As your loved one ages, they may need care that you are not able to provide alone. At this point, it’s likely you’ll consider a long-term care facility, like assisted or independent living, depending on the circumstances and your loved one’s needs. Even if you’re confident you’ve found a safe environment for them, it’s important to remember that there are negligent care facilities that abuse their residents. This type of abuse is often referred to as elder abuse. Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyer is here for you if that happens.
Bey & Associates, LLC fights for those who have been wrongfully injured in Georgia. When residents in an elder care facility aren’t getting the care they deserve, we can help. We’ll stand up for your loved one’s rights and make sure their voices are heard. Your loved one deserves to live with dignity, respect, and to enjoy being a resident in their home. When their health and wellbeing are put at risk because of an abusive or neglectful environment, we’re prepared to step in.
It’s no secret that long-term care homes are incredibly expensive. The Administration on Aging provides information on national and state-by-state costs. In Georgia, the average annual cost for a nursing home is over $70,000, with some facilities costing more than $80,000. With a price tag like that, you’ll undoubtedly want the best possible care for your loved one. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
If you have an elderly 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 the legal right to hire a lawyer to represent your loved one and ensure they receive the financial compensation needed to recover from the abuse and find a new, more appropriate facility. Filing a lawsuit against the institution also protects other residents and ensures those employees never make the same mistake twice.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
If your loved one is in a long-term care facility, it’s important to educate yourself on the common types of elder abuse. 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 facility 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 elder abuse and how they occur:
Physical Abuse. This type of abuse is the most common in nursing homes and is defined as some type of physical force on an elderly person that may result in bodily harm, ongoing impairment, or physical pain. This may include hitting, beating, shoving, slapping, shaking, force-feeding, physical punishments, and the use of physical restraints that have not been deemed medically necessary by a physician.
Psychological Abuse. Also referred to as emotional abuse, psychological abuse occurs when a staff member inflicts pain, anguish, or distress on a resident with verbal or nonverbal actions. Typical actions include insulting the resident, engaging in verbal assaults, humiliation tactics, threats, intimidation, or harassment. The elder may be treated like a child or isolated from activities, their friends, or their family.
Financial Exploitation. When a staff member financially abuses a resident, it’s likely they’ll be illegally or improperly using the person’s assets or other property. Examples include stealing cash, forging signatures, signing checks, stealing possessions, or improperly accessing the power of attorney benefits. If your loved one has control of their finances in a long-term care facility, it’s important to discuss their accounts with them to ensure they’re not being taken advantage of.
Sexual Abuse. Any type of sexual contact with someone who denies consent or is unable to provide consent is a form of sexual abuse. It’s important to recognize that this type of abuse can occur between staff and residents or between residents. Examples include unwanted touching, sexual assault, forced pornographic photography, or coerced nudity.
Neglect. While neglect and abuse are sometimes used interchangeably, neglect is actually a type of abuse. It is defined as the refusal or inability to provide a nursing home resident with the care they need to live a high-quality life. A resident is being neglected if they are not being provided with essentials like food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, hygiene options, personal safety, or comfort.
Abandonment. This occurs when a staff member or resident caretaker deserts a senior. They may be left at public places like shopping malls or grocery stores. They may also be taken to and dropped off at a different care facility or hospital without the family being informed.
Resident-to-Resident Mistreatment. A nursing home is responsible for the care of all its residents. This includes ensuring the residents are treating each other appropriately. In the event your loved one is abused in any way by another resident, the facility may be held accountable for not monitoring their patients properly.
Self-Neglect. This type of neglect is characterized by a senior engaging in behaviors that threaten their personal health or safety. If they refuse to eat, drink, bathe, or take their medications, they may be intentionally self-destructive. A skilled nursing facility is responsible for ensuring their patients are safe and healthy, which means monitoring them for signs of self-neglect.
Keep in mind that while nursing home abuse is used as a general term, abuse typically involves intent whereas neglect is a lack of the ability or skill to provide the care your loved one needs. If you’re suspicious about how your loved one is being treated in their facility or you don’t think the home is meeting the quality of care your loved one deserves, there are a few signs you can look for that could indicate if abuse or neglect is occurring.
Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect
When you’re visiting your loved one and you’re questioning if they’re being abused or neglected, try to go often and at less popular times. An abusive staff member or neglectful nursing home likely know when most visitors will be at the home and may take measures to look like a quality care facility. However, the reality is they’re not keeping this level of care. Going outside of these times will give you a better look at what the assisted living facility is truly like on a daily basis.
You can be on the lookout for common signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect. Keep the following signs in mind:
Physical symptoms are often the easiest to identify, as they’re more likely to be visible on the body. Signs may include broken bones, lacerations, bruising, open wounds, dislocations, sprains, broken eyeglasses, evidence of malnutrition or dehydration, and unsanitary sheets or clothes.
Fall injuries are another sign of neglect. Many seniors in a nursing home may have difficulty walking on their own. This could be the case for your loved one as well. Residents who are susceptible to falls could sustain serious injuries. Because of this, staff may need to help them with their mobility so they’re able to leave their room.
However, if a nursing home is understaffed, your loved one may not be seen on a regular basis. They may need help with using the restroom or want to get up to get an object in their room. If a staff member isn’t there, your loved one could try to do this on their own. A fall could result in terrible injuries like traumatic brain injuries, broken bones like a hip, and spinal cord injuries.
If your loved one falls and staff isn’t around, they may not get the immediate help they need. Their injuries could worsen and they could be in pain and afraid because they’re unable to help themselves.
Broken hips are a concern with seniors who fall because these injuries are common and it can take a long time for recovery. If the injury gets infected, your loved one could also develop an illness like pneumonia. This illness can be extremely dangerous to your loved one’s health. They may need to be hospitalized while they recover. In some cases, pneumonia may cause a fatality.
Another risk staff needs to watch out for is choking on food. Some seniors may have difficulty chewing and swallowing food. Their diet still needs to be nutritious, but their food also needs to be safe. If a nursing home doesn’t make these changes, your loved one could potentially choke on their food. This could result in injuries and, in some cases, death.
Bed sores are often a sign of serious abuse and only form when staff is neglectful. Your loved one may be in a bed or wheelchair. Their position needs to be adjusted regularly to prevent pressure from being in one area for too long. The use of cushions also prevents this.
When a resident is left in a single position for an extended period of time, it’s possible for their skin to become irritated. As skin loss occurs, the remaining open wound is susceptible to quick infections. If the infections are not taken care of, the consequences can be deadly. These can be avoided when residents are moved frequently, exercise, and have their skin inspected.
An elder being subjected to any type of abuse is likely to exhibit signs of emotional trauma. They may refuse to communicate or become withdrawn. They may also have unusual behaviors or take little interest in hobbies or activities they previously enjoyed.
If your loved one’s mood seems to be uncharacteristic, it could be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can all affect your loved one in a way that makes them withdrawn, fearful, and less like themselves. When you’re visiting your loved one, see if something seems off. Your loved one may seem less talkative or not make as much eye contact.
This could also be a sign of overdosing. Medication used as a chemical restraint could make your loved one more sedated. Unfortunately, nursing homes may resort to this type of abuse because it makes it easier and more convenient to control your loved one.
While those who live in care homes may have a health condition that means they’re not always present or lucid, you may have a feeling for what is normal for your loved one. If their actions don’t seem to fit that normal, it could indicate something else is happening.
Chemical restraints or accidental overdosing can both harm your loved one and put their life at risk. Too much medication can cause drug interactions. If your loved one has a reaction to it, they may need to be hospitalized. The drug can also make other health complications worse if it’s not administered properly.
Another consequence of overmedication is addiction development. If your loved one is regularly given too much of a medication, they may begin to depend on it. Once they’re in a safe environment and given the correct medication dosage, they may experience withdrawals.
If you notice unexplained withdraws from your loved one’s bank account or changes to their power of attorney or will, it’s likely they are being exploited financially. The facility itself may also be taking advantage of your family member if they provide unnecessary services or add upcharges to the bill.
It’s heartbreaking to realize your loved one is dealing with abuse or neglect in their assisted living facility. 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 safe environment.
There may be other outcomes of the lawsuit that extend beyond your loved one getting full and fair compensation for what they’ve been through. The lawsuit may cause the personal care facility to change aspects of their facility. The lawsuit could force the responsible staff member or negligent care team to redetermine their care procedures and policies.
Now that you know the various signs of nursing home abuse, you may wonder about the identity of the responsible party. There are many people who could be responsible for your loved one’s abuse or neglect. Let’s go over who your loved one may see regularly when they live in a long-term care facility.
