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Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect FAQS

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Missouri Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect FAQs

What should you do first?

Every nursing home has a legal obligation to provide quality care and a safe environment for its residents. Every nursing home is legally required to “meet the needs of the resident.” However, most nursing homes fall woefully short of meeting the needs of every resident because far too often there are not enough staff members available to meet those needs. And that is when abuse or neglect happens.

So, if you believe your loved ones rights have been violated, file a complaint with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services at 1 (800) 392-0210. The, if you want some legal advice, call our office at (314) 593-2438 and we can discuss your concerns and whether there are any legal remedies for you.

What should I do if rights are violated?

Every nursing home has a legal obligation to provide quality care and a safe environment for its residents. Every nursing home is legally required to “meet the needs of the resident.” However, most nursing homes fall woefully short of meeting the needs of every resident because far too often there are not enough staff members available to meet those needs. And that is when abuse or neglect happens.

So, if you believe your loved ones rights have been violated, file a complaint with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services at 1 (800) 392-0210. The, if you want some legal advice, call our office at (314) 593-2438 and we can discuss your concerns and whether there are any legal remedies for you.

What can I do to protect my loved one?

To help prevent nursing home abuse and neglect, you need to be actively involved in your loved one’s care. Visit your loved one regularly and watch for the following signs of abuse or neglect:

  • Dehydration, unusual weight loss, poor hygiene, bedsores, and unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
  • Unexplained physical injury, such as broken bones, falls, sprains, cuts, or bruising
  • Unexplained emotional or behavioral changes
  • Unexplained, sudden changes in finances

What rights does a nursing home resident have in a lawsuit?

While a resident at a nursing home, residents are entitled to receive quality, timely medical care. Nursing homes are required by law to meet the needs of their residents. When they fail to do that, residents can seek legal remedies through a lawsuit.

When a nursing home resident files a lawsuit over negligent care or treament then may obtain the following if they are successful in their lawsuit:

  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Compensation for a disability
  • Compensation for disfigurement
  • To be made whole through monetary compensation
  • To have their property replaced (I have never heard of any lawyer filing a lawsuit over misplaced property alone. Perhaps a letter from a lawyer on this issue may be successful.)

What are some warning signs that your loved one could be the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect?

As a family member, you should be on constant alert for signs that your loved one is not being treated properly at a Missouri nursing home. Here are some common warning signs to look for:

  • Bed sores
  • Frozen joints (which are a sign of contractures which are very painful and make it substantially more difficult to prevent or treat bed sores)
  • Unexplained bruising or bruising in a pattern that would suggest physical abuse, restraints, cuts, burns, sprains, fractures, or open wounds
  • Unexplained or sudden weight loss
  • Fleas, lice, ants, or dirt on the resident or in the resident’s room
  • Odors of feces or urine
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Over-medication (some nursing homes will intentionally over-medicate residents to make them easier to care for)
  • Torn clothing or broken personal items
  • Unexplained genital infections/diseases or vaginal/anal bleeding
  • Sudden changes in behavior, such as fear or being withdrawn
  • Staff refusing to allow the resident visitors or unexplained delays in allowing visitors to see the resident
  • Unexplained lost possessions
  • Sudden large, unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or changes in baking habits
  • Sudden, unexplained changes in Will or other important financial documents

If you loved one is exhibiting any of these signs, you should be very concerned. Take pictures of any signs or symptoms of abuse or neglect and contact an attorney who can help guide you through what to do next.

How can I choose a safe nursing home?

Bad things can happen at highly rated nursing homes, so while your odds may improve by placing a loved one in a highly rated nursing home, you still need to be wary of what is happening at the facility. If you are looking for the best nursing home available to you, there are some simple steps you can take to better ensure the safety of your loved one.

When searching for a nursing home, always check the federal Medicare website (www.Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare) which has a star rating system for nursing homes. The rating system is not perfect and some nursing home companies have tried to manipulate their ratings, but this will give you some good information for you to consider.

