How do I place my loved one in a nursing home that is free from neglect?
Choosing to place a loved one in a nursing home is never easy. It can be painful to recognize that a loved one needs a growing level of care and attention; however, when you consider facilities, there are some factors to be aware of that may help you spot and avoid neglectful homes. First, it is important to visit the nursing home in person and ask specific questions to caretakers and management. You can get a “vibe” from the facility, noting the cleanliness of the bathrooms, kitchen, and common areas, as well as the individual residents. You might also take note of the number of staff present and their general demeanors. Does it seem like the residents have good relationships with the caretakers?
Visiting multiple facilities can give you a basis of comparison and may help you decide where you feel more comfortable. In addition, developing a positive relationship with management can help establish a positive foundation for communication in the event that abuse or neglect is suspected in the home at a future point in time. You can also check Medicare's service, Nursing Home Compare, which provides information on past inspections in nursing homes which take Medicare. For private facilities, contact your local ombudsman for more information.
Why does neglect happen so frequently?
It may be overwhelming to contemplate the frequency of neglect in long-term care facilities, and it is natural to wonder why this pattern continues. Many factors contribute to the phenomenon, but there are certain situations which often produce abusive behavior. Nursing homes which are underfunded are most likely to be understaffed, employ people who are not trained sufficiently and fail to maintain safety equipment and building standards. Lower wages for staff, sometimes even minimum wage, means that the people caring for your loved one may not be sufficiently compensated for the difficult emotional and physical labor that they are required perform. This can cause them to become resentful or despondent and fail to complete vital duties.
Another common cause of neglect is a lack of accountability. When staff feel that no one is watching them and evaluating their performance or the health of the residents they care for, they may shirk their duties and begin to neglect their patients. This may be a failure in management or a lack of visits from friends or family members of the patient.
What rights do people in nursing homes have?
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law provides residents of nursing homes with a list of basic rights that must be provided in long-term care facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients across the country. Among other things, residents have the right
- to be treated with dignity and respect.
- to be informed in writing about services and fees before they enter the nursing home.
- to manage their own money or to choose someone else they trust to do this for them.
- to privacy, and to keep and use their personal belongings and property as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others.
- to be informed about their medical condition, medications, and to see their own doctor. They also have the right to refuse medications and treatments.
- to have a choice over their schedule (for example, when they get up and go to sleep), their activities and other preferences that are important to them.
- to an environment more like a home that maximizes their comfort and provides them with assistance to be as independent as possible.
If I suspect that my loved one is being neglected, what steps can I take?
There are many steps that might be appropriate to take if you suspect neglect, depending upon the situation. First, if your loved one is physically and mentally capable, ask them how they feel about the treatment they are receiving by the staff. If they are timid in talking about the subject, ask them about individual caretakers and gauge their response. Any fear or anxiety associated with one particular caretaker may indicate neglect or abuse.
You can also choose report suspected neglect to an ombudsman or the appropriate protective services in the area, who will evaluate the claim and perform an investigation to determine whether or not the alleged incident is likely to have taken place. An investigation might lead to a suspension or revocation of a license, mandatory administrative changes, and/or fines. If you believe more serious action needs to be taken, you can file a criminal complaint to local authorities. Alternatively or in addition to these reports, you can choose to file a civil lawsuit against the individual committing the abuse and/or neglect, and the nursing home itself.
When is it appropriate to file a nursing home neglect lawsuit?
Lawsuits against nursing homes serve multiple purposes. Primarily, they can help impose disciplinary financial measures on institutions which may force these homes to improve their standard of care, preventing abuse and neglect from continuing in the facility. In addition, they can give victims and their families the financial security they need to heal from a traumatic experience and gain access to mental and physical recovery services. If abuse and neglect is not reported or brought into view, institutions may continue to perpetrate violence on vulnerable residents, whether there is malicious intent or merely inadequate resources.
If you are considering filing a case alleging neglect, certain factors will determine whether or not the case is likely to be successful. Witnesses, reports by other residents, and physical evidence can all be important factors in an elder abuse lawsuit. If the neglect is accompanied by another form of suspected abuse, such as physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, a lawsuit may be the best option for taking meaningful action. It is important to remember that a nursing home which tolerates neglect will also be more likely to miss the signs of other forms of abuse, so taking action early can be preventative, even life-saving. For more information and a free consultation on your case, call trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at 800.529.6162 or contact us online.