Placing a loved one in a nursing home can be a harrowing decision. Questions regarding their safety, happiness, and general wellbeing are likely at the forefront of our minds. Nebraska nursing homes and long-term care facilities have a duty, both ethically and legally, to keep our elderly loved ones safe and healthy. Unfortunately, a large percentage of nursing home and long-term care residents are subjected to a variety of abuses.
According to data from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), approximately 1.4 million individuals resided in nursing homes and an additional 835,200 resided in residential care communities, like assisted-living facilities, in 2014. Of the 188,599 complaints reported that year, 7.6 percent involved abuse, neglect, or exploitation. It’s estimated, however, that the majority of elder abuse and neglect incidents go unreported to authorities.
If you fear for the safety of your loved one or have seen evidence pointing toward physical or emotional abuse or any type of suffering that may have been caused by negligence or carelessness, you should reach out to an Omaha nursing home abuse lawyer today. When elderly care facilities neglect or abuse residents, we have a right to file a lawsuit against the facility. Facility understaffing, a known issue, isn’t an excuse. Our loved ones deserve better care.
When the family members of a nursing home resident file a lawsuit against any facility, that resident will be relocated to a safer environment. Additionally, if the claim is successfully proven, the nursing home or facility will be forced to compensate the resident and their family for any physical and emotional suffering that was a result of the negligence or abuse. A lawsuit is sometimes the only way to ensure that other residents don’t suffer in the same way.
Understanding what your loved one may be experiencing in a nursing home or long-term care facility can be difficult. In order to ease this trouble, we’re here to provide you with information on the laws regarding nursing home care, the common types of abuse and neglect that take place in these facilities, and the legal rights that you and your loved one possess.
First, let’s go over the laws and regulations for nursing homes in Nebraska.
Understanding Nursing Home Laws and Regulations in Nebraska
Nursing home laws exist at both the federal and state level, to ensure residents have the rights they deserve and to offer protection from abuse and neglect.
The majority of federal laws come from the Nursing Home Reform Act. In order to comply with these laws, nursing home facilities must:
- Have a sufficient nursing staff
- Develop a care plan for each resident after conducting a comprehensive assessment of their functional capacity
- Prevent the deterioration of residents’ abilities to perform basic needs and activities
- Aid with basic needs and activities, if necessary
- Ensure residents have access to devices that assist in maintaining hearing and vision abilities
- Ensure residents do not develop sores
- Provide treatments to maintain bladder function
- Ensure procedures are in place to prevent accidents
- Maintain acceptable nutrition and hydration status
- Avoid significant medication errors
- Promote quality of life, dignity, and respect
- Ensure that residents have the right to make their own schedules and choose their activities
- Maintain accurate clinical records
In addition to the federal regulations, Nebraska lawmakers guarantee nursing home residents certain rights. Some of the rights, under Chapter 12 of Title 175, assured to Nebraska residents in long-term care facilities include:
- The right to be free from abuse and neglect
- The right to be free from chemical and physical restraints
- The right to care for medical, physical, mental, and social needs
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect
- The right to participate in facility activities
- The right to self-determination and privacy
- The right to be fully informed of their medical conditions, treatments, and the facility status
- The right to voice grievances
Unfortunately, many of these laws are broken by nursing home staff every single day in a variety of ways.
Recognizing Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect are quite different, but both exhibit many of the same signs and are directly caused by facility staff members failing to properly care for residents. Neglect may be intentional or unintentional while abuse is always intentional.
Below you’ll find the most common types of mistreatment, as well as some of the sign which may pinpoint that a loved one is being abused or neglected in a long-term care facility.
Physical abuse is the easiest type of abuse to recognize, given the visible signs on the body. It generally occurs when staff members hit residents, improperly use restraints, or forcefully mishandle them. Overdosing or withholding medication is also considered physical abuse.
Telltale signs of physical abuse include unexplained injuries like bruises, broken bones, cuts, scrapes, and restraint marks. If you find that you’re asking for an explanation for the injuries and can’t seem to get a straight answer or are getting brushed off, it may indicate that physical abuse is occurring.
Emotional and mental abuse occurs when a resident is ridiculed or humiliated by staff members or intimidated with naming-calling or yelling. Even being excessively ignored by staff members can count as emotional abuse.
Signs of emotional or mental abuse can vary, but will generally include sudden mood changes, noticeable signs of fear, or a sudden desire to withdraw—especially when staff members are nearby.
Financial abuse is more common in non-institutional caregiving situations, but it can and does occur in nursing homes where the residents have control over their finances. A staff member may steal from a resident or coerce them into giving them bank account information or personal property. Staff members may use a resident’s declining mental capacities to take advantage of the situation.
If you notice your loved one has items missing, has lost money recently, or there is suspicious activity on their bank statements this may be evidence of financial abuse.
The majority of sexual abuse incidents in nursing homes go unreported. Victims of sexual abuse may be forced into sexual acts with staff members or other residents or may have inappropriate photos taken against their will.
Victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes may exhibit both physical and psychological changes.
Nursing home neglect comes in various forms. When a facility is understaffed, and staff members fail to properly watch residents or provide a basic level of care, neglect occurs. An example of neglect may be when a loved one falls after attempting to get up on their own because no one helps them to the restroom. Neglect may also take the form of failing to get a resident the medical care they need or failing to keep a facility clean and safe for its residents.