Recognizing an Elder Abuser or Neglectful Care Facility
Your loved one will come in contact with a variety of staff members and caretakers while in a nursing home or other long-term care facility. You’ll benefit from being familiar with the types of employees and how they interact with the residents. If you know who your loved one interacts with on a regular basis, it may help you find out who is responsible for the suffering your loved one endured.
Examples of direct care employees include the following:
- Registered Nurses (RN). An RN administers medication, monitors patient recovery and progress, and educates patients and their families on prevention and treatment.
- Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN). These individuals focus on patient care. They monitor vital signs and update charts. They are also responsible for basic hygiene and personal care, like bathing, dressing, and eating.
- Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN). LPNs are the assistants to RNs. They perform basic medical procedures like taking vital and passing medication. They also have the ability to supervise nursing aides.
- Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). These individuals provide hands-on health care to patients. They often assist with bathing, dressing, and other basic activities. They also take patients’ vitals, blood pressure, and temperature.
- Physical Therapists (PT). Physical therapists help injured patients improve their movement and manage pain.
In addition to those employees, residents are likely to come in contact with nursing assistants, dieticians, support employees, and administration.
We understand there are many people your loved one may see and this can make it difficult to determine who is causing them harm. There are some red flags that may point to an abusive staff member.
One of the first signs an abuser may give is if they won’t let you be alone with your loved one. If they’re constantly monitoring your visit or checking in so often you don’t have time to speak with your family member privately, they may be trying to prevent your loved one from telling you about the abuse. You may also notice subtle or direct threats or warnings that should be cause for concern.
However, if your loved one is in a situation where neglect is involved, the above signs may not apply. Instead, you may notice that your loved one is left alone for hours, doesn’t receive meals at regular times, and also needs to wait for staff to help them shower, use the restroom, or help them be mobile. When a nursing home doesn’t have enough skilled staff to complete these tasks, your loved one may be left alone for long periods of time.
You may wonder how neglect happens in the first place. Some reasons include:
- Fatigued Staff. If the facility is understaffed, then those who work there could be working multiple shifts and are likely responsible for more residents than they can attend to. Unfortunately, this can result in the care workers being exhausted. When those in charge of your loved one’s health are suffering from fatigue, they could make a mistake that has terrible consequences. Medication errors or forgetting to regularly adjust your loved one to avoid bed sores could result in injuries.
- Substance Abuse. In an understaffed nursing home, some who work there may turn to unhealthy or illegal ways to cope with the stress. They may arrive to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is another situation where they could make a mistake in your loved one’s care.
- Lack of Experience. Employees are supposed to have training so they have the necessary skills to care for your loved one in everyday and emergency situations. For example, looking for bed sores and knowing how to administer medication are regular occurrences that staff needs to know how to do. They also need to be prepared for emergencies, such as knowing CPR.
- Administrative Errors. Clear communication is imperative when providing care for seniors. If their care plan has an error or someone forgets to make a notation of something, it could cause a mistake in the care your loved one receives.
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse
In some instances, you may be able to recognize the signs of potential abuse or neglect before your loved one is harmed. Abuse in long-term care facilities happens for a variety of reasons; however, the actions are never excusable. If you’ve recently placed your loved one in an elder care facility, you can aid in the prevention of abuse by taking the following steps into consideration:
- Stay in touch with your loved one.
- Ensure your elders are not isolated.
- Encourage your loved one to remain as active as possible.
- Help your loved one attend religious services and community activities that are important to them.
- Ensure your loved one understands the state of their financial affairs.
- Stay involved in the nursing home process, so you understand what kind of treatments your loved one will receive.
- Be aware of any changes in your loved one’s appearance or mood.
When your loved one has access to resources, open lines of communication, and strong support from loved ones as well as groups that advocate for seniors, they’re less likely to face abuse or neglect in their nursing home.
However, it’s important to remember that while you can take important measures to protect your loved one’s safety, an abusive or neglectful nursing home may still cause harm to your loved one. While it’s difficult to deal with, it’s vital to know what your loved one’s rights are and what to do next.
Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents in Atlanta
All elder services residents have rights and certain protections under federal and state law. According to federal law, 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. They are also to be treated with dignity and respect.
