Families and elderly persons expect nursing homes or long-term care facilities to help ensure that its residents are well cared for. Nursing homes have a duty to provide basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.
Along with basic necessities, we expect residents to be treated with dignity and respect. Dignity and respect include the right to privacy, communication with loved ones, visitors, control over medical records/decisions, and a good quality of life.
However, sometimes nursing home residents do not have a good quality of life and are mistreated while in the care of a long-term facility. Mistreatment may be in the form of abuse, neglect, or exploitation by a staff member or other individual in the care facility.
Over the past few decades, the public has been made aware of this growing problem within our society. Federal and state legislatures have responded by enacting laws to protect nursing home residents. These statutes protect against mental and physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
There are legal options for victims of nursing home abuse, or for the loved ones of an abused resident. Legal options include civil actions, breach of contract claims, and criminal liability for those guilty of abuse. The types of proceedings have different objectives. A civil action is a claim for monetary damages, while a breach of contract may also include redress damages.
Alternatively, criminal prosecution does not compensate the victim of abuse, but punishes the person or persons guilty of committing the harmful conduct. If a care facility is found liable of abuse or knowledge of abuse, there may be sanctions available as well.
Sanctions may include stripping the care facility of its license to operate, loss of federal and state Medicaid revenues, preventing a health care provider from participating in the Medicaid program and fines for violations of state and federal protection regulations.
Legislatures have also created nursing home resident rights. If a long-term care facility wants to receive government funding, they must provide these rights. The Patient Bill of Rights may differ from state to state. However, the basic rights include financial, medical, social, safety, and administrative rights.
Resident Rights focus on quality of life, dignity, respect and the ability to make his or her own choices. The intent of these state and federal statutory protections is to give patients a voice in their care, outlet for grievances, and protection for those who cannot voice their grievances.
Now that people are aware of nursing home abuse, we want to know why it is happening. There may be multiple reasons for the increase in incidents of abuse in recent years.
Some reasons for the increase in nursing home abuse may include:
The growing demand for nursing home placement is a concern. There is an ever-growing number of potential patients and not enough health-care facilities to meet the demand. Standards fall through the cracks when there is a scramble to meet this need.
Many nursing homes are understaffed and poorly trained. The understaffing may be due to low wages or lack of job satisfaction. There are not enough skilled caregivers to meet the care facilities’ needs.
In some cases, care facilities focus on the business and not the patients. Although healthcare professionals should be making decisions based on patient care, it is often the corporate accountants who are making the decisions for the company’s bottom line and not for the residents’ well-being.
This may also lead to inaccurate records being kept by nursing home facilities. Paper records required by state and federal law may be altered. Often, regulatory authorities require written incidents of abuse. Sometimes employees will alter the records to suppress the truth about abuse in order to continue receiving funding from the state.
Along with our growing number of nursing home patients and profit-focused facilities, is society’s lack of care for our elderly citizens. As a country, there has been a decline in respect and care for our elderly family members over the years. This may be shown in conscious disregard or wanton conduct by employees. It is also shown by family members who leave their loved one in the control of a long-term care facility and forget about them.
When this occurs, the nursing home has no accountability to family members. Nobody is watching out for signs of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of their loved ones. Nobody is taking responsibility for taking care of their elderly or infirm family members.
If no one takes responsibility for the elderly’s well-being, nursing home residents may become easy targets of abuse. They are dependent on their caregivers and may be infirm or frail, mentally incapacitated, or easy to intimidate. Often, this leads to unreported cases of abuse and adds to the growing epidemic of nursing home abuse in our country.
If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you deserve to have an experienced injury lawyer on your side. Reach out to Mayday Law Office today to discuss your legal options in a free consultation.