Residents who are neglected are often malnourished, dehydrated, or unusually quiet. They may also have bruises or scrapes from falling or exhibit other signs of uncleanliness.
One major concern with neglect is bed sores. Residents who are bedridden need to be rotated and moved on a regular basis to prevent bed sores from developing. In a nursing home that doesn’t have enough staff to provide care for its residents, it’s likely that they will not get the attention they need in a prompt manner.
These pressure ulcers happen when an area of skin has been under pressure for a long time. Typically, bed sores develop at the back of the head, tailbone, spine and shoulder blades, and the backs of arms of legs. You can detect bed sores if you see an area of skin that has an usual color or texture, is swollen, tender, or has pus-like draining.
If left for too long, the pressure ulcer can reach muscle and bone. A doctor needs to be seen immediately if there are signs of infection like fever, drainage, swelling, if the sore smells, and an increase in redness.
Nursing home staff members must watch out for residents who wander. This is often referred to as elopement. If your loved one is prone to wandering, it’s up to facility employees to know their location and properly ensure they remain safe.
When residents wander, they can either injure themselves or others inside the nursing home, or they can get out of the home. If residents are still inside the home, they may trip and fall and need to wait for someone to find them before they get help. This problem can also happen if they get outside, but there are considerably more dangers residents can face if they leave the premises.
In hot weather, the resident will be exposed to the sun. If they’re outside for a long time, they could get sunburned. They could also suffer from dehydration, which can be deadly to seniors. When the weather is cold, the resident will likely not have proper winter clothing to keep themselves warm and could possibly get frostbite or hypothermia if they’re out for too long.
If a resident is prone to wandering, they may have memory loss issues. This could mean they’re easily confused. A resident with dementia may get lost after wandering and they won’t be able to return on their own. Falling could result in an injury that prevents them from possibly moving back toward the facility. They’ll be completely dependent on someone locating them.
If you’re worried about wandering, talk to the facility about their protocols. Are they aware of residents that are prone to wander? Does the facility have security systems that alerts them when a door is opened? Do they have enough staff to make sure they know where your loved one is at all times? A facility with answers to your questions and plans in place to keep residents safe are more likely to prevent your loved one from wandering.
There are some cases where nursing homes don’t want to take care of certain residents anymore and they abandon them at hospitals. Unfortunately, this is becoming an issue with nursing homes, especially with lower-income residents. This abandonment, or “hospital dumping,” happens when the nursing home refuses to let the resident come back.
They may not even inform you that your loved one is no longer at the nursing home. Your loved one may be confused and not have a way to get in contact with you, and vice versa. The illegal act of abandonment is reprehensible, and you can get your loved one justice if it’s happened to them.
The Impact of Elder Abuse
The impact of elder abuse negatively affects a variety of areas including physical, psychological, financial, social, and medical.
The physical implications of elder abuse in nursing home settings include persistent pain, nutrition and hydration issues, sleep disturbances, increased susceptibility to illnesses, exacerbation of current health conditions, and an increased risk of premature death.
In regard to the psychological implications, abused nursing home residents may experience higher levels of distress and depression. There’s also a risk for a greater decline in mental health and functioning.
Financial abuse impacts residents, families, businesses, and government programs. On average, financial abuse costs our senior citizens more than $2.6 billion per year.
Abused nursing home residents are likely to face increased social isolation, either due to self-withdrawal from their normal activities and habits or because of deliberate actions made by their abuser.
Elder abuse is theorized to add an addition $2.8 billion per year in Medicare hospital costs. Victims of abuse in long-term care facilities are three times more likely to be admitted into a hospital.
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
If you’re planning on placing your elderly loved one in a long-term care facility or nursing home, it’s important to inform yourself on the issues addressed above, as well as understand the steps you can take to reduce the chances of your loved one being abused.
- Consistent Contact. It’s imperative to stay in touch with your elders. Remain in contact with them regularly, so you know what’s going on. This will also increase your chances of recognizing the signs of abuse.
- Participation. Encourage your loved one to remain active and attend community events. This will encourage them to remain in high spirits and improve their overall quality of life.
- Communication. Make sure your loved one is fully informed about all their affairs, including their medical conditions and treatments, and their finances. While they may need assistance managing and understanding everything, the best way to care for your loved one is to keep them in the loop.
While you can do everything to make sure your loved one is in a safe environment, it isn’t your fault if neglect or abuse happens. That’s the fault of the nursing home and they need to be held accountable.
Finding Help for a Loved One with Welsh & Welsh
If you suspect your loved one may be getting injured or is suffering due to negligence and/or abuse in a nursing home, you should contact Nebraska’s Adult Protective Services immediately. They will be able to help you relocate your loved one to a safe environment while they investigate the claim. Never take chances with the life of a loved one. Gathering any evidence you can in the way of medical documentation and photographs of injuries and conditions at this time can also help.
After you have relocated your loved one, you will want to contact an Omaha nursing home abuse lawyer if you’re located in the state of Nebraska. Welsh & Welsh can pair you with an attorney who’s experienced in elder abuse cases and their complex nature. Together, we can fight on behalf of your loved one and ensure that steps will be taken so the residents in that facility are cared for properly.