled adults in nursing homes is tragic, and we here at Parker Waichman, LLP, a national law firm, are passionately dedicated to advocating for victims and their families. When we investigate incidents of mistreatment in long-term care facilities, we frequently discover that nursing homes engage in systematic patterns of understaffing because they prioritize profits over quality of care.
A National Law Firm Dedicated to its Clients
When taking on nursing homes, the clients of Parker Waichman want the resources of a large national law firm and 350 years of experience representing victims injured through indifference, carelessness or intentional wrongful acts. Our law firm is one of the few in the United States that has recovered more than $2 billion for our clients.
Along with our experience and track record of successful verdicts and settlements for injury victims, our law firm has developed a leading reputation because of our focus on communication with our clients. We recognize that lack of communication and the failure to return telephone calls constitutes the most common complaint about attorneys. We know that nursing home residents who have been the victims of abuse or chronic neglect will have fears, concerns, and anxiety about the future. Our general policy is to return client calls the same business day or the next business day. We also provide periodic updates so that you are kept informed about the status of your case.
The national recognition received by Parker Waichman includes the following:
- Listed as one of the “Best Law Firms” in the U.S. – U.S. New and World Report
- One of the elite law firms to have received a “Top 100 U.S. Verdict”
- Recipient of the prestigious “5 Dragon” award based on an extensive peer review
- Granted membership in the “Billion Dollar Trial Lawyers”
- Awarded virtually perfect rating of 9.8 from AVVO (out of a scale of 10.0)
- Given an “AV” rating based on peer review, experience, ethics, and other factors by Martindale-Hubbell
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
When your elderly or disabled loved ones are abused or neglected by the people that you entrusted to care for them and their needs, the feeling of betrayal can be overwhelming. When it comes to residents of nursing homes being abused or neglected, it can be particularly devastating because many of them do not possess the ability to process what is being done to them or properly report it when it does. There are several forms in which nursing home abuse can manifest itself, but generally it is the mistreatment or exploitation of vulnerable seniors by caregivers of the facility. Dues to residents of nursing homes being dependent upon the staff for basic needs, these residents are particularly vulnerable to abuse from overworked and under trained staff members.
Understanding the Most Common Forms of Nursing Home Elder Abuse
There are many types of abuse in nursing homes but some of the most prevalent are:
The definition of physical abuse in a nursing home is both the intentional and inappropriate application of physical force against an elderly resident of a nursing home that has the potential to cause pain, injury, or even wrongful death. The use of physical abuse against seniors in nursing homes is especially unacceptable because elderly residents frequently are more susceptible to injury. The potential for broken bones or fractures in older adults is much higher and their recovery time is generally much longer. Elderly physical abuse can vary, ranging from something relatively mild such as a slap or push, to something far more extreme, like kicking or beating. However, any form that physical abuse takes should be considered intolerable as it can easily lead to significant harm of a nursing home resident.
Some acts of physical abuse that are frequently seen in nursing homes include:
- Using a hand or object to punch, beat, or strike a resident
- Kicking or slapping
- Pushing a resident into a wall, object, or bed in an attempt to make them move quicker
- Knocking an elderly resident to the ground
- Unnecessary use of restraints, both chemical and physical
- Intentional withholding of hygiene, hydration, medication or nutrition needs
- Pinching or pulling of a resident’s hair
- Burning the resident
As detestable as this list of acts taking place in a nursing home is, these are real-life instances of physical abuse that occur.
As unimaginable and distasteful as this particular form of nursing home abuse may seem, sexual abuse is a very real occurrence in nursing homes throughout the country. Any non-consensual sexual conduct or interaction that takes place is considered nursing home sexual abuse. Staff members at nursing homes have the capability of using their position to exercise dominance, authority, and power over ill or frail residents who lack the ability to consent, making the situation extremely problematic. If you suspect that a loved one is being taken advantage of in this way, contact a nursing home sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Some examples of nursing home sexual abuse may include:
- Unwelcome or inappropriate touching
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
- Sexual coercion
- Exposing a resident to pornography through force
- Oral copulation by force
Emotional or mental abuse in a nursing home can be particularly insidious because it is less likely to leave physical signs, which makes it harder to detect. Emotional abuse is never appropriate and the offensive nature of this form of verbal or psychological mistreatment is exacerbated by the fact that residents of nursing homes are dependent on staff members for their needs.
Like other forms of nursing home abuse, emotional abuse may take a variety of forms:
- Isolation or Abandonment: This type of abuse may involve segregating the resident so that the senior does not have access to social interaction or participation in activities in the facility. This form of emotional abuse also includes ignoring the resident or refusing to talk to the resident or to answer the resident’s questions.
- Threats: If the resident observes the inappropriate treatment of another senior, a staff member may threaten to cause physical harm or to deprive the resident of physical necessities if the resident discloses the misconduct.
