Nursing Home Abuse: What to Look For

There are currently over 3.2 million adults living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the United States. While most of these elders are well cared for, many become victims of abuse. In fact, about 1 in 6 nursing home residents may be the victim of abuse or neglect every year. Additionally, about 1 in 3 nursing homes have been cited for violations that had the potential to cause harm to its residents. Sadly, about 10% of all nursing homes have violations that caused actual harm, serious injury, or placed a resident in jeopardy of death. There are many different types of elder abuse including, but not limited to, physical, emotional, and sexual.

If you have a parent, grandparent, or loved one who is currently living in a nursing home or long-term care facility and you are worried about abuse or neglect, there are a couple of signs to look for. According to Zavodnick, Zavodnick, & Lasky, LLC, some of the tell tale signs of nursing home abuse are a sudden decline in health, unexplained bruises or markings on skin, bedsores, and visible cuts on the body. Nursing home abuse is also especially harmful to the patient’s mental health. If your loved one has become reclusive or refuses to speak, eat, or take medications they may be a victim of abuse. Some victims of abuse will not show physical or emotional symptoms, so it is also important to observe the relationship between your loved one and their caregiver at the nursing home facility.

Preventing elder abuse includes three steps: listening to seniors and their caregivers, intervening when you suspect abuse, and educating others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.

The Most Prevalent Cases of Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligence in nursing homes refers to failure on the part of nursing home staff to provide the type of care necessitated by residents (proper care depends on each resident’s specific needs).

The most prevalent cases of neglect in nursing home facilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of proper care. Bedridden patients and those who spend many hours in wheelchairs are the most often victims of this type of neglect. Being unable to move, a patient can develop bedsores and other ailments if not repositioned after from time to time.
  • Failure to properly manage medication. Improper medication management by nursing home staff members can be potentially fatal for some patients. Some of the ways through which this type of neglect can be committed include: ignoring medication orders; incorrect time, duration, or rate of elder medication administration; incorrect medical product, strength of product, or form of product; medication overdose; and medication dose omission or under dose.
  • Malnutrition: Failure to provide meals or meals that have the right amount of nutrients can lead to health issues for some patients.
  • Isolation: This happens when a patient is forgotten or purposely left alone by restraining him/her, isolating him/her from others or by keeping others away from him/her.
  • Dehydration: This happens due to failure to ensure proper liquid intake.

Three major contributory factors to acts of negligence and abuses in nursing homes are understaffing, negligent hiring and failure to provide those hired with adequate training about nursing home care. Despite total awareness (by nursing home facility administrators) of these contributory factors, more than 90% of nursing homes in the U.S. remain to be understaffed, those with criminal records continue to be hired, and may of those hired are not given any training at all.

When your neglected loved ones in nursing homes suffer serious or fatal injuries you can pursue legal action not only against the perpetrator of the abusive acts or acts of negligence, but also against the owner and/or administrator of the facility for failure the keep his/her facility free from any injurious treatment.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

The brain is undoubtedly the most important organ in the body. From it emanates emotions, judgment, thoughts, and others. Any violent blow or jolt in the head can lead to serious injuries or even paralysis. 1.4 million Americans suffer from traumatic brain injury annually. An Indianapolis brain injury attorney will tell you that such injuries can have a long-lasting and life-altering effect on an individual.

A mild traumatic brain injury can cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells. The more serious ones can cause bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and other physical damage to the brain which could lead to long-term complications or even death. The symptoms of traumatic brain injury may not show up until days or weeks after the injury. People with moderate or severe TBI may experience the following symptoms:

  • A headache that gets worse or does not dissipate
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Unable to awaken from sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms and legs
  • Dilated eye pupils

The Mayo Clinic classifies the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries into the following:

  • Loss of consciousness that lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • If there is no loss of consciousness, TBI is accompanied by a state of being dazed, confused, or disoriented
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping more than the usual
  • The individual feels dizzy or experiences loss of balance
  • The person with brain injury may also experience sensory symptoms which may include:
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Change in the ability to smell
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Cognitive or mental symptoms may include the following:
  • Difficulty in memory and concentration
  • Mood changes or swings
  • Depression or anxiety

When your head suffers a blow or violent action, it is recommended to see the doctor right away. If there are signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injury, seek emergency medical care.

On Wrong Diagnosis and Medical Negligence

On the first sign of medical issues, people do not have second thoughts as to where they will go for consultation and treatment. We put a great deal of trust on our doctors that they will provide us with optimal care. Medical professionals are held at an exceptionally high standard of professional responsibility. Unfortunately, there are instances when the people we look up to for professionalism commits serious mistakes that put the life of their patients at risk.