Georgia’s Department of Community Health establishes the healthcare facility regulations and residents’ rights. The Long-Term Care Facilities: Bill of Rights covers notification of rights, citizenship and personal choice, privacy rights, management of personal property and financial affairs, care, treatment and refusal, restraint usage, transfer and discharge, and more. Let’s take a look at some of these legal rights in more detail.
Nursing home residents have the right to make decisions regarding their care, including, but not limited to:
- Being free from discrimination based on physical or mental conditions, or source of payment
- Participating in family, religious, social, and community events and activities
- Participating in the development of their personal care plan
- Refusing medications, dietary restrictions, or treatment
- Choosing or changing primary care physicians
- Voting in any election
- Receiving private visitors
- Privacy in their rooms
- Being free from physical and chemical restraints
- Entering or leaving the facility as desired
- Waking up and going to sleep as desired
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 facilities are owned by corporations with a great deal of money and powerful legal departments. This can be intimidating to do on your own. You’ll need an experienced Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyer on your side to succeed. We’re ready to hold negligent facilities accountable for their actions.
Steps to Take If You Believe Your Loved One Is Being Abused
If you have a hunch your loved one isn’t being treated properly, it’s important to take action. This involves speaking with them, their facility, and contacting the authorities if necessary. You should be aware of the tools available to you to protect your loved one, including where to find information on facilities’ rankings, history of abuse cases, as well as information regarding reporting potential or confirmed instances of abuse or neglect.
If you notice signs of abuse, like unexplained injuries, unresponsiveness, poor hygiene, or strange behaviors, there are steps you can take to ensure your loved one is properly taken care of:
- Stay Calm. The moment you begin to suspect your loved one is being abused at their facility, it’s understandable to become upset or even angry. It’s important to remember to remain calm for the sake of your family member. Having an even temper is also likely to resolve the situation faster.
- Speak with Your Loved One. Speak with your loved one privately about what their experiences. Be aware that they may be reluctant to speak for fear of retaliation. If, for some reason, the facility makes this a difficult process, you may want to skip straight to calling the police.
- Ask Questions. Question the staff and management regarding the signs of suspected abuse or lack of care. If they are unwilling to comply or offer unsatisfactory answers, you’ll want to consider taking formal action. A nursing home is supposed to care for their residents—having those in charge who aren’t willing to communicate, address concerns, and form a better plan is a warning sign that they’re not providing the best care possible.
- Take Notes. A quality facility will not mind your inquiries. Record whatever is discussed, as well as what signs you notice that signify abuse. Make sure you get the names and titles of everyone you speak to. If the issue is unresolved, this information will help your lawyer with your case.
- Contact the Authorities. If the abuse is clear or you are concerned about imminent danger, call the police immediately. In those cases, this may be your first step. They will help you find a new location at another facility your loved one is in a safe environment. If you wish to report the instances but are uncertain about the circumstances and facts, you can report abuse, neglect, or exploitation to the Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation. The Department will investigate your report and determine how best to proceed.
- Consult a Lawyer. As discussed, your loved one is entitled to certain legal rights and protection. If those are violated by their nursing home, they may be eligible for compensation. Hiring an attorney also has the potential to prevent future cases of abuse.
When you meet with an Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyer from Bey & Associates, LLC, we’ll discuss how we can help your loved one get the justice they deserve. You may be wondering if going through the legal process is worth it—as it can take a long time to receive results. However, having a lawyer represent your loved one is the best way to make sure their rights are protected and they get full and fair compensation for what they’ve been through. Let’s take a closer look at how our firm can help you.
How We Help Families with Nursing Home Abuse Claims
When you discover your loved one is being abused and decide to take legal action on their behalf, we attorneys can advocate for you and help you recover compensation for the losses incurred. We can do this by ensuring we build you the strongest case possible by:
- Working with medical experts to determine how your loved one was injured
- Reviewing your loved one’s medical records
- Interviewing residents and employees
- Collecting photographic evidence and videotapes from the time when the abuse occurred
- Making sure the nursing home doesn’t make an attempt to block access to important or relevant information
- Interviewing possible witnesses
- Reviewing business records to determine if the assisted living facility is legally hiring their employees
- Working with health care providers to determine the projected future cost of living after the abuse
- Determining the cost of noneconomic damages related to the abuse
When one of our nursing home abuse attorneys is determining the costs of the abuse or negligence your loved one endured, there are many separate factors to consider. If your loved one needed to be in the hospital, have surgery, or go through a lengthy recovery, this can result in extensive medical bills. They may also require care for the foreseeable future, so you know medical bills will continue to pileup.
