If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, you’ll do everything in your power to protect them and ensure they are happy, safe, and healthy. Unfortunately, you can’t always be there for them. Due to circumstances you have no control over, your family member could be neglected or abused in their long-term care facility. If you suspect or discover your loved one isn’t being treated right, a Lexington nursing home abuse lawyer from the Law Office of Todd W. Burris can help.
Nursing home staff members and employees have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the facility’s residents. Failing to fulfill this duty is grounds for legal action in the United States. By filing an elder abuse lawsuit against a facility that is mistreating, neglecting, or harming its residents, you’ll receive assistance relocating your loved one to a safer home as well as potentially receive financial compensation that can go toward the costs of recovery.
In addition, filing an abuse claim against the facility will ensure that the owners fire those who were guilty of committing abusive, wrongful acts, or otherwise acting negligently. The nursing home may need to hire new employees in cases of neglect. For facilities that do, receiving a lawsuit will send that message loud and clear.
If you’re ready to take legal action on behalf of your loved one, we’re here to provide you with the information you need to build a successful case. We are prepared to assist you with your claim and meet with you at no obligation or initial cost to you at our Lexington firm. Let’s start by going over some general facts and statistics about nursing home abuse. The numbers might surprise you.
Quantifying Abuse in Kentucky’s Nursing Homes: Facts and Statistics
When we’re unable to take care of an elderly family member ourselves and admit them to a long-term care facility, we like to think that their needs will be properly met and that they’ll be safe with facility professionals, nurses, and other caregivers. This is true in many cases, but elder abuse and neglect both occur more often than most of us would like to believe. Sometimes, unfortunately, it can lead to death.
This is especially true in an era when our nursing homes are fuller than they have ever been. It’s a common occurrence for most of Kentucky’s best care facilities to have waiting lists for admittance. Many are also severely understaffed. Both circumstances can lead to a lapse in care as well as a lapse in employee training. When caretakers aren’t properly trained in how to take care of elderly patients or are not monitored correctly, abuse and neglect are more likely to happen.
Kentucky is a mandatory reporting state regarding elder abuse. What this means is that if anyone witnesses or suspects elder abuse, they are legally required to make a report to Adult Protective Services. According to the 2017 Kentucky Elder Abuse Report, the following are the top ten complaints received about long-term care:
- Care: failure to respond to requests for assistance
- Autonomy & Rights: dignity, respect – staff attitudes
- Dietary: food service – quantity, quality, variation, choice
- Care: personal hygiene
- Care: medication administration
- Abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation
- Care: symptoms unattended, including pain, pain not managed, no notice to others of change in condition
- Autonomy & Rights: response to complaints
- Autonomy & Rights: exercise preference/choice/civil & religious rights
- Financial: personal property lost, stolen, destroyed
There is a significant number of calls and official reports made each year concerning long-term care facilities. Some of these calls result in investigations that end in facilities receiving citations:
- According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, there were 30,037 calls made in 2015 reporting concern for adults 60 years and older.
- Of those calls, 12,618 were investigated by adult protective services.
- One in three nursing homes in Kentucky has been cited for violations that had the potential to cause harm to residents.
- Nearly ten percent of all nursing homes have been cited for actual harm, serious injury, or placing residents in jeopardy of death.
If you know you need to report elder abuse, it’s a good idea to have examples prepared. These examples will likely be based on the most common types of nursing home abuse. Your Lexington nursing home abuse lawyer will investigate these examples and find out the extent of the abuse your loved one faced and who was responsible.
Understanding When Elder Care Isn’t of High Quality
Nursing home employees should be properly vetted and trained in order to ensure they will provide residents with the best care possible. Unfortunately, as a result of a number of factors, not all staff members are caring and thorough. Inexperience, understaffing, and caregiver stress all contribute to instances of abuse. Abuse can affect a resident physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, or financially. Recognizing how abuse occurs can help you be more aware of your loved one’s state.
When abuse is physical, a resident might be hit, kicked, shaken, or unnecessarily restrained. Physical abuse may also be sexual in nature when residents are taken advantage of or coerced to take part in sexual activities or photography. Neglect, which occurs when a resident’s basic needs are not met, can also affect a person physically, especially in the event dehydration or malnutrition develop. Bedsores are also a common physical result of neglect.
When residents are insulted, belittled, or otherwise talked down to, this is considered psychological abuse. Individuals may be made to feel inferior, isolated without reason, or ignored altogether. When a resident is put through periods of isolation, their mental state is more likely to deteriorate because they are not interacting with others. They are also more likely to suffer from conditions like anxiety and depression.
A long-term care facility resident is likely to suffer financially in the event staff members steal money or property, use their power to gain access to personal accounts, or coerce individuals into signing documents that give them money or power.
Nursing homes also need to be aware of unintentional abuse. Even if their staff members are not directly abusing residents, there could be instances of abuse or neglect taking place. Resident-to-resident abuse is fairly common when disagreements arise. Staff members should mediate situations and ensure no violence arises. Employees can be held accountable when it does. Staff should also be on the lookout for signs of self-neglect, like if a resident decides to neglect their personal hygiene or refuses food. A thorough evaluation should be conducted to determine what is going on.
When staff doesn’t step in or is perpetrating the abuse or neglect, then it’s time to seek help. Your Lexington nursing home abuse lawyer will help you get justice for your loved one.
Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse
If you feel your loved one may be getting abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated in a nursing home in Lexington or anywhere in Kentucky, watch for the following signs and symptoms of elder abuse:
Physical signs of abuse are often the most obvious because they are typically visible. If you notice your loved one has incurred any of the following, be sure to keep an accurate record so you can report what you’ve seen. Frequent signs of physical abuse include:
- Injuries such as bruises, burns, and broken bones
- Multiple bruises in various stages of healing
- Pain from being touched
- Chronic or acute physical illness
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Seeming frequently sleepy or sedated
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Being confined to a chair or bed
- Being locked in a room or tied up
While the psychological signs are not visible, it’s likely you’ll notice them because your loved one will be acting differently. You know your loved one best. If they seem to be acting out of character, they may be suffering from emotional abuse. The most common signs of psychological abuse include:
- A sudden dramatic change in behavior
- Being hesitant to talk openly
- Being isolated from family and friends
- A lack of eye contact
- Seeming fearful, anxious, or hopeless
- Acting withdrawn, depressed, or confused
Financial exploitation is fairly common and can be hard to detect. Make sure you openly and frequently discuss money, bills, and expenses with your loved one to ensure their money is being handled properly. When a nursing home staff member is financially exploiting a resident, the following signs may be evident:
- Unusual bank account activity like sudden, large withdrawals
- A recent and unannounced will or power of attorney change
- Use of an ATM when the person has no access to one
- Unpaid bills
- Lack of clothing or personal supplies
- Missing personal belongings
Signs of Neglect
Neglect in nursing homes, as discussed above, means that residents are not receiving the care they need. As a result, you may notice the following signs:
- Dirty, uncombed hair or offensive body odor
- Lack of glasses, dentures, or hearing aids
- Apparent weight loss
- Unclean living environment
- Little to no socialization
If you become concerned about the health and wellbeing of your loved one at any time, you should speak to their care manager in a respectful manner and express your reasons for concern. If staff members are unwilling to speak to you about what happened, this may be an additional sign that something suspicious is occurring. When this happens, you’ll benefit from getting in touch with a Lexington nursing home abuse lawyer.
Identifying Nursing Home Abusers
Nursing home residents come into contact with a number of different staff members every day. It’s important to be aware of the types of employees you loved one will see and how they interact with them.
Direct care employees are individuals who will provide your loved one with the medical care they may need. Employees like registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and physical therapists will care for residents by administering medications, checking vitals, working on recovery from injuries or conditions, and ensuring residents are as healthy as possible.
Your loved one will also come into contact with individuals like dieticians, support employees, and administration. While they may not play an active or direct role in their care, their jobs ensure quality of life is being sustained.
When nursing home employees neglect their duties or intentionally harm residents, they are committing a crime. It’s important to know what your loved one is legally entitled to as a long-term care facility patient, so you know when to contact a Lexington nursing home abuse lawyer.
In the state of Kentucky, all nursing home residents have legal rights that must be respected when they are admitted to a care facility. If you believe your loved one’s rights are being ignored, you have the right to take legal action against the facility in which they’re housed. Our attorneys are here to explain how that process works.
Choosing a Facility That’s Right for Your Loved One
Because of the number of nursing homes in Kentucky, it’s likely you’ll have a difficult time choosing the one that’s right for your loved one. With careful research and observation, however, you can choose a quality facility that is likely to provide your family member with the elder care and respect they deserve.
You’ll want to make sure the facility is focused on their residents as individuals. With the number of residents in any one facility, it’s easy for a negligent location to define individuals by their illnesses or conditions, rather than who they are as people. They should be treated with kindness and respect and have a sense that where they are feels like home. When you visit, you should be greeted by smiling employees, welcoming décor, and a clean environment.
The location where your loved one stays should also allow them to make choices. Long-term care facilities should not dictate when residents are to go to sleep or wake up. Residents should be able to have a say in what they wear, as well as the type of food they can eat and where they can eat. There should be a nice, comfortable location for meals to be had with locations for quiet eating and socialization.
While not every staff member at the facility will have a medical degree, a high majority should be licensed. This will help ensure that all the medical needs of each resident are met. Family counselors should also be available to assist with the move and adjustment period for new residents.
If you notice a facility has limited or time-specific visiting hours, this may be cause for concern – as some facility’s employee may act differently when family members are not around. It’s crucial to look for a location that offers flexible, extended visiting hours. You’ll also want to find out about their overnight policy, in the event you loved one falls ill.
Finally, the facility you and your family select should have a variety of meaningful activities to choose from. It’s crucial, for their physical, mental, and social wellbeing, that seniors participate in interactive and educational activities.
If you’re visiting locations that seem inadequate, continue your search until you find the home that’s right for your loved one. Unfortunately, even the place that seems right for your loved one could end up causing them harm if there’s a nursing home abuser working there. That’s when it’s time to take legal action.
Getting Help From an Experienced Elder Abuse Attorney in Lexington
If you feel your loved one’s rights are being violated and they were harmed or injured, you should not hesitate to speak to a Lexington nursing home abuse lawyer who can assist you with the actions that need to be taken next. At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we can help ensure your loved one is safe and tell you if you have a potential lawsuit. Your family’s safety is our number one priority. Get in touch today to learn more.