What Should I Do If I Suspect That My Loved One Is the Victim of Nursing Home Abuse?

What Should Be Expected of a Nursing Home?

It is never easy to make the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home facility. In most cases, we make these decisions because we care very much for our family members and want to ensure that they receive the best care possible – care which we often feel that we cannot adequately provide on our own. This is an entirely reasonable and compassionate decision – a decision we make with the best interests of our loved ones in mind. It is also entirely reasonable to expect that the nursing home we choose for our loved one will care for them with compassion, skill, and according to the reasonable standards in the nursing care industry.

In many cases, this is exactly what happens and it turns out to be the best choice possible for our loved ones. Unfortunately, this is not the case in all circumstances. While most nursing homes are wonderful, compassionate places, in some, applicable standards of care are simply not followed and neglect is allowed to occur on a shockingly regular basis. Neglect is unacceptable in any aspect of the healthcare industry, but particularly in nursing homes where the patients are already frail and elderly. Neglect can easily lead to unnecessary pain and suffering, life-threatening illnesses, and in some cases, even premature death. This sort of treatment, leading to these horrific results, is abuse – plain and simple.

Do You Suspect That Your Loved One Is a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse?

Initially, it may be difficult to discern if your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse. The nature of elder care lends itself to this unfortunate reality, as many of the patients may be disoriented or suffering from dementia or other conditions that make it difficult to communicate the truth of their circumstances. Of course, on the other side of the coin, the caretakers and staff at the nursing home will likely be quick to attempt to reassure you that your loved one is being properly cared for and that nothing is amiss.

In some cases, the abuse may be clear and very obvious (for example, if you actually witness a nursing home employee physically or verbally abusing your loved one). In other cases, however, getting to the truth of the matter may require some diligence and investigation. Some common signs to look for that indicate nursing home abuse include:

  •       Signs of malnutrition and/or dehydration
  •       Bedsores and/or pressure sores (caused by not repositioning a bedridden patient often enough)
  •       Failure to quickly address signs of an infection or other serious health condition
  •       Inadequate supervision that led to a fall or other injury
  •       Often being emotionally upset and/or showing frequent signs of agitation
  •       Rapid weight loss or weight gain
  •       Unsanitary and unclean conditions
  •       Reluctance to speak in the presence of staff members
  •       Sudden behavior changes
  •       Any other signs you feel indicate that something may not be right

Ultimately, you know your loved one best, and you are in the best position to determine if something seems amiss. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and to investigate your concerns. Even if nothing ultimately comes of it, it is important to do all you can to ensure that your loved one is receiving the care they need and deserve.

What Should I Do to Help My Loved One?

What happens if you have investigated and determined that your loved one is not receiving the care they deserve? In that situation, the first and most important step should be to remove your loved one from the dangerous situation, if at all possible. If your home is not adequately equipped to care for an elderly patient, investigate other potential options that may provide a safer, more stable situation. After doing so and ensuring that your loved one is being properly cared for, your next step should be to consult an attorney as soon as possible.

Many states have laws that exist specifically to protect “dependent” adults. In Iowa, for example, the “Older Iowans Act” specifically protects nursing home residents and anyone aged 60 years or older. They do this by committing to their “dignity, independence, and rights” (Iowa Code Ann. Title VI, Subtitle 4, Chapter 231), as well as through the “OBRA” (which is also known as the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987) in addition to other applicable state and federal protections. A knowledgeable elder law attorney will be able to explain and apply the law to your particular circumstances.

With the help of an experienced attorney, you may be able to seek compensation on behalf of your loved one under any number of causes of action including mental and physical suffering, disfigurement, shortened life expectancy, malicious and/or reckless conduct, and wrongful death, among others. Of course, the highest priority in this situation is protecting your family member from ongoing abuse and neglect. Some forms of compensation that you may be able to recover on behalf of your loved one include, but are not limited to:

  •       Medical Expenses: Expenses for doctor’s visits, surgeries, medications, necessary medical devices, hospital stays, and other related medical expenses may be recovered.
  •       Outof-Pocket Costs: Any out-of-pocket costs incurred as a result of the nursing home abuse or neglect can potentially be recovered as a result of the lawsuit, including the costs of moving your loved one to another nursing home.
  •       Pain and Suffering: While the physical pain and emotional suffering of your loved one cannot necessarily be quantified in a dollar amount, Iowa law does provide the opportunity to recover damages on these grounds.
  •       Other Potential Damages Based on Circumstance: A knowledgeable and experienced elder law attorney will be able to advise you as to any other potential damages that your particular circumstances may warrant.

If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, do not delay in seeking help and contacting an attorney immediately. The trusted team at 303 Legal, P.C., would be honored to have the opportunity to help you and your loved one through this trying time. Contact us today!