Nursing Home Abuse

While many nursing homes provide excellent care to their residents, far too many fall appallingly short.  For some nursing facilities, the focus on the “bottom line” results in understaffed nursing homes with untrained and/or underpaid employees.  Residents of these facilities can suffer terribly due to neglect and abuse at the hands of their caregivers.  Fortunately, New York Law protects victims of nursing home negligence and abuse through, among other causes of action, Public Health Law Section 2801-d.

Nursing Home & Elder Abuse

Nursing home and/or elder abuse targets one of our most vulnerable populations and comes in many forms including physical, emotional, and financial suffering.  By familiarizing yourself with the most common forms of nursing home abuse, you can recognize the early warning signs and help protect yourself and your loved ones.

Physical nursing home and/or elder abuse is the non-accidental use of physical force against an elderly person.  It may result in pain, impairment, or even death.  Nursing home and/or elder abuse also includes improper use of drugs or the unnecessary use of physical restraints.  This type of elder abuse is often easy to identify by observing bruises or other injuries, whereas other types of abuse are far less obvious.

Unfortunately, many nursing home residents are the unidentified victims of a far more insidious problem – emotional elder abuse.  This may include verbal abuse, or passive behaviors such as ignoring or isolating the elderly resident. This type of treatment can leave elderly residents in states of pain, depression, distress, anxiety, and/or fear.  Left unchecked, these emotional responses can trigger physical symptoms that drastically affect the resident’s overall health.

Financial exploitation is also a common form of elder abuse.  While it can be perpetrated by family members or others known to the victim, it also can come at the hands of professional caregivers.  Abusers may use their position of authority to extort money, or they may gain the elderly resident’s trust and embark on a grand scheme to deplete an elderly person’s accounts.

Nursing Home Falls

As we age, our bodies may become weaker, our vision degenerates, and our balance isn’t what it used to be.  In addition, elderly nursing home residents may be taking medications that cause impairment.  Falls account for nearly 30% of injury deaths in senior citizens.  Even seemingly mild falls can result in permanent injury or death.

When a resident moves into a nursing home, the facility is required to design a care plan that includes a fall risk assessment and to continually evaluate the resident's fall risk while in the nursing home.  The purpose of this assessment is to determine what assistance, if any, the resident may need to safely move around.  Many falls in nursing homes are caused by the caregivers’ negligence and can be due to a variety of factors such as a failure to properly assess them as a fall risk and to implement proper fall precautions to prohibit, or drastically reduce, falling .

Falls can be prevented without the use of restraints by taking advantage of certain measures such as physical therapy and conditioning programs, using bedrails, lowering the resident's bed, using bed alarms, using mattresses next to the bed, providing the resident with a working call bell, placing the resident on a proper bathroom schedule, raising the height of a toilet seat, making regular rounds to check on the resident, and ensuring a proper staff to resident ratio, to name a few.

Pressure Sores

Pressure sores, also known as bed sores, are all too common in nursing homes.  Tragically, the vast majority of pressure sores are the result of inattentive care and could have been prevented.  Pressure sores can be incredibly painful, causing disability and greatly increasing the resident’s risk of complications like sepsis or gangrene.

Some very basic preventive measures have been proven to protect residents from this type of injury, including turning residents at regular intervals such as every two hours, keeping residents clean and dry, ensuring that residents are well hydrated and properly nourished, and utilizing the latest technological advances in cushions and mattresses.

If you, or a loved one, has suffered injury due to nursing home abuse or neglect, contact an experienced attorney in nursing home negligence.  If there is a problem, it should be investigated immediately so the appropriate care and treatment can be provided.  Additionally, there may be hidden complications that are not apparent until it is too late to take legal action.

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