Safeguarding Our Loved Ones: When to Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
The United States has a rapidly aging population, and family members are often tasked with choosing long-term care facilities for their elderly loved ones. The hope is to find a facility where they will be safe and receive exceptional care. Sadly, according to the World Health Organization, one in six people over the age of 60 experience abuse in one of these settings.
When someone close is a victim of abuse or neglect at a nursing home, it is natural to feel strong emotions of anger and a desire for justice. The people entrusted with a resident’s care must be held accountable for the harm and suffering they cause. St. Louis nursing home abuse lawyers at Hipskind & McAninch can help you and your loved one get the compensation you deserve.
Protections for Nursing Home Residents
Today, more than 2 million people call nursing homes or assisted living facilities home, and as the above statistic shows, many are mistreated. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA, also called the Nursing Home Reform Act) of 1987 established federal standards of care for residents. The passing of this Act did a lot to improve the quality of care and enforce stiff penalties for breaking the rules.
OBRA mandates quality of care regulations, stating that nursing homes must provide activities and services to maintain residents’ physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. It also places limitations to the use of antipsychotic drugs and reduces the use of chemical and physical restraints. Penalties can include fines and even facility closures.
Abuse at Nursing Homes Takes Many Forms
Despite the improvements in care with OBRA, residents of these facilities are often helpless to defend themselves against those who do them harm. Whether intentional or not, abuse and neglect happen. The companies that run nursing homes might use excuses like understaffing or compassion fatigue (a form of burnout experienced by caregivers). But ultimately, they are responsible for their employees’ actions—or inactions. Residents and their families deserve compensation for both economic and non-economic damages from negligence or carelessness.
Cases involving the abuse of elderly and disabled people in nursing homes often fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Psychological abuse
- Physical abuse
- Financial exploitation
- Sexual abuse
- Wrongful death
A senior citizen’s best advocates are family and friends who can recognize problems when they arise and get them the appropriate help.
Protecting Our Seniors
Loved ones may be the first to spot the signs of abuse or neglect. This is especially true if the nursing home resident has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Other issues—including intimidation—can make communicating difficult or make victims reluctant to complain about their treatment or caregivers.
Red flags and signs of abuse include the following:
- Mood swings, agitation, or depression
- Noticeable weight loss or gain
- Unexplained bruises, sores, infections, or broken bones
- Fear or paranoia
- Lack of interest or enjoyment in favorite activities
- An untimely or unexplained death
Age-related conditions like physical and mental decline could account for some of these conditions or situations. For example, decreased mobility and coordination might explain more frequent falls and injuries. However, these injuries can also indicate a severe problem. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s worth investigating and asking questions. If the staff is unresponsive or evasive, this could be another red flag.
Getting a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If it appears that a nursing home resident has been abused or neglected, the first step is to alert the administrative staff or manager of the home. Make sure the victim is safe. Depending on the situation, this might mean removing them from the facility. Call 911 and file a report with the appropriate state agency if a crime is suspected.
Large corporations run most nursing homes and often have a legal team at the ready. They may offer a monetary settlement before anyone knows the full extent of physical injuries, psychological trauma, or financial losses. As with any personal injury case, once an offer is accepted, there is no going back for additional damages.
Contacting a nursing home abuse attorney can ensure that a claim includes all economic losses. These can include ambulance charges, medical bills, medications, medical equipment, ongoing physical (or psychological) therapy, and more. In financial exploitation or theft cases, a lawyer can ensure full reimbursement of lost money and items.
A seasoned attorney is also able to calculate non-economic damages. Pain, suffering, and ongoing psychological issues like PTSD deserve compensation, too, not only for the victim of the abuse but perhaps for the family in cases of the untimely death of a loved one in a nursing home.
Proving Nursing Home Abuse
Suspecting or even knowing that a loved one has been mistreated is very different from proving it. The nursing home’s management will resist admitting that they or their staff did anything wrong. Doing so could cost them money as well as damage their reputation.
Having a nursing home abuse attorney takes the burden of gathering the evidence to make a compelling case from the victim’s loved ones. They can access medical documents and records, read social workers’ evaluations, depose witnesses, and review prior grievances against the organization.
These cases can be complicated, involving individual employees’ carelessness, the facility’s negligence, and even medical malpractice. Depending on the nursing home’s promises of services laid out in their contract, there might be a case for breach of contract. Professional legal advice is necessary to cover all of the bases and get full and fair compensation for what the victim has endured.
Settlement or Litigation
Attorneys like Hipskind & McAninch are instrumental when filing claims or negotiating with insurance companies and attorneys for nursing homes. They will help their clients understand a fair settlement for economic and non-economic damages.
There is a lot of documentation and paperwork in an abuse or neglect case, and an attorney can ensure it is done correctly and on time. Missouri has a statute of limitations of five years for personal injuries suffered in a nursing home and three years for wrongful death. Attorneys are used to working within these timeframes and will file a claim in a timely manner.
If it is impossible to reach a fair settlement, Hipskind & McAninch have the resources to take the case to trial. They will work tirelessly to ensure you and your elderly loved one receive appropriate compensation.
If you suspect neglect or abuse at a nursing home, contact us for a free consultation.