Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Many of us worry about the health and safety of our aging grandparents, parents, spouses, relatives, and friends. We want to be there to help monitor their health, provide companionship, offer home-cooked meals, and assist in their day-to-day activities. Sometimes we reach a point where we need help meeting our loved one’s daily needs. Nursing homes staffed with competent medical professionals offer care and comfort to over 1.5 million disabled and elderly Americans who can no longer live on their own or in their own homes. Most nursing homes are staffed by experienced, capable professionals and offer excellent care. Sadly, however, some nursing homes fall short.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reported almost 188,600 complaints regarding abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a single year in the United States. However, the NCEA also found nursing home abuse and injuries are grossly underreported, so the actual numbers likely run much higher. Abuse can take different forms and can be committed by nursing home staff, other residents, or even visitors to the facility.
Our loved ones are particularly vulnerable to suffering both physical and emotional damage as a result of nursing home abuse. Whether it comes as the result of intentional physical assault or simply a lack of attention, nursing home abuse is inexcusable. Abuse and neglect can have severe consequences to the resident, including serious bodily injury, depression, and premature death.
Any nursing home resident who sustains injuries as a result of the negligence or wrongful conduct of anyone at a nursing home has important legal rights. The law gives nursing home abuse victims the right to take legal action and seek compensation for any physical, emotional, and financial injuries suffered. The Levin Firm in Philadelphia understands how nursing home residents can incur severe and lasting injuries due to abuse. We are here to seek justice and financial recovery for our clients. Please discuss a possible case with our experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys today.
Types Of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse cases can vary significantly from one victim to the next. In some cases, a staff member may negligently forget to provide the necessary care for a resident. In others, a staff member may lose their temper and physically or verbally lash out at a resident. Other cases involve staff providing inadequate security or supervision and allowing others in the facility who hurt your loved one. In any case, the potential for severe injuries is high.
The following are some types of nursing home abuse:
- Neglect –Nursing homes have the duty to provide for a resident’s basic needs, which include having proper shelter, sustenance, a sanitary environment, necessary medical care, and more. Sometimes, staff communication breaks down or certain staff members neglect their duties. When residents do not have adequate food, water, hygiene assistance, shelter, or medical treatment, they can suffer serious injuries.
- Physical abuse –People can commit physical harm to others in almost any situation – and nursing homes are no different. Staff or other residents may hit, kick, bite, punch, wrongfully restrain, or otherwise cause physical injury to nursing home residents. Older residents are particularly vulnerable to assaults and injuries, as they may not be strong enough to defend themselves. Injuries may require serious medical treatment and may even put a resident’s life in danger. Such assaults can cause mental trauma, as well.
- Emotional abuse –Not all abuse causes physical injuries, as emotional abuse can be seriously harmful to a victim. Staff members may belittle, criticize, threaten, or make other emotionally-harmful statements to residents that can result in serious emotional scars. Residents may also be wrongfully isolated from others, may be forced to live in fear, or maybe emotionally manipulated and traumatized in other ways.
- Sexual abuse –Not many people discuss the possibility of sexual abuse against elderly nursing home residents, though this happens more often than you may believe. Residents may be incapable of defending against a sexual attacker and thus are completely vulnerable to unwanted sexual exposure, touching, or assault. Needless to say, sexual abuse can cause severe physical and mental trauma.
Any type of nursing home abuse can result in lasting injuries and effects for a victim. Nursing homes should be held fully liable for the wrongful or negligent acts of staff members or others at the facility, as well as failures to provide appropriate levels of care.
Nursing Home Abuse in Philadelphia: FAQs
The national advocacy organization, Families for Better Care, has ranked Pennsylvania’s nursing homes among the worst in the country. The state’s nursing facilities received an overall failing grade on eight different measures, only obtaining a grade of D or better on two of the measures.
The organization considers in its grading system the number of deficiencies found in annual health inspections, levels of staffing, staffing hours per resident, number of homes rated average or worse by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and number of verified complaints made against the facility. Pennsylvania nursing homes obtained a C-grade for the portion of homes that have had severe deficiencies on health inspection reports, and a B-grade for the number of professional nursing hours per resident.
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents nursing home facilities, stated that the biggest problem facing nursing homes in Philadelphia and around Pennsylvania is the lack of adequate funding and the inability to recruit and train employees who can find higher paying jobs outside of the nursing home industry.
