Each year, many families in the South Carolina area are forced to make difficult decisions regarding the future living arrangements of vulnerable loved ones. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that nearly 15,000 South Carolinians currently live in certified nursing facilities. While a nursing home is the right place for many, it is never an easy call. It is made even more difficult by the fact that we have all heard many horror stories about poor treatment in nursing homes. Abuse and neglect still occurs far too often. The good news is that South Carolina nursing home residents have many different legal tools available to help them protect their rights. More specifically, legal protection is available under federal law in the form of the Older Americans Act and the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act. Additional protection is also available under state law in the form of the South Carolina Adult Protection law.
Seven Patient Right Available Under the Nursing Home Reform Act
In the United States, the Nursing Home Reform Act provides the legal foundation that protects nursing home patients. This legislation gives nursing home residents many different important rights. Specifically, residents are entitled to:
- Full information: Information must always be fully and fairly shared with nursing home residents. Specifically, residents should be informed about: the services and care that they will receive, the cost of any prospective care, and the facility’s in-house rules and regulations. Further, there should always be advanced warning given if any important changes are to be made in regard to a residents living status.
- Voice complaints: All South Carolina nursing patients deserve to have their concerns heard. Complaints also must be able to be lodged without any fear of reprisal.
- Participation in their own care: Your loved one deserves to be fully and fairly advised about any medical treatment that is taking place. This includes information about any possible alternative treatments available. In the majority of situations, nursing home residents should be able to decline care if they so choose.
- Privacy and confidentiality: Nursing home patients also have the right to keep their affairs private. This includes privacy when it comes to medical treatment, financial affairs, relationships and any other sensitive issues.
- Visits by relatives: A nursing home is not a place for isolation. Patients have the right to visitation by friends and family. When this right is unreasonably restricted, it can cause serious damage to a resident’s emotional health.
- Independent choices: When reasonably possible, residents must be able to make their own lifestyle choices. This includes things such as deciding what to wear, when to go outside, how to spend free time, which nursing home activities to participate in and who to spend time around.
- Dignity and respect: Finally, all nursing home residents deserve to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Moving into a nursing home can be difficult enough, and poor treatment in any form is simply unacceptable.
How to Spot Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
When you move a loved one into an assisted living facility, is it important that you always remain vigilant. Your loved one may not be able to protect himself or herself, therefore, you may need to step in. Everyone should be aware of the most common signs of nursing home abuse or neglect. Specifically, you should watch for:
- Physical problems: If you loved one develops any unexplained physical issues, you need to take action. You should watch out for: bruising, dehydration, bedsores, malnutrition and any other complications. While illnesses and injuries are sometimes inevitable, they should still be taken as a warning sign. Any physical symptoms must be vigorously investigated.
- Emotional issues: Mental and emotional changes are also frequently a sign of abuse or neglect. Often, when you start noticing a mental or emotional problem, it is merely the tip of the iceberg. There may be a much deeper problem. You should always take your loved one’s complaints seriously. Watch out for any unusual signs of agitation, depression and withdrawal.
- Bad vibes: One thing that makes nursing home abuse so pernicious is that it is often extremely difficult to detect. Even if you can’t put your finger on any specific problem, you still may feel that something is wrong. Any bad feelings should be taken seriously. If you feel like something is ‘off’, then you need to thoroughly follow-up on that issue.
I Suspect Abuse or Neglect, What Can I Do?
In the event that you see any signs of nursing home abuse, you must take immediate action. This is true even if you are not 100 percent confident that any abuse is actually taking place. Remember, clear proof is often hard to attain. You need to consult with an experienced South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyer who can help you protect the safety and legal rights of your vulnerable loved one. Your lawyer will be able to review the case and help you determine exactly what needs to be done next. Often, the abuse will be reported to the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). This agency has resources available that can put an immediate stop to any problems. Further, your lawyer can also help you assess your legal options. After all, we put a lot of faith in nursing homes. These facilities have a legal duty to protect their residents. When they fail to live up to their duty, they must be held fully accountable. Your loved one may be entitled to significant compensation for their abuse-related damages.
Was Your Loved One Abused or Neglected in a Nursing Home?
At Ayers, Smithdeal, & Bettis Attorneys at Law, our compassionate nursing home abuse lawyers in Greenwood have helped protect many victims from abuse and neglect. If you believe that your loved one has been abused or neglected at an assisted living facility in South Carolina, we are ready to help. Please reach out to our team today to set up a no-fee, no-obligation review of your case. Our firm represents abuse victims in Greenwood as well as throughout the Lakelands area and the Upstate and Sandhills regions of South Carolina. Call 855-213-4405.