Nursing home abuse and neglect cases are common and, unfortunately, these are serious issues people throughout the country have to deal with daily. In fact, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program has reported that 10 percent of its complaints nationwide involve allegations of gross neglect, and about 27 percent involve concerns about inadequate care.
Nursing homes are responsible for the best possible care for patients, but when they neglect those duties, the residents suffer. Neglect can cause a plethora of health-related issues, psychological issues and stresses for a resident, and sometimes neglect could lead to death. If this happens to a family member or loved one, you should be proactive in collecting evidence to prove the neglect.
Families can use evidence of nursing neglect in different ways. If they plan to pursue legal action against the nursing home, the evidence of neglect can be used to seek damages. If the abuse or neglect is extreme, the evidence can be provided to local law enforcement for criminal penalties. Here are some ways families can prove nursing home negligence occurred:
- Failure to Provide Medical Treatment
Nursing home staff and employees are expected to provide necessary medical treatments and attention to residents in accordance with the law. Several states have enacted regulations that establish minimum standards of care for private nursing homes. Generally, treatments could range from handling daily medications to providing CPR in case of emergencies. If there is a clear disregard for providing medical care and treatment and the resident suffers, this could be considered neglect.
When nursing homes fail to provide adequate attention, prevention or medication, residents can suffer from physical ailments like bed sores, infections, cognitive diseases, weight loss and mobility issues. Residents also could suffer from dehydration, like a case in which the family of a 92-year-old Kentucky man alleges he became lethally dehydrated, despite having a feeding tube. Any signs of unexplained physical ailments or injuries should be documented using medical reports, photographs, witness statements and more.
Additionally, nursing home neglect could lead to a disease or illness worsening. For example, if a resident suffers from diabetes and he or she is neglected and does not receive the proper medication, the condition could become much worse at a staggering rate. If the neglect is severe, the disease could become fatal. This is what allegedly happened in an Illinois case where a woman says her diabetic mother died after her blood sugar was poorly monitored.
If a nursing home is accused of neglect, attorneys representing the facility likely will argue the person’s illness, injury or death was not the fault of the nursing home. They could argue the resident’s pre-existing health conditions were the cause for the issue. Any evidence you can gather to support that neglect lead to the problem could make it easier to prove the facility and its lack of oversight are at fault.
- Failure to Maintain Health and Safety Policies
Nursing homes are required to provide clean and safe facilities that are free of dangers and harm. This means the facilities should be sterile and sanitary and not have any dangers that staff are aware of or those they should be aware of through reasonable diligence. Residents should be able to live in a comfortable environment without fear of injuring themselves or getting sick because of a dirty living area.
These facilities are expected to provide areas that are clean and maintained regularly. They should not smell or have signs of mold, mildew or other fungi that could cause health issues. They should have appropriate and clean bedding, and they should be disinfected. Any sign of inappropriate living situations, soiled bedding or more should be photographs, documented and reported to a local ombudsman program.
Additionally, these facilities must work to prevent accidents through maintaining strict safety policies and maintenance of the facility and equipment. Homes should be aware of areas where residents could slip and fall, and they should be proactive in making sure all equipment within the facility is working properly. If there are signs of unlivable conditions or possible hazards, again, documenting it and reporting are crucial.
- Failure to Provide General Care and Assistance
Another sign of nursing home neglect is a resident who has not received basic and general care, like receiving a bath, getting clean bedding, having on fresh clothing or other assistance with personal hygiene. This is a serious form of neglect that plagues nursing home residents and their families throughout the country.
Poor hygiene neglect in nursing homes typically is the result of too few staff members working with too many residents. Additionally, most staff members lack formal education in proper health care, so residents are left to perform basic care on their own. Unfortunately, most residents can’t and it can lead to serious issues. Lack of routine dental care is a serious issue at nursing homes throughout the country.
No matter the nursing home facility’s excuse, poor hygiene should not be tolerated. It is important to report this and document it as soon as possible. You should look to see how often hygiene products are used, such as toothpaste and soap, to get an idea of how often the person receives care and assistance. Other indicators could include how often towels are replaced or when clothing has been worn and washed.
Whether or not your family plans to seek legal action, you still should gather proof of nursing home neglect if you suspect a loved one has suffered. Having the proof of the neglect can help stop it from continuing and it could help your loved one be moved to another facility that can provide the care he or she deserves. Also, having proof of the neglect could be important if something serious occurs, such as a debilitating or fatal injury that could have been prevented.
About the Author