Choosing a nursing home for loved ones does not come easy to many families, as they may find it challenging to find a facility they can trust to provide quality care.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) highlights data from the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) that may explain why families are concerned. According to NORS, in 2014, 7.6 percent of roughly 188,599 complaints (14,258) to Ombudsman programs involved different types of abuse in facilities for seniors.
Many spouses, adult children, and other family members place their loved ones in nursing homes because they do not have the ability to provide around-the-clock care for them. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to care for each patient as their specific needs require. Not responding to a patient’s call in a timely manner or ignoring it altogether can lead to serious injury or illness and may constitute neglect.
The Rights of Nursing Home Patients
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 (NHRA) laid out precise guidelines regarding the quality of care in nursing homes and federal compliance regulations. In doing so, it also detailed the services nursing homes must provide for their residents, as well as residents’ rights, which include the right to:
- Freedom from all forms of mistreatment, including physical restraints
- Communicate with staff and have autonomy in making decisions for themselves
- Receive treatment with dignity and respect
- Accommodation of all medical, physical, and social needs
- Participate in their own care plan and voice concerns without the threat of retribution
How the Law Defines Nursing Home Negligence
The NHRA explains negligence as it applies to a nursing home setting, where it can occur either directly or indirectly. Neglect involves the failure to provide care for a patient in a way that would prevent the patient from experiencing pain of any kind or failing to respond to a potentially harmful situation.
Intentional neglect occurs when staff members purposely ignore patient needs, while accidental neglect often results when nursing homes fail to hire or schedule an adequate number of employees or do not train staff to properly care for patients. Examples of neglect in a nursing home include:
- Incorrect positioning of the patient in bed, which can lead to bedsores and other medical issues
- Failure to help the patient with basic needs, such as hygiene, eating, drinking, and walking
- Failure to help the patient participate in social activities
- Failing to respond to a patient’s call for help
In addition to federal regulations, states have laws that regulate nursing homes and outlines the duties and responsibilities of caretakers in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
Potential Consequences of Not Responding to a Patient’s Call Urgently or at All
Many nursing home patients have special needs that limit their ability to care for themselves. Whether age or disability requires them to seek assistance for certain needs, a nursing home’s staff has an obligation to provide them with the help they need, and when they need it. If they leave the patient to manage their care alone, especially after the patient calls for help, medical emergencies may occur.
Development or Prolonging of an Illness
According to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, nursing home residents experience pain regularly. When nursing home staff does not reply to the calls of patients, they may continue to suffer preventable or treatable pain.
Many nursing home patients suffer from illness, as well, and certain chronic conditions require urgent care to prevent instances of acute distress from worsening. The decreased immune response of elderly patients may also leave them susceptible to infection, especially those that spread rapidly in residential care settings, without appropriate staff response times.
Unassisted Mobility Can Cause Injuries
If patients who need to use the restroom, change their garments, or take care of other personal needs do not receive a timely response to their calls, they may attempt to take care of the issue without help. These cases can result in slips and falls, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports often lead to hip fractures and brain injuries in older people.
Nursing Homes Must Meet Staffing Requirements
Despite federal and state nursing home staffing regulations, a Reuters article highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic uncovered staffing issues in nursing homes throughout the United States.
Many patients and their families think nursing home patients did not receive an adequate level of care throughout the crisis. Reuters reported that a 2020 federal survey found that more than a quarter of nursing homes reported “shortages of direct-care staff during at least one of the two last weeks in May.”
Facilities have an obligation to adhere to staffing regulations, especially during times that require increased protective measures for nursing home patients. They can face legal accountability if they fail to meet them.
Victims and Their Families Can Contact an Attorney for Help
If nursing home staff have repeatedly failed to respond to calls for help in a timely manner or have consistently ignored requests for assistance, a nursing home abuse lawyer can help you hold them responsible for their negligence and seek financial awards for the harm to your loved one.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 842-6336 to discuss your free case evaluation with our legal team.