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Nursing Home Neglect

Do you have a loved one living in a South Carolina nursing home or long-term care facility?  It is understandable that loved ones would worry about the quality of care their elderly are receiving in the nursing home facilities and wonder about what to do should they suspect that neglect or abuse is happening. To learn more about nursing home abuse and negligence, keep reading.


What is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse takes place when any person, whether a doctor, nurse, staff member or aide, causes harm or serious danger of harm to a resident of a nursing home. These residents are typically senior citizens and are often vulnerable, either due to physical or mental handicap. Maltreatment can be deliberate or just the result of negligence, either way it signifies a serious lapse in attention and can function as the basis for a suit on behalf of the wounded senior.


What is neglect?

Unlike maltreatment, which is commonly viewed as active, neglect is often due to inactivity. Neglect of an elderly person happens when someone doesn’t provide essential services to the individual, including food, water, medication, clothing, shelter or even supervision.


Why does neglect and nursing home abuse take place?

There are several reasons that maltreatment and neglect are not so unusual in the nursing home setting. Despite the seriousness of the work, neglect to correctly screen applicants or some nursing facilities refuse to invest in proper training for staff members. This enables people with improper training to come into contact with vulnerable seniors, something that occasionally results in serious trouble.


Another issue that leads to mistreatment and nursing home negligence is understaffing. Understaffing in the nursing home sector leaves staff members spread much too thin to provide proper care for seniors and is shockingly trivial.  It has recently been determined that 54% of all American nursing home are understaffed, according to a report from a Congressional subcommittee.  This contributes to things like bedsores, malnutrition and dehydration in patients who are checked on infrequently. Additionally, it allows abuse to prosper, with hints overlooked by overworked staffers and patients frequently unattended to.


Another enormous contributing factor to the prevalence of nursing home abuse and negligence is that seniors who live in nursing homes represent an especially vulnerable segment of the public and can be easy prey for people with bad intentions. Seniors may be struggling with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other illnesses that affect the normal thought patterns. They could have a hard time convincing others to take their criticisms of abuse seriously and means the seniors may not be able to protect themselves.


Is the nursing home facility to blame?

Though the maltreatment or negligence is often perpetrated by an individual, the reality is that the nursing home facility who has hired that person is ultimately responsible for its patients’ care. Beyond the fact that employers have a general obligation to watch over their workers, the businesses that own the facilities and nursing homes are responsible for laying the groundwork that result in such problems. By focusing just on gains rather than patient care, these businesses establish the tone that efficacy is more important than providing residents with leading service. Budgets generally dictate conclusions regarding staffing, training and background checks, something that jeopardizes the security and well-being of those who’ve trusted the nursing home with their loves one.


What other forms of abuse exist?

Beyond physical mistreatment and neglect, which can result in visible and painful scars, abuse can take a variety of forms. Elders are also victims of mental maltreatment, being berated, ignored or belittled by staff members, physicians and others working inside nursing homes. Sexual abuse also takes place in some situations, with seniors suffering as quiet victims. Even financial exploitation, negligence and desertion also happen, sometimes without noticeable signs or warnings.


How big of a problem is neglect and nursing home abuse?

To say that nursing home abuse and negligence and, more broadly, elder abuse, is a serious problem is tragically an understatement. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 11% of all seniors endure some sort of abuse or neglect each year. This means that more than four million elderly people endure some kind of debilitating abuse or neglect every single year.


People have the legal right to be free from any mental, physical, sexual or verbal abuse, together with physical or chemical restraint that’s used for the purpose of benefit or punishment. These same rights apply to residents of private nursing homes the same as they do to those in publicly funded Medicare facilities. No one should endure abusive or neglectful treatment and, mercifully, the law says that no one has to.


Warning signs of abuse

Abuse and neglect can be amazingly difficult to detect in some cases where the injury is not instantly evident. Some of the simplest abuse to detect is physical abuse, which can result in bruises or broken bones. If an elderly loved one suffers burns, begins to develop frequent bruises or broken bones or is frequently taken to receive medical treatment without explanation, these might be signs that she or he is enduring some physical mistreatment.


Sexual abuse is considerably harder to detect given a lack of obvious signs. But if a senior complains of pain, suddenly contracts a sexually transmitted disease or is suffering from bleeding or sores, there might be an indication of abuse.


Indications of negligence include malnourishment, dirty or missing clothes, poor hygiene, bedsores, skin ulcers and a deficiency of water or food. These same hints, along with too little medical treatment, soiled bedding and unsanitary living conditions, may also signify abandonment.


Emotional abuse can be very difficult to find, especially in those suffering from other mental conditions. Potential warning signs comprise of a general withdrawal from the individual’s typical support system, fear of talking openly and exceedingly frightened behavior, unexplained or unusual shifts in moods, fear of special nursing home staff members, refusal to see family members or close friends.


Finally, financial exploitation may be happening in cases where money, jewelry or other items of personal property suddenly go missing without explanation. Increases in dubious monetary transactions or withdrawals, expenses and an unusual focus on finances may additionally function as signs of financial exploitation.


What to do if you suspect neglect or abuse

The solution to this question depends mainly on the particular facts of your case. If a senior is in grave danger, the local police or calling 911 would be the appropriate answer. If the person is not in immediate risk, but maltreatment may be taking place, reach out to the local Adult Protective Services agency to express your concerns. You may also go right to the administrators in the nursing home facility if you believe they might be of more immediate assistance.


What about filing a civil suit

Though all abuse should eventually be reported to local law enforcement officials, your ability to pursue a civil claim against those perpetrating the abuse exists regardless of whether criminal charges are finally pursued by the state. Civil lawsuits permit victims of neglect and abuse to ask for pecuniary damage for the harm they’ve suffered. The standard of proof needed in civil cases is lower than in criminal cases, meaning it may be easier to hold abusers accountable in a civil setting than in the criminal justice system.


What will happen if the maltreatment results in death?

The failure to provide care can sometimes result in criminal penalties, together with a wrongful death lawsuit being brought. Filing a civil claim to hold the facility responsible for its blunders is an excellent means to honor your loved one, but also to protect others who may be living in the nursing home. Studies indicate that up to 70% of all nursing home abuse cases go unreported. To help, you can call out those whose bad behavior resulted in deadly harm to your family member and make the decision to push ahead with a civil suit.

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