Your loved ones may need more assistance from you and your family members as they get older. Unfortunately it’s not always possible for your family members to be around 24 hours a day. Many turn to a nursing home that is supposed to employ qualified staff to provide round-the-clock medical assistance. Your family members put their trust in these nursing homes to take gentle care of your loved ones, but many times what actually happens behind closed doors is far from the expected. If you are in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Alameda, Sacramento, or the Antelope Valley, you may ask yourself, “When is it the right time to find a nursing home abuse attorney?”
Nursing homes are obliged by Federal and State laws to take care of their residents. Failure to provide their residents with quality care can result in unnecessary risks for the elderly. Many people trust the nursing home facilities to take care of their family member or a loved one, but sadly, one out of every four nursing homes is summoned each year for causing injury or death to its’ residents.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Abuse can take many forms including:
- Physical abuse: Dehydration, Malnutrition, Bed Sores, Over-Medication, Multiple Falls, Physical Assault, and excessive use of restraints.
- Emotional abuse: Emotional / mental abuse in a nursing home can include threats, isolation, insults or emotional manipulation by a staff member towards the residents.
- Sexual abuse: A nursing home resident can be forced or tricked into unwanted sexual contact by a staff member, another resident, visitor, family member, etc.
- Financial abuse: Forms of financial abuse include tricking the resident into signing a will or other legal documents, or using the funds and property of the resident by the staff for their own benefit without their consent.
- Neglect: The term “neglect” refers to the staff of the nursing home failing to provide the degree of care expected by the resident and their family/loved ones. It includes assisting with personal hygiene, failure to provide food, water, and medicine on a timely basis, and failure to acknowledge medical or unsanitary condition. Neglect also includes failure to address health and safety hazards which can result in multiple falls, Dehydration, Malnutrition, Bed Sores, or other injuries to a resident.
Abuse in a nursing home is a serious legal offense; however many times the residents are disgusted or ashamed to admit to anyone of the problems they are facing. As a result, it is important for families and loved ones to keep in close contact with the residents of nursing homes and seek immediate help from legal consultants if they believe they are being abused or neglected.
Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and Neglect
Placing a loved one in the care of a nursing home can be a heart-wrenching decision and the possibility of abuse and neglect can greatly add to that emotional distress. Elders and Dependent Adults are frail and extremely vulnerable and unable to protect themselves and /or are too embarrassed to speak to anyone about the problems they are facing.
Sadly, surveys suggest that most cases of nursing home neglect and abuse are either unreported or unpunished. It has also been estimated that over 1800 elders die as a result of abuse and neglect each year. It’s important for you to understand the signs and symptoms of Elder and Dependent Adult abuse as early in the involvement as possible.
If an Elder / Dependent Adult is suffering from abuse or neglect he or she may suffer from or show:
- Unexplained bruises or cuts
- Dirty / Bloody clothing
- Bed sores
- Poor hygiene
- Soiled bedding
- Extreme weakness
- Medication over-dosage
An Elder / Dependent Adult that is a victim of sexual abuse may show or suffer from:
- Bleeding around the genital area
- Bloody undergarments
- Some forms of sexually transmitted disease
Behavioral changes are also common amongst Elders / Dependent Adults who have been emotionally abused, sexually abused, neglected, etc. The signs include:
- Fear of being alone
- Sudden changes in the personality
- A lack of interest
- Frequently crying
- Fear or withdrawal
What else you should look for:
If you are visiting the nursing home at visiting hours and the staff refuses to allow or delays in allowing you to visit your loved one, then it is a possibility that they are hiding something. A member of the staff may linger around while you are visiting. This could be a sign that they are guilty of something and don’t want you to be left alone with your loved one.
It is also a good idea to take note of the living conditions when you are visiting the nursing home. The main thing to notice is the smell of the facility. Some elderly residents are unable to go to and from the bathroom without assistance. Some are unable to control their bladder and thus require the help of the staff to promptly take them to the bathroom when the need arises.
The nursing home staff is also responsible for changing bed pans at regular intervals, and changing the bedding & clothing of the residents after they have been soiled. If the nursing home premises gives out a foul smell, the chances are either that the staff is not doing their job properly or that the nursing home is understaffed.
Visitors should also pay attention to the behavior of the nursing home staff. Are they actually working, or do they seem more focused on their personal tasks; such as talking on the phone, taking breaks, or sleeping? The residents may not be properly taken care of if the staff is busy with other things rather than their assigned task. The staff at such facilities is employed to respond quickly and attentively to the needs of their patients. They are also required to pay close attention to the requirements of the patients as ordered by their Physicians.
Getting Legal help for Nursing Home Abuse / Neglect
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse and neglect and some of the signs and symptoms stated above are visible, get help immediately. It’s best to consult a legal advisor to discuss your options. By taking legal action towards an abusive nursing home facility, you can help save other residents from the same abuse or neglect that your loved one suffered from.
It is also important to remove your loved one from the abusive situation immediately. Some nursing homes are aware of the abusive situation, but unfortunately do not take any action to stop it from occurring. At others, the head of management, including the Administrator or the Director of Nursing might not know of a specific individual(s) who are abusing or neglecting the residents. It is imperative that you inform the nursing home facility Administrator or Director of Nursing of the abuse and neglect and document your complaints in writing.
How Peck Law Group Can Help
Our team of experienced nursing home abuse attorneys can help report the neglect and abuse to the proper authorities and ensure that a proper investigation is conducted to determine the extent of the harm you or your loved one have experienced.
We understand that often complex medical and legal issues are involved in such cases and thus victims are reluctant to come forward. But as trusted nursing home attorneys in Los Angeles we feel that the residents deserve proper care and a good quality of life. The abuse and neglect can result in pain – both emotionally and physically for those who are already living in a fragile state. Luckily the rights of residents living in a nursing home are protected by State and Federal Law. Although unrecognized by many, nursing home abuse is actually a growing problem and needs to be addressed immediately. Surveys have reported that only 1 out of 439 nursing homes operating in Los Angeles County are in compliance with the federal health and safety standards.
Nursing home neglect and abuse is an epidemic and should never be tolerated. If you suspect nursing home abuse, please don’t hesitate to take action. The Peck Law Group has over 34 years’ experience in helping the residents of San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, the Antelope Valley, and many other cities throughout California get the justice and compensation that they deserve. Please contact us today at 1-866-999-9085 or fill out our contact form for a free, no-cost, zero obligation case review. Thank you!
About the Author
Attorney Adam Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.