Choosing a nursing home for a spouse, parent, or other loved one can take financial, mental, and emotional tolls on the family. Families want the best possible care for their loved one, and ensuring they can trust a facility to provide all of the patient’s necessities and make them feel at home can present a challenge. Unfortunately, family members cannot always see what happens behind closed doors. When nursing home staff fail to check on patients regularly to meet their needs, patients often suffer the dangerous effects of abandonment.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), over half of nursing home staff members who participated in a study admitted to abusing patients, and neglect accounted for two-thirds of those instances.
Rights of Nursing Home Patients
Federal law protects nursing home patients against abuse and neglect, as the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 established the current standards of care for nursing home patients. This legislation outlines their entitlements, which includes freedom from all forms of mistreatment and the right to receive treatment and care that respects their dignity, privacy, and needs.
When nursing homes do not meet these basic care requirements, their failure to prevent harm may constitute neglect. According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, neglect occurs when nursing home staff fails to conduct frequent checks on nursing home patients to ensure they meet their needs, which include assistance with:
- Bathroom and hygiene needs
- Eating and drinking
- Activities and hobbies
- Urgent calls for help
Dangers of Failing to Check on Nursing Home Patients Regularly
Although it does not have the immediate impact of physical abuse, the gradual effects of neglect can have a serious influence on the health and well-being of patients. Nursing homes exist to provide care for those who cannot care for themselves, and when left on their own, patients often develop preventable medical conditions that may lead to serious complications or even death.
Medical Conditions Caused by Neglect
Many patients in nursing homes already suffer from chronic illnesses, and as they age, their immune strength continues to decrease. This makes it easy for them to acquire certain illnesses and more difficult for them to fight them off on their own. Nursing home abandonment, including failure of staff to provide the appropriate medications, may make patients more susceptible to prolonged illness and the development of related complications.
Patients who suffer neglect and abandonment in nursing homes often experience bedsores, which occur as a result of constant pressure on a concentrated area of the body. These sores, also known as pressure ulcers, continue to progress without treatment and can lead to severe pain, infection, and sepsis. Other medical conditions that may result from nursing home neglect include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Mental health problems
Increased Risk of Patient Injuries
If a nursing home staff does not respond to a patient’s calls, the patient may attempt to change position, use the bathroom, or seek out help on their own. If the patient has limited mobility, this can lead to falls, which often cause serious injuries in the elderly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 million older adults suffer falls each year. Of those, 3 million result in injuries, and 30,000 result in fatal injuries. Nursing home staff has an obligation to check on patients regularly to make sure they have what they need and respond to their calls for assistance in a timely manner.
Federal Law Prohibits Nursing Home Understaffing
When the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, they included staffing guidelines for registered and licensed nurses. Additionally, each state and the District of Columbia have their own requirements in place for sufficient, licensed, and/or direct care staff established to suit the needs of their nursing home populations.
When families of nursing home abandonment victims discover their loved one’s neglect, the nursing home may attempt to blame understaffing for the shortcomings in the provision of their care that lead to the illness or injury of the patient. While some cases of negligence do occur because the facility failed to hire enough staff, this excuse does not hold weight in court, as federal and state regulations strictly prohibit the practice.
An Attorney Can Help Families Hold the Nursing Home Responsible
Even after reporting claims of neglect to nursing homes and state agencies, victims and their families may struggle to hold the facilities accountable for the harm they caused. In these instances, a nursing home abuse lawyer can help families and their loved ones gather the appropriate evidence to prove liability and seek financial awards for their injuries and losses, which may include recovery for:
- Medical bills
- Reimbursement for facility living costs
- Legal fees
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
If you suffered harm or lost a loved one due to the failure of nursing home staff to conduct frequent wellness checks and ensure quality care, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help you determine if you have a case. Contact us today at (800) 842-6336 to speak with our legal team about your free case evaluation.