With so many problems with the state’s nursing homes, how do you know if the home you are considering for your loved one’s care is a good place? How do you know if your loved one is being abused or mistreated at a nursing facility? What legal options do you have if your loved one has fallen victim to nursing home abuse? Read on for answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about Philadelphia nursing home abuse.
What is nursing home abuse?
Nursing home abuse involves the intentional infliction of injury through physical assault, use of physical or chemical restraints, use of fear of physical harm or intimidation, or the deprivation of care or services to punish or coerce a resident, causing physical or emotional distress. Also often included in the definition of nursing home abuse is nursing home neglect, which involves both intentional and unintentional failure of a facility or its staff to provide the care or services necessary to keep a resident free from harm, or a failure to react to situations that may cause the resident harm or anxiety.
The types of abuse or neglect that may be seen in nursing home facilities include:
- Physical abuse, including slapping, hitting, pinching, or pushing the resident.
- Emotional abuse, including threatening, belittling, or intimidating the resident.
- Sexual abuse, including touching the resident’s private areas, sexual penetration, or forcing the resident to view pornography.
- Neglect, including neglecting the resident’s physical needs such as food, water, or sleep, or neglecting the resident’s medical needs by improperly caring for pressure ulcers, or a medical error such as providing too much—or not enough—of a prescribed medication or giving medication to the resident that was not prescribed. Neglect can also include failing to follow a resident’s care plan or allowing the resident to wander away from the facility.
- Financial exploitation, including gaining access to the resident’s financial accounts or convincing the resident to give money to a staff member or other individual outside of payment for provided services.
Nursing home abuse has been linked to mental health declines in older Americans. Victims of nursing home abuse are three times more likely to be admitted to a hospital than elders who have not been abused. The medical costs associated with treating the victims of nursing home abuse are estimated to be more than $5.3 billion a year.
In Pennsylvania, most substantiated allegations of neglect, abuse, and exploitation come in the form of self-neglect or caretaker neglect. Together, these two categories make up more than half of all substantiated allegations. The third most common substantiated allegation is financial exploitation, followed by physical abuse, emotional abuse, unspecified allegations, and sexual abuse.
What rights do residents of nursing home facilities have?
The federal government—with the assistance of state agencies—oversees nursing homes that are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ensuring that these homes provide their residents the rights federal and state law grant to them.
Some of these rights include:
- The right to receive information, written in a language the resident, can understand about the services provided, the cost of those services, as well as the expectations the nursing facility has for residents and the rights they are granted by law.
- The right to be free from discrimination, abuse, and neglect.
- The right to be treated with dignity and free from the use of chemical or physical restraints.
- The right to choose one’s own physician and to be provided medical care.
- The right to be involved in one’s own care planning.
- The right to accept or refuse visitors.
- The right to form or participate in resident groups, as well as the right to participate in activities.
- The right to be informed in writing of any planned transfer or discharge.
- The right to reasonably determine when he or she wants to wake up, go to bed, or eat.
- The right to manage one’s own finances.
- The right to make complaints without fear of retribution.
How common is nursing home abuse?
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 10 percent of the nation’s elderly residents are abused, though cases of nursing home abuse often go unreported, due in part to differing definitions about what constitutes abuse and the inability of many nursing home residents to verbalize what is happening to them. The most commonly reported type of abuse suffered by elders is verbal mistreatment, followed by financial mistreatment, and physical mistreatment. More reports of abuse accuse other residents than nursing home caretakers. Only about 1 percent of the reports of elder abuse involve physical abuse.
Those found to be at highest risk of abuse are elders who:
- Have little social support.
- Have dementia. Studies indicate that about half of elders who suffer from dementia experience some form of abuse.
- Impaired functions or poor overall health.
- Women. Women have a higher likelihood of being abused in their later years than men.
- Younger elderly residents. Those in their 50s and 60s are more likely to report mistreatment than those 70 years old or older.
Who oversees the treatment of residents at nursing homes?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is responsible for oversight of nursing homes that are certified to accept Medicare and Medicaid residents and receive federal funding for these residents. The responsibility of conducting health inspections and receiving complaints about nursing home care falls on state agencies.
What do nursing home health inspections involve?
These inspections involve a visit from state inspectors (commonly called surveyors) who review records and policies, observe activities and environmental factors, and conduct interviews with staff and residents to discover deficiencies.
