Today in the United States, there are over 40 million people above the age of 65. According to statistics, many will need some form of assisted living, whether it is a nursing home, assisted living facility or other elderly care institution.
Since long term care for the elderly is typically extremely expensive (well over $5,000 per month in many jurisdictions), most residents go through most, if not all, of their assets in a matter of months and then become eligible for federal Medicaid benefits. Over 90% of nursing home facility residents receive Medicaid funds of some type.
This means that almost all nursing home facilities receive Medicaid funds. Sadly, some of these facilities count profits as a core mission with no desire to provide excellent care. Nursing homes that are primarily paid by Medicare and Medicaid significantly absorb most costs that elder care centers would normally be responsible for.
Unfortunately, some of the more villainous nursing homes have found strategies to funnel money away from resident care and into corporate pockets. Greedy motives quickly consume moral standards in the nursing home industry, and many facilities are paid to deliver care but instead give improper care that offers staffing loopholes which pave the way to neglect, abuse, mistreatment, resident injury, sickness, and even death.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home or long term care facility and fear they are being abused, mistreated, or neglected by staff members, you have a legal right to hire an Atlanta, GA nursing home abuse lawyer to keep your loved one safe as well as receive financial compensation that can go towards relocation, healthcare costs, and more. Filing a lawsuit against the institution ensures those employees never make the same mistake twice.
The Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents
All nursing home and long term facility residents have patient rights and certain protections under U.S. law. Because so many elder care centers are funded by the federal government, certain laws were established to protect the rights of residents.
Under both federal and state jurisdictions, residents have the right to be free from physical or mental abuse, and are not to be subjected to corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, or any other physical or chemical restraints imposed for the purpose of discipline and convenience that are not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(c)(1)(B)(i), the nursing home must list and give all new residents a copy of these rights. Resident rights include but are not limited to:
- Respect: You have the right to be cared for in such a manner as to enhance your quality of life. 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(b)(1)(A).
- Services and Fees: You must be informed in writing about services and fees before you enter the nursing home. 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(c)(1)(B).
- Money: You have the right to manage your own money or to choose someone else you trust to do this for you. 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(c)(6)(A), 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(c)(6)(B).
- Privacy: You have the right to privacy, and to keep and use your personal belongings and property as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others. 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(c)(1)(A)(iii).
- Medical Care: You have the right to be informed about your medical condition, medications, and to see you own doctor. You also have the right to refuse medications and treatments. 42 U.S.C.A. 1396r(c)(1)(A)(i).
When these basic rights are not met, residents and their family members can take legal action. Unfortunately, fighting nursing home abuse and neglect cases can be incredibly difficult. Most nursing homes are owned by corporations with a great deal of money and powerful legal departments. You’ll need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to succeed.
You’ll also need any evidence you can gather in the way of proving that the abuse or neglect occurred. Photograph evidence is ideal and can take the form of pictures of restraints, bruises, marks, or other injuries. Other forms of evidence can include medical records, photographs of unclean/unsafe conditions, recorded conversations with nursing home staff members, security camera footage, and admission documentation.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Now that you understand your loved one’s rights in the state of Georgia, you may be wondering how to pinpoint cases of abuse and/or neglect. You can’t be there for your loved one all the time, unfortunately, but you can pay careful attention to your loved one as well as the conditions of the nursing home when you visit them. Follow your gut instinct. If anything seems off, it usually is. You know your loved one better than anyone else.
Here are the most common forms of nursing home abuse and/or neglect and how they commonly occur:
This is the most common form of nursing home abuse and occurs when staff members physically mistreat residents by excessively restraining them, hitting/kicking them, or bodily forcing them to do things they do not wish to do.
Mental and emotional abuse can include symptoms of physical abuse, but generally takes the form of verbal or non-verbal actions that cause fear, anxiety, or depression. When a staff member regularly insults a resident, humiliates them, berates them, or ignores them, these can all be considered instances of abuse.
Nursing home financial abuse generally only occurs when residents have control over their own finances. Bank/credit card theft, healthcare fraud, or money scams/fraud all count as financial abuse.
Nursing home sexual abuse is rare, but occasionally happens. It can take the form of unconsented sexual acts or forced photography/pornography.
Nursing home neglect is different than nursing home abuse, but the two exhibit many of the same symptoms and are often connected. Neglect occurs when a resident is not properly cared for, supervised, or does not receive proper medical care, nutrition, or lives in an unsafe or unhealthy environment. While abuse is intentional, neglect may not be. It is still a crime, however, since it can be prevented.
Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Symptoms
When visiting your loved one, keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms. These are some of the most common symptoms of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that are seen in nursing homes in Georgia and across our nation:
- Evidence from falls including broken bones, fractures, and severe bruising
- Unexplained bruising or lacerations
- Unnecessary restraints or restraint marks
- Evidence of overmedication such as listlessness, sleepiness, or an altered mental state
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Sudden changes in mood or signs of anger, fear, anxiety, depression, or a desire to withdraw
- Bed sores
- Lack of supervision or evidence of elopement (allowing residents to wander away from the facility)
- Weight gain or loss
- Septic shock
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Theft of money, bank accounts, or personal property
- Unexpected or wrongful death
- Unsanitary conditions
- Untrained or insufficient staff
- Substandard medical care
- Poor personal hygiene
- Defective equipment
- Evidence of sexual assault
While visiting your loved one, if you regularly notice any of the above symptoms or have other reasons to suspect abuse, you should call Georgia’s elder abuse hotline as quickly as possible. They will help you relocate your loved one to a safer environment. Afterwards, getting in touch with a personal injury lawyer is highly recommended. Without filing a lawsuit, the guilty staff member may continue their abusive or negligent behavior.
Let a Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Help You
At Bey & Associates, we’ve successfully helped millions of victims of personal injury cases succeed with their claims. We can help your family by protecting your elderly loved one and ensuring that the abusive or negligent nursing home staff members never harm another resident the same way. Contact us today, and we can pair you with an Atlanta, GA nursing home abuse lawyer who will fight for you and your family.