Nursing homes can provide our elderly loved ones with the extra help and care they may need day-to-day. Tragically, however, they can also be places where the elderly are neglected or abused.
In fact, data indicates that about 10 percent of all nursing home residents will be the victims of neglect or abuse while living in these facilities.1
What may be more tragic than that is the fact that many cases of nursing home neglect and abuse never get reported to authorities because the victims are afraid to speak up or they may suffer from conditions—like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia—that prevent them from doing so. This can mean that abusers go undetected and that they may remain in positions where they can continue to victimize the elderly.
At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A., our attorneys understand how devastating nursing home neglect and abuse can be. That is why they are dedicated to fighting for these victims’ rights to justice and compensation. Skilled at successfully resolving even the most complex nursing home abuse and neglect cases, our lawyers will work diligently to maximize victims’ financial recoveries so that they can reclaim their lives and focus on their future.
If you suspect that someone you love has been the victim of abuse or neglect in a South Carolina nursing home, you may be unsure of what to do next. Some of the questions most commonly asked by families who are put in this difficult position include:
Can you sue a nursing home for neglect?
Yes, you can sue a nursing home for abusing or neglecting your loved one. This typically requires that you or your legal representative can prove that the care administered to a resident was not aligned with that resident’s rights or the nursing home’s advertised care.
For example, nursing homes are required to remove or mitigate hazards such as wrinkled carpet (which could cause a fall). If the facility failed to do so, it can be held liable for its inaction or insufficient response. Similarly, locations that do not provide attention that complies with the accepted medical standard of care are responsible for the health challenges and injuries sustained by residents. However, proving liability can be complex, which is why assistance from a skilled elder abuse attorney is critical.
How long does it take to settle a nursing home lawsuit?
Settling a nursing home lawsuit can be a complex matter. Sometimes, the nursing home will elect to quickly agree to a settlement so that it does not have to pay continued legal fees to pursue the case in court. However, some facilities may not settle easily, or the family of the affected resident may not be willing to accept the proposed settlement because it is too low. For these reasons, predicting how quickly your specific case may settle is difficult. In general, expect between one and a half to two years to allow for the entire process of discovery and eventual resolution.
How do you prove nursing home negligence or abuse?
Proving nursing home negligence and abuse can be a particular challenge because it is not always immediately visible. While cases of bedsores and other conditions routinely caused by neglect may be clear-cut, issues such as allegations of sexual abuse or falls caused by negligence may be more difficult.
If your loved one must visit a healthcare provider to receive treatment for injuries that are potentially the result of abuse or negligence, be sure to rely on a medical professional who is not affiliated with the nursing home. Their diagnosis could prove critical in holding the facility liable.
How do I report negligence or abuse in a nursing home?
It is important that you report suspected mistreatment as soon as you are aware of it. In addition to reaching out to a legal representative as soon as possible after you become aware of the signs, you can also contact your state or local ombudsman program, which advocates on the behalf of the elderly. The Department of Aging can also assist with securing important information and evidence about negligence and abuse in a nursing home if you bring a report.
What constitutes neglect in a nursing home? What are the main signs?
Signs of negligence and abuse in a nursing home can take many forms, from abject injuries such as sores on the skin to less tangible damage, like dissociation and an unwillingness to mentally engage as a result of emotional trauma. First, be sure to understand some of the most common types of nursing home neglect and abuse to evaluate whether your loved one may have been a victim.
Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Although nursing home abuse and neglect can come in many forms, most commonly, it arises as:
- Failure to clean facilities and/or help residents with mobility issues
- Failure to properly supervise residents
- Improperly restraining residents
- Physical assaults
- Sexual abuse
- Stealing from residents
- Verbal and/or emotional abuse
While nursing home staff are typically those responsible for neglect, abuse can come at the hands of not only staff, but also other residents, or even other family members of an elderly loved one.
Risk Factors for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect can happen anywhere. However, it is more likely to occur when the facility involved fails to implement proper procedures for supervising staff and protecting residents.
For instance, nursing homes that do not conduct appropriate background checks before hiring staff may be more likely to be the site of patient abuse. Failure to properly train staff is also a frequent cause of neglect and abusive situations. Overall, many cases of nursing home abuse and neglect can be traced to a lack of sufficient numbers of staff for the number of residents.
Has your loved one been the victim of nursing homes neglect or abuse?
Understanding the signs of nursing home neglect and abuse can be essential to knowing when your elderly loved one may have been victimized. Some of the more common signs to be aware of include (but are not limited to):
- Dramatic weight loss (that cannot be explained by a medical condition)
- Emotional withdrawal and/or depression
- New bruises, cuts, or other injuries
Residents of long term nursing home facilities typically have physical and cognitive impairments that require close supervision to ensure patient safety. The protection of the residents is the primary responsibility of the administrators, doctors, nurses, and staff of the nursing home. To reduce the risk of patient injuries from falling or tampering with intravenous lines or medical equipment, a doctor may order physical restraints to be used temporarily. Physical restraints should only be used as a last resort effort to ensure patient safety, and those in restraints should be monitored closely.
Though state and federal lawmakers have been trying to prohibit the use of physical restraints, nursing home facilities in South Carolina continue to use them at a rate that is three times the national average. Restraints come in a variety of designs that include wrist and arm bands that secure patients to bed rails, harness-type restraints that are designed to keep patients upright and secured in a wheelchair, and leg restraints that prevent patients from getting out of bed. While the idea is to protect the patient, restraints often cause fractures, bruises, skin abrasions, and tears.
State and federal laws prohibit the use of restraints without a doctor’s authorization. The law mandates that the authorization must be re-evaluated and renewed every 24 hours. The family or guardians of the nursing home resident must be notified if restraints are employed, and close supervision by nurses and staff is required when the patient is restrained.
Protecting the State’s Nursing Home Residents
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is responsible for protecting the state’s nursing home residents. They investigate grievances filed by patients and families, and they conduct routine surprise inspections of all facilities. The agency reports about 10 percent of the residents in South Carolina nursing homes are being restrained, sometimes for hours.
In one case, a South Carolina man suffered fatal injuries after he became entangled in the restraints that were meant to protect him. After being restrained in his wheelchair by a harness-styled restraint, the man choked to death when he slid down the chair and the harness restricted his breathing. When the nursing home staff checked on him, they were too late. No one is sure how long he had suffered. The family of the deceased is taking the nursing home to court for negligent death. They are hoping that the lawsuit brings attention to the issue of unnecessary and unsupervised restraint of nursing home patients so that other families do not have to suffer the pain of losing a loved one in the same way.
Contact an Experienced South Carolina Nursing Home & Abuse Lawyer At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A.
If you or a loved one has been victimized by nursing home abuse or neglect, contact a Columbia personal injury lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. to find out more about your best options for financial recovery.
Call our firm at (803) 674-4977 or contact us online to set up a free, no obligations initial consult with one of our lawyers. During this meeting, you can learn more about your rights, as well as how we can help you.
From our six office locations throughout South Carolina, our attorneys provide the highest quality legal services to injured people and families in Columbia, Alken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout South Carolina.
1: According to the National Center on Elder Abuse