The areas inspected for which the facility may receive a deficiency include:
- Freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation
- Quality of life and care
- Resident assessment and care planning
- Nursing and physician services
- Resident rights
- Nutrition and dietary
- Pharmacy services
Simultaneous to the health inspection, certified facilities also receive a fire safety inspection in the following areas:
- Emergency preparedness
- Automatic sprinkler systems
- Building construction
- Corridor walls and doors
- Emergency plans and fire drills
- Fire alarm systems
- Interior finishes
- Gas, vacuum, and electrical systems
- Hazardous areas
- Illumination and emergency power
- Medical gases and anesthetizing areas
- Smoking regulations
How can I see the results of a nursing home’s most recent health inspection?
Medicare posts the inspections of certified facilities on its website within weeks of receiving the results from state inspectors.
In most cases, you will have access to three years’ worth of health and fire safety inspections, as well as general information about the facility and a star-rating based on criteria that includes the health safety inspections, the presence of violations for which the facility received a penalty, and the facility’s scoring on different issues including the number of residents with pressure ulcers, the number of hours that professional staff spends with each resident, the number of residents requiring an emergency room department visit, and the number of residents receiving flu and pneumonia vaccinations.
How can I ensure that the facility I place my loved one in is safe?
While it is impossible to foresee all potentially hazardous situations involving nursing home care, you can improve your chances that the facility is a safe placement for your loved one, including:
- Don’t merely settle on any nursing home in your area based on its website. Ask family and friends about the nursing homes where their loved ones reside. Your physician’s office or church congregation are also good places to seek recommendations on facilities around the region.
- Look up the recent health inspections for facilities you’re considering on Medicare’s website. Use the compare tool to compare the quality of the facilities.
- Call any facilities that you might consider. Ask about waiting lists and the fees for their services.
- Tour a facility. Schedule time to speak to the facility’s director and the director of nursing. Ask questions regarding the medical care offered at the facility, the services the facility provides, and what types of insurance are accepted. Ask to see the facility’s Medicare/Medicaid certification. Look around—pay attention to how the staff members interact with the residents. This interaction should be warm and caring. Be wary of facilities where the staff seems frantic, or the atmosphere is chaotic.
- Select the nursing home that best meets your needs or the needs of your loved one.
What are the signs of nursing home abuse, neglect, or exploitation?
Many nursing home residents do not have the cognitive ability to make others aware of what they are going through in the facility and others may be afraid to talk about their experiences, making it important for loved ones to carefully monitor any subtle changes in their loved one’s demeanor or physical appearance that may indicate abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Signs you should look out for include:
- Changes in behavior. Your loved one may appear withdrawn, non-communicative, and agitated.
- Your loved one doesn’t want to be cared for by a specific caretaker.
- Your loved one has unexplained injuries, including bruising, bloody undergarments, or even broken bones.
- Your loved one has developed pressure ulcers (bedsores) or his or her bedsores have gotten worse since entering the facility.
- Your loved one appears over or under-medicated.
- Your loved one shows signs of dehydration or malnutrition.
- Unsanitary or unclean conditions, or your loved one is wearing soiled or dirty garments and appears unwashed.
- Your loved one was permitted to wander unsupervised inside or outside of the facility.
- Staff refuse to answer your questions or deflects your questions.
- Staff appear frantic and resident calls for assistance go unanswered.
- High staff turnover or staff that seems improperly trained for their jobs.
- A sudden, unexplained change in your loved one’s finances, including unexpected withdrawals or changes to who is allowed to access the resident’s bank accounts.
- A gut feeling that something is wrong.
What should I do if I suspect that my loved one is being abused at the nursing home?
Physicians and nursing home staff members are required to file a report if they have reason to believe that an individual in a nursing home facility has been abused. Residents and their loved ones may also file a complaint. In Pennsylvania, anyone who suspects nursing home abuse may file a complaint with the state’s elder abuse hotline by calling 1-800-490-8505. It can help to speak with an experienced Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney before filing a complaint, however, to make sure you protect your loved one’s right to compensation.
Of course, if your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 or take similar steps to ensure your loved one’s safety.
Is there a process for obtaining compensation for victims of nursing home abuse?
Yes. If your loved one suffered physical or emotional injuries while in the care of a Philadelphia-area nursing home facility, he or she may be eligible to obtain compensation for those injuries through a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney can help you understand this process and review the legal options you have available to you.
To learn more, contact the Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys at the Levin Firm for a free consultation.
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