To prove nursing home neglect and collect monetary damages, you need strong evidence that includes documented medical records from a licensed physician, photos or videos from camcorders, and eyewitness accounts of physical or mental abuse or neglect.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Unfortunately, incidents of neglect in U.S. nursing homes and long-term care facilities are common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country, and almost half of residents in these facilities experience some type of abuse or neglect that results in illness or injury.
Nursing home neglect is typically attributed to the failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs, such as the need for shelter, clothing, food, water, hygiene, and essential medical care. When inadequate care is provided, a nursing home resident can suffer physical and psychological health problems and injuries. Common signs of nursing home neglect include:
- Bruises, fractures, and broken bones
- Bedsores (pressure ulcers)
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- Personality and mood changes
Since many of these conditions are related to falls and deteriorating health conditions, it can be difficult to prove nursing home neglect without a nursing home negligence lawyer to investigate the cause. Inadequate care, unsanitary conditions, and lack of food and water can have a significant impact on a resident’s physical health, emotional well-being, and personal hygiene. However, evidence is necessary to prove nursing home neglect in a legal case with civil or criminal penalties.
Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes
To many people, the term “nursing home abuse” means physical injuries, but there are other types of elder abuse that can have significant consequences.
Physical abuse usually results in visible signs of injury, such as scratches, cuts, bruises, burns, and dislocated, fractured, and broken bones. These types of injuries caused by physical abuse are often the result of slapping, hitting, kicking, pushing, or shoving. With fragile bones and balance problems, an elderly adult can easily suffer a fall, broken ribs, and head trauma.
Although emotional abuse does not leave visible injuries, it can cause significant psychological damage that affects a person’s mental outlook and well-being. Emotional abuse is typically caused by yelling, screaming, making demeaning remarks, and disrespectful actions towards a resident. It can cause anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, especially in residents who are isolated from family members and friends.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of reported incidents of sexual abuse in nursing homes. Elderly residents, especially those with cognitive dysfunctions like Alzheimer’s or dementia, become easy targets for incidents of sexual abuse including assault, battery, rape, and inappropriate touching. In 2017, CNN reported numerous cases where nursing home residents were sexually abused by facility staff members and caregivers while they were on duty.
Nursing home residents often become victims of financial abuse because they are no longer capable of handling their financial affairs. Residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive problems are prime targets for financial fraud and theft. In Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported more than $750,000 stolen from a nursing home resident with dementia by two nursing home employees before they were caught by law enforcement.
Without signs of physical injuries, these types of nursing home abuse go unnoticed or undetected in facilities, as well as in home health care settings. Family members and friends of elderly adults must be aware of the types of abuse that constitute home healthcare negligence and be prepared to seek legal action for damages on behalf of their loved ones.
Evidence You Need to Prove Nursing Home Neglect
Claims of nursing home neglect and abuse require proof to become actionable in a civil or criminal case. Whether you file a civil action or criminal action, you must prove nursing home neglect to receive compensation for damages. Depending on the type of claim you are filing, there are different things you must prove. Your lawyer can gather the necessary evidence to prove physical, emotional, or financial losses. This evidence usually includes the following:
- Medical records showing exams, treatments, and prescriptions by a licensed physician
- Medical expenses for related illnesses and injuries
- Insurance claim documents
- Resident files and charts from the nursing home
- Documents proving your relationship to the injury victim
- Photo and video evidence proving abuse or neglect
While there are various reasons nursing home abuse and neglect occur, many cases are caused by nursing home staff members and caregivers who are overworked, underpaid, untrained, and stressed out by situations they are not equipped to handle. Staff members and caregivers under these conditions often have a negative attitude towards their job and patients, suffer from sleep deprivation, and make mistakes on the job.
Unfortunately for Illinois residents, nursing homes are terribly understaffed. The state actually ranks last on the list for appropriate nursing home staffing levels, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic fallout and partly due to budget cuts and staff layoffs.
Who’s Legally Responsible for Nursing Home Neglect?
Under federal and state laws, long-term care facilities have a duty to hire qualified staff members and provide adequate training. They are also required to hire enough staff members and caregivers to ensure proper care for all facility residents. Since long-term care facilities receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, facility regulations and guidelines for resident care are stricter than those of privately-owned facilities.
When looking for a nursing home for family members and friends, it’s important to check for adequate staff levels, proper training procedures, proper reporting procedures, and a history of abuse and neglect violations. Any signs of nursing home neglect should be reported to authorities right away. Due diligence can protect your loved ones from harm and prevent legal actions for nursing home abuse and neglect.
When nursing home neglect occurs, and your lawyer can prove nursing home neglect, both the nursing home and individual staff members may be held legally liable.