Even before the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes across the country were in trouble. Nearly 70 percent of the approximately 15,600 nursing home facilities in the U.S. are run by for-profit organizations that have struggled for years with the failure to attract new residents, shortages of skilled staff, and little profit to use for upgrading existing facilities.
Facilities that accept Medicare/Medicaid residents are required to undergo an annual health and safety inspection to ensure that the facilities are meeting federal standards of care, and those inspections often yield deficiencies. One of the most commonly occurring deficiencies found at nursing home facilities in El Centro is the lack of proper infection control, which results in three million infections and causes the deaths of 380,000 nursing home residents each year.
That was before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, many nursing home facilities are struggling to control infections and provide a safe place for elderly residents to live. Many residents are expressing concern and fear that their needs aren’t being met during this time.
Read on for more information about what nursing home negligence is, how to spot the signs that your loved one might be subject to abuse or neglect in an El Centro nursing home, and the legal process by which abused or neglected nursing home residents can recover damages by calling an experienced El Centro personal injury lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys.
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
Negligence is a legal term that means there has been a breach in the duty of care that an individual or entity owes to others. In the nursing home industry, federal laws require nursing homes to take actions to safeguard the health and well-being of the residents. Failure to meet these regulations is considered negligence.
Here is a list of standards that nursing homes are required to meet:
Nursing home facilities must not discriminate against residents.
Residents must be free from abuse and neglect within the facility.
Residents must be free to exercise the rights granted to them as U.S. citizens.
Facilities must adopt and observe policies pertaining to infection control, including flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and procedures pertaining to the safety of food and medical supplies.
Facilities must report all allegations of abuse or neglect to the proper state authorities as well as any outbreaks of infection.
Residents have the right to access medical care and to have a say in the physician they see and the treatment they’re prescribed.
Facilities must provide notification to the resident’s representative if the resident is being transferred, is changing rooms, or requires emergency medical treatment.
Facility staff must treat each resident with dignity and respect.
Residents have the right to be free from physical and chemical restraints, to entertain visitors, and to participate in activities.
Residents have the right to make complaints about the care they are receiving at the facility without fear of retribution from staff members.
Residents have the right to their own property, management of their own money, and privacy.
The several types of nursing home negligence include:
Physical abuse: Physical abuse involves physically harming a resident or forcing a resident to do something against their will through physical measures. Examples include the use of physical restraints, pushing, kicking, or slapping the resident. Physical abuse can occur at the hands of facility staff or even abuse by other residents that the facility fails to take measures to prevent.
Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse may involve the use of intimidation or threats to control the resident’s actions. This type of abuse can also include belittling the resident in front of others.
Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse in a nursing facility is unwanted sexual contact of any kind, including penetration, touching the resident’s genitalia or breasts, forcing the resident to talk about sex, or making the resident view pornography. If your loved one is currently struggling with this form of abuse contact the El Centro sexual abuse lawyers.
Neglect: Neglect in a nursing home setting is the failure to provide basic needs such as food and water, failure to provide medical care or implement infection control policies that ensure the resident’s safety, or failure to properly supervise the resident to prevent falls, elopement, or other potentially harmful situations.
Financial exploitation: Nursing home residents can also be financially exploited by staff and others at the facility. Financial exploitation involves taking the resident’s money or property.
Nursing home abuse, neglect, or exploitation is grossly underreported due to:
The failure of the government and other organizations to zero in on a unified definition of what nursing home abuse actually is.
The inability of the resident to tell others about the abuse due to cognitive impairment.
The unwillingness of the resident to tell others about abuse for fear of getting facility staff “in trouble,” or making the abuser angry.
Elders with little social support from family members or friends.
Those who suffer dementia. Studies indicate that about half of all individuals with dementia suffer some form of abuse. The most common type of abuse to be endured by residents with dementia is psychological (emotional) abuse.
Those who have suffered previous physical or sexual abuse.
Women are at greater risk of suffering from all types of abuse than men.
Those who suffer functional impairments or poor physical health.
In a single year, the Long-Term Ombudsmen programs across the nation reported more than 188,000 complaints of abuse, neglect, or exploitation in long-term care facilities.
The Signs of Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation
If residents are unlikely to report abuse on their own and organizations can’t even decide what the official definition of abuse is, how are you supposed to know if your loved one is receiving substandard care?
