Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney Spartanburg, SC
Have you contemplated having to make a decision to put a loved one in a long-term care facility or nursing home in the Spartanburg area? That’s the kind of difficult decision confronting so many of us today. Your concern about the attention received by the elder who depends on you is understandable, even expected. But what do you do if your suspect that carelessness or–even worse–abuse is taking place. The following will be a big step in the direction of your understanding more about abusive or neglectful behavior in a live-in setting.
How to identify abuse
When a nursing-home staff member regardless of rank or education engages in behavior that puts a resident in harm’s way or at risk of being in harm’s way, that is considered abuse. Almost always senior citizens who are often sensitive because of physical frailty or mental incapacity, nursing home residents are in need of a watchful eye. While mistreatment can be on purpose or a lack of regard for standards, how it occurs has no bearing on this grave disregard for well-being and may well be cause to consider a lawsuit to protect the unfortunate senior.
How to recognize neglect
Inattention is characteristic of neglect. Abuse can be seen as more action-based as opposed to the disregard which characterizes neglect. Care and management of the client as well as services owed to the client such as food, water, medication, clothing, and shelter must be maintained at a certain level or neglect is thought to occur. Observation of debilitating bedsores or lack of hygiene about the client or the client’s clothing may indicate neglect. It may be that the nursing staff has too many duties to perform and they cannot manage all the residents. While the neglect may not be on purpose, it can still lead to injury, even fatality.
What is the cause of nursing home neglect and abuse?
Abuse and neglect in Spartanburg residential facilities may arise from a few causes. Training of staff members may be lacking, which gives rise to care givers not understanding what they are supposed to do. Sometimes the nursing home management does not spend the money necessary to do background checks on employees. Consequently, the people tending to frail seniors may be ill-trained and ill-suited for the sometimes difficult task.
Understaffing is a common cause of nursing home neglect. Unfortunately, despite the cost of keeping a resident in a nursing home, there may be too few on staff to see to it that residents are kept clean and comfortable. Recently, a Congressional subcommittee report disclosed that 54 percent of America’s nursing homes suffer from understaffing. If patients aren’t properly cared for, they can develop malnutrition, dehydration, and bedsores to name a few problems. Understaffing can result in an increase of abuse because all staff is not properly monitored.
Elders are particularly vulnerable to neglect and abuse because their mental capacity may be diminished. That makes them easy prey. Imagine a rather weak person who is fighting dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other mental disorders that has very little contact with the outside world. They are at the mercy of the staff in the residential facility. Perhaps most heart-breaking is that these residents cannot fend for themselves and cannot persuade others to believe that they are being mistreated.
Is the fault with the nursing home facility?
Though the owners of the nursing home may not be the ones inflicting the neglect or abuse, they are in charge of the actual caregivers and, of course, they hired the actual caregivers. Ownership bears the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of the patient. Decisions ownership has made create the atmosphere in the facility. They set the rules and regulations for the staff to follow. Sometimes profit motive gets in the way of good judgment and ownership does not spend enough money to hire the best employees and properly train them. Unfortunately, that type of management behavior sets the stage for neglect and abuse.
Are there other forms of abuse and neglect?
Other than physical neglect and abuse, there are heartrending forms of neglect and abuse that leave no physical scars, but leave emotional ones. Seniors are often scolded, disregarded, or demeaned by doctors, nurses, and other members of staff. Sometimes elders are abused by sexual predators and suffer in silence. There is also the possibility that seniors can be exploited financially. Vigilance is required because these issues are sometimes hard to detect.
Is abuse and neglect in nursing homes a big problem?
Elder abuse, which is generally thought to encompass abuse and neglect, is not only underemphasized; it is seriously understated. In the annals of the US Department of Justice, at least 11 percent of all elders endure some manner of abuse or neglect on an annual basis. If you do the math, it tells you that over four million seniors bear a form of hurtful abuse or neglect every year.
What are nursing home residents’ rights?
First of all, the law protects nursing home residents from any abuse, whether sexual, physical, verbal, or mental. Additionally, residents may not be restrained for the convenience of their caregivers whether the restraints are chemical or physical. The only acceptable uses of restraints on nursing home residents are if they are required for treating a medical condition or for the protection of the resident and/or nursing home staff. The same standard of care is applied to both private nursing homes and those publically funded by Medicare. Careless or abusive treatment need not be tolerated and it is prohibited by law.
In some cases of abuse, the harm is not immediately visible and it is, therefore, harder to detect. When you see broken bones or bruises, you can begin to think they might have been caused by abuse. If your loved one seems to have bruises, broken bones, or even burns, often that may be a sign of abuse. Be alert for unexplained medical treatment, another sign of abuse.
Because of privacy concerns and its inherent personal nature, sexual abuse may go unnoticed. But if the elder has symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease, especially if accompanied by pain or bleeding from injuries, maybe sexual abuse is being visited on this person.
Poor hygiene, bedsores or skin ulcers, unclean or missing garments, malnourishment, hunger, or thirst are all signs of neglectful treatment. Abandonment is another form of neglect that can be evidenced by absence of medical treatment, dirty linens, or filthy living conditions.
If a patient has Alzheimer’s or dementia, emotional abuse may be hard to discover. If you notice the elder engaging in fear-based behavior, mood swings, and tenseness when certain staff members come into their presence, a sudden unwillingness to see their loved ones, being withdrawn and unwilling to communicate, suspect emotional abuse.
Are personal items, money, or jewelry suddenly disappearing without explanation from the elder’s living area? Financial exploitation may be at work here. Be wary of any increases in expenses, dubious financial transactions, unexplained withdrawals, and a focus on finances.
How to handle concerns if abuse or neglect is suspected
Each case has its own set of facts to consider. If the elder is in clear and present danger, call 911 or the local police right away. If you suspect an abusive situation exists and the resident does not seem to be involved in a life-threatening situation, getting in touch with the local agency involved in protecting at-risk adults would be in order. Of course, if you have reason to believe that the administrative staff on site is trustworthy, by all means see them.
Is filing a civil suit the right step to take?
When a law is broken, of course that should at some time be reported to a local police department. But regardless of the action or lack of action on the part of local law enforcement authorities, you have a right to proceed with a civil claim against anyone involved in abusive behavior in order to protect the rights of an elder and to ask for money damages for harm they may have suffered. It may be easier to sustain a claim of damages and hold the wrongdoer accountable in a civil matter because the standard of proof is lower than it is in a criminal case.
Suppose abuse results in death?
As terrible is it may be to contemplate, abusive and neglectful behavior in a nursing home setting sometimes rises to such a cruel level that death may result. While failure to care for an elder can result in criminal penalties, a wrongful death lawsuit can be instituted by the caring people that the elder left behind. By filing a civil suit, you not only honor the memory of your loved one, you also participate in a system that lets the guilty party know that they cannot behave in the manner that they have. While instructing them in the way they should behave, you may also be saving the life of someone who is still in or may in future be in their care. There are statistics that indicate that as much as 70 percent of nursing home abuse goes unreported. Your decision to forge ahead with a civil suit will certainly call attention to the bad actors that did grave harm to your loved one.