There are approximately 15,600 nursing homes in the United States, offering care to 1.3 residents. While many of these homes and facilities provide excellent care to seniors, elder abuse is a growing problem. According to the National Council on Elder Abuse (NCEA), approximately 10% of individuals over the age of 65 will experience some form of elder abuse.
Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, verbal or psychological abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Seniors may be at particular risk for abuse due to isolation and the loss of physical and/or mental capacity. It is often difficult for loved ones to spot elder abuse if they cannot visit frequently or are unaware of the signs of nursing home abuse.
If you believe that a family member has suffered nursing home abuse, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the nursing home where the abuse occurred. An experienced San Rafael nursing home abuse attorney can help you with the process, from the initial investigation through a final resolution of the case.
Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can take many forms. The most common types of abuse that an elder may experience while in a nursing home or a residential care facility include:
- Physical abuse: this may be any action that can cause physical harm, such as hitting, hair-pulling, shoving, scratching, or even overusing physical restrains or failing to care for an injury.
- Neglect: this is an indirect form of abuse that may result in understaffing or poor training of staff. It occurs when employees at a care facility failed to properly care for their patients.
- Sexual abuse: any unwanted sexual attention or exploitation may be considered elder sexual abuse. Seniors with dementia or other forms of incapacitation may be at high risk for sexual abuse.
- Financial exploitation: if a nursing home employee takes advantage of a senior by stealing their personal items, taking money from their bank accounts, or stealing their identity, it may be considered financial abuse.
- Psychological or verbal abuse: this type of abuse includes a range of behaviors, including humiliating or shaming a patient, or calling them names.
If your loved one has suffered from any type of abuse while in a care facility, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the nursing home.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
It is often difficult for family members to spot elder abuse, particularly if their loved one is unable to communicate with them effectively. In some cases, signs of abuse may be explained away by the patient’s medical condition, such as claiming that a resident suffered broken bones or bruises in a fall. While it can be challenging to spot elder abuse, there are certain symptoms that you should be aware of if your loved one is in a nursing home or residential care center.
First, keep an eye out for mood changes. If a person displays signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth, seems depressed or confused, becomes withdrawn, or acts agitated or violent, it may be a sign that they are suffering abuse.
Second, be aware of physical changes. If your loved one loses weight for no reason, has trouble sleeping, looks messy or unkempt, or has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars, it may indicate that they are being abused. Similarly, if your loved one develops bed sores or other preventable conditions, it may be a symptom of neglect.
As a family member of a person in a care facility, there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of nursing home abuse. When selecting a home, be sure to thoroughly evaluate the facility. Do they have a high turnover rate with staff? What type of oversight is given for staff?
Once you have selected a nursing home, be sure to check in on your family member frequently. Vary the times that you visit, and encourage your loved one to engage in social activities. Keep an eye on their bank accounts and other financial resources so that you can stop financial exploitation early.
Filing a Claim for Nursing Home Abuse
If your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse, the first — and most important step — is to remove them from the facility and to seek treatment for their injuries (physical and mental). It may also be appropriate to report the abuse to the authorities. You may also be able to file a lawsuit with the help of a lawyer.
Nursing home abuse cases are a type of personal injury law. You may be able to recover compensation for the losses that your loved one suffered as a result of the abuse. This may include money for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, medical bills, and more.
In some cases, you can obtain punitive damages, which are meant to punish a wrongdoer and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. If the staff of a care facility engaged in intentional abuse, such as hitting, sexual abuse, or over- or under- medicating, punitive damages may be available.
Nursing home abuse cases generally start with a free initial consultation, where a San Rafael nursing home abuse attorney will listen to your story and advise you of your legal rights and options for moving forward with a claim. From there, the law firm will conduct a thorough investigation and perform legal research to determine who can be sued and what claims may be filed.
In many cases, the nursing home’s insurance company will seek to settle the claim against their insured. However, if a settlement cannot be achieved, then the case may proceed to trial, where your lawyer will seek a verdict in your favor from the judge or jury. Hiring an attorney with a track record of success and significant trial experience can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome, whether through a settlement or at trial.
How We Can Help
We all want to ensure that our loved ones get the best possible care in their golden years. In some cases, that may mean that they need to reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility for their health and safety. if the people entrusted to care for them are abusive, then you may be able to pursue legal action against the facility.
Kuvara Law Firm represents individuals who have suffered nursing home abuse as well as their families. We work hard to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome, and to find a measure of justice after the unthinkable happens. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team, reach out online or call us at 415-479-7070.