Nursing Home Abuse: Legal Remedies

A friend of mine is a nurse who primarily works with elderly patients who have suffered heart attacks and strokes. She recently told me about a patient she tended on one of her night shifts. The patient was an elderly man who had been sent to the hospital from a local nursing home. The man had had a heart attack; but that is not why I mention this. It was apparent to my wife that the man had not been tended to properly while at the nursing home. He had bed sores on his backside, his hygiene was poor and it appeared that he had been both neglected and abused at the nursing home. I asked her whether this was the first time she had seen something like that. She said most of the patients who came from that nursing home were in the same condition. It is my understanding that the nursing home has since been shut down due to lawsuits.

The elderly are often victims of this type of abuse. Not wanting to be a burden on their children, they choose to move into nursing homes for care and protection. Most of the time nursing homes provide the care and protection the elderly are seeking. But this is not always the case. It is not uncommon for an elderly person to be physically and mentally injured by the negligent or intentional acts of their caregivers. More often than not the abuse or neglect is the result of (1) poorly qualified and inadequately trained staff; (2) staff with a history of violence; (3) not enough staff on duty; (4) the isolation of residents; and (5) the reluctance of residents to report abuse out of embarrassment or fear for their safety.

Legal Steps To Take
If you are a victim of nursing home abuse or you suspect a loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse there is something you can do about it. Among the actions you may want to take are:

(1) An investigation by an adult protective services agency. This will provide the victim immediate help and relief and prevent further harm.

(2) A civil lawsuit for damages. A nursing home can be held liable for negligence if the injured party can show: (A) that the nursing home's owner or employees breached a duty of care owed to the victim; (B) that the victim's injury was caused by this breach; and, (C) that the nursing home owner's or employee's conduct caused the injury. These elements are obviously legal terms of art and should be discussed with an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse law. The nursing home may also be liable for breach of contract for failing to abide by the "care of resident" provisions of the standard nursing home contract.

(3) Criminal prosecution to punish the individual(s) responsible for the abuse. Many states provide criminal penalties for the abuse or neglect of nursing home residents. Some states even have enhanced penalties for crimes committed against the elderly. Failing to provide residents with sufficient food, maintain standards of resident hygiene, prevent bedsores from occurring, or the unjustified use of physical restraint or force against nursing home residents may be enough to prove criminal neglect or abuse.

I hope this information is help and we can do our best to eliminate nursing home abuses.
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