- Verbal Abuse: The staff member may verbally dress down or humiliate the resident with derogatory comments or insults. This form of emotional abuse may also include verbal threats when the resident soils the sheets or otherwise engages in conduct that he or she cannot control.
- Emotional Manipulation: Because nursing home residents have a high level of dependency on staff members, threats and hostility may undermine the resident’s self-esteem and make the resident leery about asking for something to drink or a snack. These fears increase the risk of the resident suffering from malnutrition or lack of hydration.
What Does Emotional or Mental Abuse in Nursing Homes Do to the Brain?
Emotional abuse has the ability to cause long-term effects and can contribute significantly to one’s low self-esteem or depression.
This form of financial exploitation or abuse involves other residents, staff, visitors or administrators at the nursing home taking or using the property, money or credit of a resident for an unapproved use or to defraud the resident. Financial exploitation is defined as the wrongful misappropriation of a person’s finances or assets for another’s benefit. A resident’s finances or property may be misused because the senior is incapacitated and unable to give lawful consent or the senior is exposed to intimidation, manipulation or deceit. Some of the more typical forms of nursing home financial abuse include:
- Electronic transfers, online credit card transactions or electronic debits from a senior’s account
- Forging the check of a resident
- Stealing property or money from a senior
- Tricking a resident into executing a will, trust or contract for financial gain
- Engaging in self-dealing transactions with an elderly resident
- Accessing the bank accounts of a senior
- Using the credit history or identity of the resident for financial advantage
- Billing the resident for service not provided
Understanding the Massive Scope of the Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Epidemic
Although many elderly residents and families pay thousands of dollars a month for round the clock professional care, massive verdicts against nursing homes across the United States appear routinely in media reports. Tragic accounts of physical abuse, sexual assault, and chronic neglect that result in physical injury, emotional distress, dangerous falls, starvation, and declining health are far too common. The magnitude of nursing home abuse becomes clear when considering some startling statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse:
One out of every ten elderly Americans become the victims of abuse or neglect. Approximately four in ten nursing homes have been determined to have violated elder abuse laws. 5.9 million seniors became victims of elder abuse during a recent 12-month period. Ninety percent of nursing homes are insufficiently staffed to meet minimum standards.
This data is reinforced by a study prepared by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee:
- One in three nursing homes was cited for abuse of elderly residents during the two-year period of the investigation.
- Approximated 5,233 nursing homes were cited for more than 9,000 instances of resident abuse during the duration of the study.
- More than 1,600 of these incidents of abuse resulted in actual harm, including “immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury.”
Scope of Under-Reporting of Nursing Home Abuse
As incomprehensible as nursing home abuse may seem, these horrific acts are far more extensive than most people would imagine. Recent research indicates that almost 45 percent of nursing home residents have experienced a form of abuse while almost half believe that they have been treated in a rough manner by staff. Despite the frequency with which nursing home abuse occurs, the magnitude of the problem is far greater than this data indicates because many acts of nursing home abuse go unreported.
A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services characterized the problem this way, “Studies of the processes states use to detect, investigate, resolve, and prevent elder mistreatment in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and board and care homes are deeply flawed. As a result, estimates of elder abuse and neglect are lower than the actual prevalence, and the process must be strengthened to protect residents.”
While it is impossible to know the extent of the under-reporting problem, there are reasons to believe it is extensive. Staff members and nursing homes have little incentive to report violations because of exposure to fines, civil liability, and criminal penalties. Many seniors also are hesitant or unable to report nursing home abuse. Obstacles to accurate reporting include a variety of factors, such as:
- Fear of reprisals
- Cognitive limitations in comprehending abuse
- Limited communication ability
- Inadequate frequency and thoroughness of inspections by state agencies
- Cover-ups in nursing homes to avoid criminal and civil liability
Some sense of the scope of the inaccuracy associated with elder abuse in nursing homes is provided by a study conducted of New York nursing homes. The study revealed that for every incident of nursing home abuse that was reported, 24 other incidents of abuse went unreported. When limited to cases of neglect, the under-reporting was even more extensive with only one in 57 incidents being reported.
Nursing Home Caregivers Acknowledge Mistreatment of Elderly Residents
What many people with aging parents or other elderly loved ones in nursing homes might be surprised to learn is that nursing home abuse is so prevalent even staff members acknowledge it is a common occurrence. A survey of nursing home residents found that half of the staff members surveyed indicated that they had mistreated elderly residents during the previous twelve-month period either through some form of intentional abuse or inadvertent neglect. Another survey of Certified Nurses Assistants (CNAs) found that 17 percent admitted that they had pushed, shoved or grabbed a nursing home resident. Almost a third of the CNAs in this survey indicated they had insulted or assailed a resident with profanities.