In addition to this, you also need to find a new home for your loved one to receive the daily care they need. Long-term care homes can be expensive. With all these financial costs, this situation can be overwhelming. You may wonder how your loved one is going to get the care they need.
Our lawyers will assess the economic losses your loved one has suffered because of the negligence and abuse they endured. We’ll make sure their compensation will cover what they need so they can get the medical care they deserve and also live in a nursing home that will meet the requirements for their continued care.
The noneconomic damages are a different calculation, but are just as important as economic damages. Noneconomic damages cover the emotional consequences of the abuse or neglect your loved one faced. This could be for pain and suffering—whether it was having painful injuries from a staff member harming them or from breaking a bone if they fell because they were walking unassisted. To determine a fair noneconomic compensation amount, we’ll consider the extent of your family member’s suffering and the impact it has had and will have on their everyday life.
There’s also the loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish that can come with living in fear of an abusive staff member or in a facility that wasn’t able to provide them with the care they needed. Our lawyers will look into what your loved one suffered as a result of their abuse or neglect and determine a fair amount for their noneconomic losses.
If you’re considering filing a claim but have not acted, it’s important to remember that you only have two years to do so – per the state’s statute of limitations. Neglecting to file within this timeframe will result in dismissal without review. To determine just how long you have, it’s important to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible after you believe your loved one has been injured or harmed. The sooner you get a claim filed, the better your chances are of helping your loved one make a full recovery.
Sometimes, nursing home abuse can result in a fatality. No family member should have to learn their loved one died because of negligence. If this has happened to you, our lawyers are ready to help. A wrongful death attorney from our firm can look into what happened that caused your loved one to lose their life and hold the nursing home accountable for their actions. We will give your loved one a voice so you can grieve with the peace of mind that your loved one got the justice they deserved.
Components of a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
The team at Bey & Associates, LLC is experienced in the elements of a personal injury claim. Your abuse case will need to demonstrate the following:
- The facility owed your loved one a duty of care.
- The nursing home failed to meet this care.
- Your loved one was injured or otherwise harmed as a result.
Often times, liability results from negligent supervision and care, poor or illegal hiring practices and retention of employees, negligent premises maintenance, or poor maintenance or selection of equipment. We’ll then work on how to prove these points.
Proving that the care home failed to provide the care necessary for your loved one’s health will need compelling evidence. Our lawyers know the kind of evidence that will help you show how the nursing home was abusing or neglecting your loved one.
Photographic evidence is ideal and can take the form of pictures of restraints, bruises, marks, or other injuries. You can also take note of how these injuries are affecting your loved one’s everyday life. Their overall mood and any physical limitations the injury caused can help show how the abuse or neglect has hurt them.
Other forms of evidence can include medical records. When a physician evaluates your loved one, they’ll make note of the extent of your loved one’s injuries and will also include what it will take to get your loved one back to health. This evidence also demonstrates your loved one’s injuries or illness was so severe they needed to seek medical treatment.
Additional evidence could be photographs of unclean or unsafe conditions, recorded conversations with staff members, security camera footage, and admission documentation. We may also use official reports from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. If a facility has a history of abuse or neglect on file, that information will strengthen your case and reduce any potential doubt that your loved one was not harmed.
Take Legal Action with Bey & Associates, LLC
With 1.4 million nursing home residents in the United States, it’s imperative we, as family members, monitor our loved ones and talk with them regularly to ensure they are receiving the care they need and are entitled to. In the event they are not, it may be in their best interests for you to pursue legal action. An Atlanta nursing home abuse attorney at Bey & Associates, LLC has the experience and tenacity necessary to hold the negligent facility accountable for their actions.
We’ve successfully helped many personal injury victims with their claims. We can help your family in the same way. If you’re ready to ensure your loved one’s abusers are held accountable for their actions, contact our office today for a free consultation. We’ll go over what happened to your loved one and answer any questions you have about the legal process. Our attorneys will help you understand your legal rights and options, so you can decide how best to proceed. You’ll be able to be confident in your decision and can begin the process of getting your loved one justice.