Nursing homes across the United States hold 1.5 million elderly people, and with the Baby Boomer population approaching retirement, that amount is expected to significantly grow over the next few decades. Yet, nursing homes and similar care facilities, even with current patient loads, are understaffed and operating within a limited budget, and as a result, neglect and abuse are widespread.
In 2008, according to a CBS News report, 3,500 nursing homes were cited for poor care. Out of this amount, 500 had patients that were injured or died because of neglect or abuse.
A further ramification of overworked employees is “false charting,” or falsified medical records claiming treatments were administered when, in fact, the patient was neglected. For the adult making sure an elderly parent is in good hands, this practice can make proving negligence a far more difficult task.
Look for Signs
The signs of abuse and neglect are many. On the extreme end, with bruises and more apparent physical signs, are assault, battery, and rape. On the other, less apparent side are physical and chemical restraint methods not prescribed to a patient, as well as emotional abuse, isolation, ignoring a patient’s needs, and withholding food, water, medication, and basic care.
Neglect, in many cases, can be just as serious as abuse. Malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores, and infections can all result from a lack of standard care. In extreme cases, regular neglect has been attributed to patient deaths.
Speak with Staff and Keep Records
When an adult checking on an elderly patient notices any of these signs, the first step to filing a nursing home negligence lawsuit is addressing the administrative staff. In well-managed homes, the administrative personnel will identify the employees and resolve the situation; however, an overworked staff can correlate with widespread negligence, and a complaint, in this case, is meaningless.
An adult filing a complaint is advised to keep a record before contacting an attorney. Make note of all signs of abuse and neglect; when the signs first appeared; who you spoke with at the home and when; their response, and if any actions were taken.
Contact a State Agency or Attorney
The next step is contacting a state agency responsible for elderly care. In many cases, this is the Department of Health, or to find the exact agency, contact the Attorney General or Adult Protective Services. A case worker will then be appointed. If your complaint gets to this step, keep in mind that any agency or lawyer must be located in the state where the home operates.