Taking Action Against Nursing Home Abuse
In response to reports of abuse and neglect in American nursing homes, Congress passed the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act which includes standards of care for all nursing homes. Under this law, nursing homes "must provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care." In order to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, nursing homes must comply with this federal law and fulfill the following requirements:
- Have sufficient nursing staff
- Conduct an initial comprehensive assessment of each resident’s functional capacity
- Develop a comprehensive care plan for every resident
- Provide the necessary services to maintain good nutrition, grooming and personal hygiene if the resident is unable to carry out these daily living activities
- Ensure residents receive proper care and assistive devices to maintain their vision and hearing
- Prevent the deterioration of a resident’s ability to bathe, dress, groom, use the restroom, eat, communicate and ambulate
- Provide appropriate treatment and services to incontinent residents to restore as much bladder function as possible
- Ensure residents do not develop bedsores, and if they do, provide the necessary treatment and services to promote healing, prevent infection and prevent new sores from developing
- Ensure that residents get adequate nutrition
- Provide residents with sufficient fluids to prevent dehydration
- Ensure residents have enough supervision and assistive devices to prevent accidents
- Ensure that residents are not subjected to significant medical errors
- Give residents the right to choose activities, schedules and health care
- Promote the residents’ quality of life
- Maintain the dignity and respect of each resident
- Provide the pharmaceutical services that the residents need
- Maintain accurate, complete and accessible records on each resident
- Ensure that the nursing home administration uses the facility’s resources effectively and efficiently
Statistics show that the elderly are the least likely group to report abuse. The reasons are as varied as the seniors themselves. In some cases, elderly residents of nursing homes are unable to communicate with a relative about the abuse because of mental or physical impairments. Shame or a feeling of helplessness keeps other victims silent. Others are afraid of retaliation from nursing home staff if they report abuse or neglect. Finally, some seniors fear having nowhere else to go, and therefore accept abuse and neglect as unavoidable.
Whatever the reasons for the silence, this issue needs to be corrected. It is up to everyone to protect the elderly from this kind of treatment. The state and federal governments have taken notice of the problem and are implementing more oversight of long term care facilities. Family members, as well, must be aware of the problem and do their part by thoroughly vetting facilities, being involved in their loved one’s care plan, visiting often and looking for signs of abuse.
Finally, family members must be willing to step in and report a problem when they see or suspect abuse or negligence happening. Furthermore you must take steps to remove your relative from a potentially dangerous situation and contact an experienced attorney who can help you protect your loved one and get them the help they need and compensation for any injuries suffered.
Many nursing homes cut corners because the residents they are mistreating are scared to speak up about the neglectful and abusive treatment. Even when this treatment is reported, many nursing home administrators fail to act. We have seen all too often what nursing home negligence can lead to: wrongful death, falls, injuries, bedsores, urinary tract infections, medication errors, abuse and neglect. When this occurs you should be ready to consider suing the facility.
Choosing to sue a nursing home can be a difficult decision, but there are some times when it is the best option for your family. Knowing that you are not alone, and that people in Illinois have had remarkable success in pursuing claims against long-term care homes, may help. In fact, it has been reported that the majority of all cases filed since 2004 have resulted in victims and their families receiving compensation from nursing facilities for injuries suffered. The following are some common reasons why you might pursue a claim against a nursing home facility:
- You suspect or have determined that abuse occurred.
- You have complained about the situation to the administration, but they have done nothing about it.
- The abuse continues to occur or is escalating.
- Your loved one has been injured as a result of abuse or neglect.
- Your loved one has passed away because of abuse or neglect.
- A nursing home representative has defrauded your loved one of money or other assets
- A lawsuit can result in compensation for the harm suffered.
- A lawsuit may prevent future cases of abuse or neglect from happening—either to your loved one or someone else’s.
Nursing home patients may pursue a claim if they were injured or made ill because of abuse or neglect suffered while at a long-term care facility. If the patient is incapacitated and cannot pursue his or her own claim, the patient’s representative may do it for them. In still other cases, a spouse or child may be able to make a wrongful death claim on behalf of their relative who has passed away as a result of elder abuse at a nursing home.