After your family member becomes a resident at a facility, be sure to regularly ask questions and watch for signs of abuse or neglect. Some questions you can ask at the facility are:

  • Are the facility and current administrator licensed?
  • Does the facility conduct timely background checks on all staff members?
  • Does the facility have nursing home abuse and neglect training?
  • How often is In-Service training offered?
  • Does the facility have a special services unit?
  • What is the staff turnover percentage?
  • What is the resident to staff ratio?

What are the causes of nursing home abuse and neglect?

There are multiple ways residents are injured in nursing homes, but if you look for the “why”, it usually boils down to one thing….a staff that is either insufficiently trained or insufficient in number; or both.

Often, nursing homes failed to hire enough or enough qualified facility staff members. Using under qualified, insufficiently trained, and/or overworked staff members can result in a lack of supervision of at-risk residents, an inability to complete tasks residents require (such as turning and repositioning, timely medications, two staff members to assist a resident in transferring, eating, etc.) and lack of supervision of employees. The result of these shortcomings is the abuse and neglect of elderly residents.

Sadly many residents are unable to communicate instances of the abuse and neglect they suffer because of their physical or mental limitations.

What to do if suspicious of abuse or neglect?

If you suspect your loved one is in immediate danger, then call the police. If you believe your loved one is injured and needs immediate medical attention, call an ambulance and get them to a hospital. If you believe your family member is being abused or neglected that is not resulting in an immediate medical need, you should first address this with the Administrator and Director of Nursing. Always be respectful, but be firm that you expect them to make sure your loved one is treated with dignity and receives everything required to meet her specific needs.

If you want to discuss your concerns with an attorney, feel free to call our office at (314) 593-2438. We can provide you with legal advice and can answer any nursing home abuse or neglect question you may have.

What do I look for in a nursing home?

Placing a family member in a nursing home is one of the most difficult decisions you will ever have to make. It can be a daunting task too, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Feel free to request our book which will be sent to you for FREE.

You will find lots of information on what you need to look for when considering which nursing home your loved one will soon call home.

What are the different kinds of nursing home abuse and neglect?

There is no shortage in how vulnerable nursing home residents suffer from abuse and neglect. However, some of the most common are:

  • Physical Abuse: Cuts, abrasions, burns, bruises, welts, wounds, unexplained or hidden injuries, and unnecessary physical or mental restraints
  • Mental Abuse: Depression, fear agitation, withdrawal, hesitancy, sudden behavior changes, strange behavior patterns, disorientation, confusion, isolation, unwillingness to communicate, or rude, humiliating or derogatory comments made by staff members
  • Financial Abuse (or Exploitation): Missing or stolen money or property, radical changes in handling of personal financial affairs, sudden selling of property
  • Neglect: Unsanitary environment, malnutrition, bed sores, dehydration, smells of urine or feces, poor personal hygiene, untreated medical conditions, unkempt appearance, falls, and many more.

How prevalent is abuse or neglect?

Sadly, the problem is widespread. According to the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, the results of a 2001 survey revealed that 30% of U.S. nursing home facilities, which is approximately 5,283 facilities, were cited for nearly 9,000 incidents of abuse between January 1999 and January 2001.

How can falls be prevented?

Having adequate staffing at the facility can help prevent nursing home falls. When staff members are available to help residents with activities of daily living, such as getting in and out of bed, that can help prevent falls. It is important that facility staff members timely respond to call lights to avoid a potential fall. Alarms that alert staff when a patient who needs assistance attempts to leave a bed or get out of a chair unassisted are available to use. Residents who are not steady on their feet can be provided extra padding for their hips to prevent a break in the event of a fall. Nursing home staff can lower beds, add bed rails to beds, and add side alarms to beds to help prevent a resident from getting up alone and possibly falling.

Can a nursing home evict a resident?

The short answer is yes, but the law makes it difficult. Nursing home companies can only discharge residents for the following reasons and only after giving proper notice:

  • If a resident fails to make payments as agreed or their financial sources are no longer able or willing to pay;
  • If a resident poses a danger to other residents;
  • If a resident requires special medical treatment or attention that the facility is not capable of providing; and
  • If the resident’s condition has improved and the facility is no longer needed.

Keep in mind that if you are a nursing home resident and have been discharged, you have the right to appeal any discharge.

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