One of the common practices that can cause harm or injury to a patient is wrong diagnosis. It is defined as an inaccurate diagnosis of a medical ailment. Also known as misdiagnosis, there are several factors that can result to misdiagnosis. For instance, a doctor identifies a medical condition in patient that has no such ailment. Wrong diagnosis is a kind of medical malpractice. According to the website of Russo, Russo & Slania, PC, it can have serious or life-threatening repercussions on the patient.

As medical malpractice is always based on the theory of negligence, is a doctor being negligent when he wrongly diagnosed a patient? A misdiagnosis on a simple medical issues is a case of negligence. However, this is not the case when a doctor gives a wrong diagnosis on a complex medical issue. There are conditions that are hard to diagnose as they could be suggestive of a variety of conditions. When an individual complains of stomach pains, there could be several conditions causing it such as ulcer, diverticulum, and Stage IV colon cancer.

So in determining the liability of a doctor for wrong diagnosis, you have to prove that this error of the doctor caused additional harm to you. If you are able to prove that the doctor indeed erred in not giving the proper diagnosis, there is a chance that you could recover damages which may include medical expenses and pain and suffering.

What Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Can Do for Debtors

After the Great Recession of 2008-09, many Americans found themselves in financial crisis – the nationwide effect of mass lay-offs, reduction in income, underemployment and prolonged unemployment. Adding to these were other factors which contributed to the worsening of an individual’s financial situation, such as hospitalization, injuries due to an accident, natural calamity and divorce. All these factors can result to successive failures in paying monthly bills, including mortgage, personal loans, car loan, child support, alimony or spousal support and credit card bills. Due to lapses in payment debts only keep on getting bigger so that settling everything becomes an impossible task.

The pay of millions of wage earners in the U.S. is just enough to cover their basic needs and afford them a simple life style. Loss of job or reduction in pay, even for just a month, can very well be the start of a crushing debt crisis for them. This debt crisis, however, will not be the only source of pressure and stress which they will suffer. After only about three months of continuous lapses in payment of their loans, banks would already consider their loans as bad debts; a major reason for their account to be referred to a collection agency which never shy away from using hounding tactics just to make them pay. This means people calling any time of the day, especially during the late hours, receiving calls even at work and informing other workers about their debt, receiving emails, text messages, and/or letters/notices from law firms. Some collection agencies even go to the extent of requesting the court for garnishment of a debtor’s monetary compensation (until the entire debt is paid) or for a bank levy, which is the freezing of a debtor’s bank account.

Having debts, however, regardless of how big it is, does not need to be a cause of worry to debtors due to the Bankruptcy law, the government’s way of helping people find ways to pay their debts and, so, regain control of their financial situation. This Bankruptcy law or Bankruptcy Code was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1978; it replaces the Nelson Act or the Bankruptcy Act of 1898. There are various chapters under the Bankruptcy Code, one of these is chapter 7, also called Liquidation bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy chapter most commonly applied for, is specifically designed for individuals who have properties, but whose income falls within the limit set by the chapter. Under this chapter, a debtor will need to surrender his or her “non-exempt” properties for liquidation. If the surrendered property is a business firm, he or she will also have to cease operation of such firm. Included in the list of non-exempt properties are a vacation home or a second house, bonds, stocks, cash, and other forms of investment. Properties that may not be surrendered (“exempt” properties) include a house, clothing, necessary household appliances, a vehicle or vehicles but only up to a certain value, personal injury compensation, tools, including expensive musical instruments, that are necessary to the debtor’s trade or profession, and jewelry (up to a certain value).

All properties to be liquidated are to be under the charge of a court-appointed trustee. After the trustee has paid all the debts that need to be paid (these are called “non-dischargeable” debts), such as spousal support, child support, government-imposed penalties, court fees, student loan, debts resulting from wrongful death or personal injury, and taxes that are not more than 3 years old since they first became due, the remaining amount (if there is any) will have to be returned to the debtor. Creditors, on their part, will have to accept whatever legally determined amount they are paid, even if this amount falls short of what is actually owed them. This means that they will have to forgive the debtor of any remaining balance and waive their right to make any more collection or payment or suffer severe penalties under federal law.

As mentioned in a website named Ryan J. Ruehle Attorney at Law, LLC, “Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers the near-total liquidation of all debts that an individual may hold, giving those who pursue this option the ability to start their financial life anew.” Many people, however, find Chapter 7 quite complex due to all the legal issues it contains. A bankruptcy lawyer, in this situation, may be the best person who can help debtors understand all these legal issues, and analyze if this is the specific bankruptcy chapter which will best address their financial crisis.

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