9 Reasons You Might Consider Filing a Lawsuit Against a Nursing Home
Putting a loved one in a nursing home is a difficult and painful decision. You wish you could care for them yourself. But you can’t, at least not without jeopardizing your own health and/or livelihood. Still, you want to make sure they get the best care possible. You research the alternatives and find the best facility within your budget.
We assume nursing homes will treat those dear to us with the same compassion and tenderness we would. But many times, they fall alarmingly short of meeting even minimum standards. If your facility isn’t living up to its promises, here are nine reasons it could be time to consider suing.
1. Physical Abuse
If your loved one shows any signs of physical abuse, you will almost certainly want to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. Evidence of physical abuse might include bruising, broken bones, burns, or signs of restraint (e.g., marks on the wrists). You might also notice torn or broken personal items like clothing, glasses, or hearing aids.
The nursing home is responsible if physical abuse is perpetrated by other residents, not just caregivers. If you see indicators that trouble you, gently ask your loved one about them. An abusive employee may refuse to leave you alone with them, out of fear that they’ll speak up. For your loved one’s sake, stand your ground.
2. Mental Abuse
Mental or emotional abuse can include verbal abuse like insults, threats, swearing, or yelling. It can also include other forms of psychological abuse like manipulation or isolation from others. Mocking a resident, trivializing their concerns, or moving belongings like canes or wheelchairs are also considered emotionally abusive behaviors.
Emotional abuse is much harder to spot than physical abuse. Look for indicators like behavior changes, repetitive movements (e.g., hair pulling, teeth grinding), eating or weight changes, or fear around employees.
3. Neglect or Insufficient Care
A nursing home may still be harming your loved one even if no intentional abuse is occuring. Negligence and unresponsiveness are huge causes for concern.
If you notice malnourishment, dehydration, or hygiene issues, nursing home staff may not be providing sufficient care. Bedsores on the hips, heels, tailbone, lower back, or feet can be telltale signs. Nursing homes also need to provide mental stimulation, so take note if residents are not engaged in activity or conversation.
4. Facilities Issues
Nursing homes need to be kept clean and up to fire and building codes. Any kind of pest infestation, such as roaches, mice, or bed bugs, is a huge red flag. Look for hazards like flooding, damaged building structures, temperature issues, or any kind of unsafe or unsanitary condition.
Poorly maintained facilities can cause injury or illness to your loved one. They can also indicate issues like incompetent or insufficient staffing.
5. Bad Hiring Practices
In 2011, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report revealed that over 90% of nursing homes hired individuals with criminal records. While the Affordable Care Act created a program to strengthen background check efforts, not all states participate. It’s worth making sure the nursing home you select conducts them.
Even if your chosen facility rules out employees with criminal convictions, it may still lack sufficient qualified caregivers. Understaffing and improper training can lead to negligence, injury, and other unsafe conditions. You may have a case if your loved one’s facility doesn’t meet certain hiring requirements.
6. Frequent Falls
If your relative shows signs of frequent falls, like bruising or broken bones, this might be a symptom of a greater issue. Frequent falls can have a number of culprits. These include negligence, abuse, environmental hazards (wet floors, poor lighting, cluttered living spaces, etc.), and improperly administered medications.
Falls in nursing homes are common, and you probably can’t sue for a fall alone. But if they happen a lot, it may be time to investigate root causes.
7. Financial Exploitation
Financial abuse is regrettably common in nursing facilities, and it can happen in a number of ways. A staff member may steal a resident’s cash, credit cards, or personal belongings. They may persuade the resident to give them their PIN numbers or apply for mortgages or loans in their name. In some cases, nursing home staff have manipulated or pressured their residents to add them to their wills or trusts.
If you suspect financial abuse, take immediate action. Look for missing personal property, suspiciously close relationships with caregivers, or uncharacteristic transactions.
8. Medical Malpractice
Much of nursing home neglect is automatically considered medical malpractice, but treatment and medication issues deserve their own category. A provider at the facility may make an inaccurate diagnosis, prescribe or administer the wrong medication, or make another treatment error. As in any other healthcare setting, this could make them liable for medical malpractice.
If a patient is injured due to malpractice, you may have a solid legal case. Get as much documentation as you can of treatment-related injuries, including testimony from friends, family, and mentally competent residents.
9. Wrongful Death
If a death occurs at a nursing home due to anything other than natural causes, it should be investigated. Any of the above scenarios can be grounds for a wrongful death suit.
Employees can be held liable for wrongful death if they were aware of abuse or other issues and failed to intervene. For example, if an employee knows sexual abuse or violence is occuring between patients, it’s their duty to report it. If they don’t, they may be held at least partially responsible.
Getting a Second Opinion
With all the issues surrounding nursing homes and aging, it’s tough to know when to take legal action. How do you separate true care mismanagement from the frustration of dealing with a moody employee on an off day? Is a caregiver really being too rough with your relative, or is their pain due to normal aging processes?
To know for sure, gather and document as much information as you can. Talk to your loved one, their care providers, and other families who visit the facility. If you’re still not sure what to do, consider consulting an attorney. You owe it to your loved one to make sure they get the treatment they deserve.