Marked emotional and physical changes, such as withdrawing from activities that were previously enjoyed, agitation and unexplained fear, bruises and other injuries that the facility staff cannot explain, lost weight, the appearance of being over-medicated or under-medicated, the appearance or worsening of bedsores, or the resident is wearing soiled clothing or appears to have not bathed in a while. Warning signs of sexual abuse may include bruising of the breasts or genital area, bleeding, and torn or bloody underclothes.
The staff will not answer your questions. While nursing home staff are understandably busy much of the time, they should never be too busy to answer your questions, return your calls, or acknowledge your concerns. Be wary if the staff of your loved one’s facility is not providing answers or is brushing off your concerns or acting annoyed about having to communicate with you. Another warning bell that could indicate nursing home abuse is the refusal of staff to allow you to visit with your loved one or to allow the resident to participate in activities that are appropriate for his or her cognitive and physical abilities.
Frantic staff, inadequate staffing, and high staff turnover. While some turnover in nursing home staff is to be expected, a rotating door of staff members can leave your loved one in the hands of literal strangers who may not be aware of or properly trained to deal with his or her needs. Inadequate staffing can result in neglect as there are not enough trained caregivers to properly handle the increased needs of a population whose members can be cognitively impaired or have mobility issues that require assistance for daily personal care.
Your loved one doesn’t want a certain staff member to provide care. According to industry experts, residents should never be afraid of nursing home staff. Even if your loved one is cognitively impaired and cannot communicate his or her feelings to you, fear or discomfort when a specific staff member cares for them presents a reason for concern.
Phones ring constantly and nurse call lights go unanswered. This is another indicator of inadequate staffing. If staff does not have time to answer the phones or to respond to residents who are requesting assistance, there is a risk that a resident is not getting the care that they need or that important information is being missed with those unanswered calls.
Signs of dehydration or malnourishment. Unfortunately, dehydration is one of the most common types of neglect in nursing homes. Inadequate staffing leads to residents not receiving fluids or meals that they need to remain healthy and, ultimately, to survive.
Status quo. If the facility staff told you when your loved one moved in that there would be updates and improvements made to the facility, ask about the progress of those projects. If there has been no attempt to provide promised upgrades, it could be an indication of a facility that is in financial trouble. Financial trouble is a downward spiral that leads to inadequate staffing, inadequate provisions, and carelessness. Be wary of facilities that appear unsanitary or have an unchecked problem with insects or rodents.
Significant withdrawals from your loved one’s bank account or lavish gifts that have been purchased by your loved one for facility staff, changes to wills and other financial documents, or newly added signatories on your loved one’s account.
A bad feeling. Trust your gut on this one: If it seems that something is not quite right at your loved one’s facility, it probably isn’t and the situation deserves a closer look.
Call Us if Your Loved One Was Abused or Neglected
Formal and informal caregivers to dependent adults—whether they’re compensated for that responsibility or not—have a mandatory civic responsibility in California to report suspected abuse of an elder. If you are unsure as to whether the behaviors and signs you’re seeing constitute abuse, you should seek advice on the matter from trusted friends or professionals. Because abuse generally escalates without proper intervention, reporting your suspicions is always a better idea than doing nothing.
To report suspected abuse, you will want to contact your county’s adult protective services department. An additional report should be made to your county’s long-term care ombudsman. Reports can also be made at the state’s 24 hour crisis line by calling (800) 231-4024.
If the abuse is reported, investigated, and the allegations are found to be true, what happens next? At this point, you want to contact an experienced attorney. At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we can find out if your loved one is eligible to obtain compensation for his or her injuries, medical expenses, and the impacts that the abuse had on his or her life. In California, the victims of nursing home abuse can file a nursing home personal injury lawsuit against their abuser and the facility in which the abuse occurred. Hire an attorney to guide you, as nursing home abuse cases are often complex and operate on strict timelines.
In addition to navigating the legal requirements for a lawsuit, your attorney can provide other services for you, including:
Assessing the damages in your loved one’s case based on the severity of his or her injuries, the cost of treatment, and the impacts of the abuse.
Collecting evidence and eyewitness testimony that will help prove your loved one’s case.
Skilled negotiation with the facility’s insurance provider to obtain a fair settlement on your loved one’s behalf.
Guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting or refusing any offered settlement.
Attendance at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
Litigation of your case, if a settlement offer has not been accepted.
Assistance in collecting your settlement or award money.
Continued representation if the defendant in your case files an appeal.
Gomez Trial Attorneys’ El Centro Nursing Home Law Firm Can Help
If your loved one has been harmed by nursing home negligence in El Centro, our experienced attorneys can help you make sense of the legal process of recovering compensation.