Based on a review of nursing home citations for abuse and neglect violations, one in three nursing homes received a formal citation for practices that amount to abuse, including gross neglect. These forms of abuse can take many forms, but the frequency with which the most common forms of abuse occur breakdown as indicated below:
|Physical abuse||29 percent|
|Abuse by another resident (inadequate supervision)||29 percent|
|Psychological abuse||21 percent|
|Gross neglect||14 percent|
|Financial exploitation||7 percent|
|Sexual abuse||7 percent|
Law Governing Nursing Home Care of Residents
Residents in nursing home facilities are protected by a variety of state and federal laws and regulations. These provisions provide a safeguard against abuse and neglect while protecting the security and privacy of seniors in these facilities. Because of rising reports of nursing home mistreatment of residents, Congress passed legislation in 1987 that required nursing homes to abide by specific mandates if they accepted Medicare or Medicaid for residents.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987 (Nursing Home Reform Act) defines specific standards of care for nursing homes. The federal statute directs these facilities to “provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychological well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care.” If a long-term care facility participates in Medicare/Medicaid, the facility must comply with applicable federal regulations.
When a resident in a nursing home facility is injured because of the negligence of staff, management, or ownership, the injured resident might be entitled to compensation. Long-term care facilities also can be liable for substandard care, abuse or other violations of federal law that result in harm to residents. Some states impose even more stringent regulations for nursing homes that accept Medicare-Medicaid.
What Are the Causes of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Tragically, neglect and abuse in nursing homes across the United States cause preventable debilitating illnesses, serious injuries, and wrongful deaths. Most forms of mistreatment in long-term care facilities turn on the economics. The shift to corporate owned nursing homes has resulted in large corporate facilities operated by entities and individuals with limited experience in the healthcare sector of the economy. This lack of experience and corporate ownership leads to a focus on mitigating operating costs to maximize profits. The factors that contribute to nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Low Pay: Many facilities pay caregivers only slightly more than minimum wage. Given the physical and emotional toll on nursing home care providers, the low pay levels have created a significant shortage of qualified caregivers. The average rate for caregivers is $12 per hour, whereas the average rate for all occupations is $17 per hour according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Because of changing demographics in the United States with Baby Boomers approaching retirement, nursing home industry experts anticipate increasing labor shortages.
- Inadequate Staffing: Nursing homes motivated to maximize profits look to cut costs. A common strategy to reduce operating expenses involves operation with a “skeleton staff.” Inspections and studies have revealed that some nursing homes place only one caregiver per thirty residents on a shift. When facilities attempt to run with this level of chronic understaffing, residents’ basic needs are threatened, such as hydration, nutrition, medical care, and hygiene.
- Failure to Provide Sufficient Training/Supervision: As mentioned above, nursing homes often hire unqualified staff then exacerbate the problem by offering almost no training. While federal law requires nursing homes receiving Medicaid/Medicare to adopt and implement individual care plans, compliance often is thwarted because the staff lacks the experience and knowledge to properly implement such plans. Given that this lack of training frequently will be accompanied by almost no supervision, the high rate of abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities is predictable.
- Failure to Perform Adequate Background Checks: In the wake of a flood of massive judgments and settlements against large nursing home chains for systemic abuse and neglect, some states have implemented requirements to conduct background checks. However, the decision to conduct screenings, as well as the extent of those investigations, is left up to individual facilities in many states. More than ninety percent of nursing home facilities included in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study had a caregiver on staff with a criminal record. The stress stemming from long hours, low pay, and work that is physically and emotionally demanding combined with workers with criminal records creates an environment ripe for abuse.
Signs Your Elderly Loved One Is a Nursing Home Abuse Victim
If you observe signs of nursing home abuse when visiting your elderly loved one, such as loss of weight, infections, bed sores, lack of hygiene or cleanliness, sudden changes in mood or temperament, or similar indications, you should speak to your love one privately to determine if there are abuse or neglect issues. If you cannot tell for sure if abuse is occurring or your elderly family member’s ability to understand or communicate is impacted by a medical condition, you should consider taking your loved one to a physician and notifying the police.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Home Abuse
What Are the Nursing Home Lawsuit Statistics for Receiving Settlements?
Statistics show that around 95% of lawsuits related to nursing home abuse end in settlements. The range of these settlements is varied but on average they are about $400,000. Furthermore, a study revealed that 61% of incidents in which a plaintiff turned down the settlement, they received less from the trial verdict.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Nursing Home Elder Abuse Lawsuit?
The length of time it takes to settle a nursing home lawsuit is dependent on many different factors and the complexity of the case. It can often take 18 months or longer to reach a settlement in these cases.
Who Can Sue for Elder Abuse?
The person being abused, family members who have either witnessed the abuse or have power of attorney, spouses, and guardians can all be plaintiffs in a nursing home lawsuit.
How Do I File a Claim Against a Nursing Home?
In order to file a claim against a nursing home you will need to contact the proper authorities to get the process started. Once you’ve filed a complaint with authorities you will then have to notify the nursing home and then file the claim with a court.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Abuse?
The statute of limitations for nursing home abuse will vary based on the type of abuse and which state you’re in. Personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death all have their own statute of limitations and those change on a state-to-state basis.
How Do You Prove Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse can be problematic to prove as many of the indicating factors for abuse can resemble injuries common among the elderly. If you suspect elder abuse, you should contact the proper authorities right away. Some ways of proving the abuse include gathering evidence of unexplained injuries, bedsores that do not heal, and unexplained weight loss.
What Are the 3 Most Common Complaints About Nursing Homes?
The 3 most common complaints when it comes to nursing homes are the staff’s delayed response to calls, a lack of social interaction with both family and other residents, and low quality food.
What is Classed as Neglect in a Care Home?
Anytime that a resident in a nursing home doesn’t get the level of care that they require, it is considered neglect. Things like making sure the resident receives basic hygiene or assistance eating if required are considered neglect.
How Can We Prevent Abuse in Care Homes?
There are several ways in which both families and staff can help prevent abuse from happening in nursing homes. Family members should be aware what the signs of abuse are and how to spot them and visit frequently to check up on their loved ones. Nursing homes can help prevent abuse by implementing a monitoring system, setting strict care policies and guidelines, and by hiring an adequate amount of staff and making sure they receive proper training.
How Do You Report Abuse in a Nursing Home?
If you believe that a loved one is being abused in a nursing home then the best way to report it would be by calling 911. For further support you might consider contacting social services and of course, a lawyer for legal assistance.
What Percentage of Elder Abuse is Reported?
It is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse, or 7%, are actually reported. Sadly, nursing home abuse is more common than we would like to imagine. Elderly people aren’t always able to advocate for themselves and let someone know what they’re going through.
Is Abuse of the Elderly a Felony?
Yes. For example, abuse of the elderly is considered a Third Degree felony in New York.
How Do I Report Neglect in a Nursing Home?
In order to report any suspected neglect in a nursing home you should contact the Eldercare Locator hotline at 1-800-677-1116.
Can You Get Kicked Out of a Nursing Home?
Yes, it is possible to be evicted from a nursing home. However, it is only allowed for specific reasons and in those cases the nursing home must comply with strict procedures for doing so.
What is the Most Commonly Reported Type of Elder Abuse in Residential Care Homes?
Neglect is the most common case of elder abuse. This is often due to low staffing numbers that prevent caregivers from providing patients with all the care and attention needed. Regardless, it’s an institution’s duty to provide adequate staffing to keep residents safe.
What is the Most Common Infection in Nursing Homes?
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are the most common infection found in nursing homes.
What is the Leading Cause of Death in Nursing Homes?
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are the most common cause of death in nursing homes.
What Do You Do If a Resident is Being Aggressive?
If a resident is becoming aggressive, the nursing home staff should approach them with a calm tone of voice while still maintaining a safe distance. If the resident remains aggressive, the caregiver should either seek out assistance from another employee or leave and come back later.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Falls?
Yes. Nursing homes can be held liable for slip and fall accident that takes place on their premises.
Covid-19 Nursing Home FAQ
How Can Public Health Jurisdictions Prioritize COVID-19 Testing Across Nursing Homes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Priority facilities may include those with confirmed cases, those in counties with high incidence, those with the ability to cohort residents who are found to be positive, larger facilities, and facilities with more patients with recent healthcare exposures (e.g., recent hospitalization or outpatient dialysis).
If a facility identifies additional cases through facility-wide testing, then that facility should be prioritized for repeat testing of negative residents.”
What Are the CDC Recommendations For Residents Who Show COVID-19 Symptoms?
If a resident is showing symptoms of COVID-19, the CDC recommends the resident be moved to a single room until testing can confirm whether or not they are infected. While waiting for the test results to come back, the resident should wear a respirator, eye protection, gloves and a gown.
How Should the Spread of COVID-19 Be Prevented in Nursing Homes?
Residents of nursing homes should self-isolate as much as possible. Those who begin to show symptoms should also have a separate bathroom. Bedrooms and bathrooms of residents showing symptoms should be cleaned on an as-needed basis.
Are Visitors Allowed Into Nursing Homes During the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic?
Yes, but anyone showing symptoms should not be permitted. Furthermore, all visitors must wear a face mask at all times and limit their visit to the room of the resident they’re visiting.
Consult a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today!
The attorneys at our elder abuse law firm represent nursing home abuse and neglect victims who experience serious injury throughout the United States from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens, Florida, and New Jersey. We invite you to speak with us for more information and an initial consultation. Contact us at (212) 267-6700, fill out our case inquiry form, or visit us in person.
Page updated by Jerry Parker
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