Certain risk factors increase the chance that a nursing home resident will suffer abuse. Families of residents at these facilities should be aware that even lower-risk residents could potentially suffer from abuse and neglect.
If you know or suspect that someone is abusing your loved one in his or her nursing home, you must act immediately. Get them to safety and contact an attorney who specializes in this practice.
Risk Factors of Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes
The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that more than seven percent of the complaints received by Ombudsman programs in 2014 involved abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Several factors contribute to the problem.
According to Catherine Hawes, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Rural Public Health at Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities experience a higher risk of abuse for several reasons.
Certain limitations, like chronic diseases, impose physical and cognitive challenges making residents more dependent on staff, who are responsible for providing on medical care, food, medicine, and help with basic activities.
Fear of retaliation also prevents many victims from reporting abuse or neglect.
Common Resident Characteristics that Increase Risk of Abuse in Nursing Homes
Hawes reports that many studies have examined the nature of nursing home residents in an effort to identify the characteristics that make them more susceptible to abuse or neglect. The research focuses on investigating the possibility that loved ones, who currently live in these facilities, will experience abuse or neglect. The research also highlights the risk factors of nursing home abuse that families should consider when choosing a nursing home for their loved ones:
- Age: Older residents are at higher risk of abuse.
- Race: Non-white residents are more likely to suffer abuse.
- Physical and cognitive abilities: Cognitive impairments like dementia expose residents to a greater risk of abuse.
- Dependence of staff: The more dependent a resident is on staff for the care, safety, and protection, the greater the resident’s risk is for abuse.
- Physical aggressiveness: Aggressive residents pose a higher risk of suffering from staff abuse.
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Risk Factors Connected to Staff
Staff shortages and inadequate training contribute to abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
Staff shortages are a common and significant problem in nursing homes. When a facility does not employ enough staff to manage and care for patients, employees experience higher stress levels. Combined with low wages and the high turnover rates this industry experiences, facility staff are more likely to lash out to residents, due to fatigue, frustration, or burnout.
State aide registry agencies believe that inadequately trained certified nursing assistants (CNAs) play a large role in the high incidence of nursing home abuse and neglect. Some respondents explained that many CNAs do not understand how their actions may constitute abuse.
Many respondents agree that facilities do not train their CNAs on how to efficiently handle aggressive or combative residents who may be suffering from a psychiatric illness or cognitive impairment. These untrained staff often believe that the residents’ actions are intentional. The CNAs react defensively, commonly resorting to rough treatment of the residents. However, the respondents reported that these reactions occur mostly when staff are overworked and tired.
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Facility-Related Risk Factors
The staff-related risk factors of nursing home abuse can be traced back to the facility and its management. A facility’s management is responsible for hiring decisions, ensuring appropriate staff-resident ratios, scheduling, and training.
Other abuse and neglect risk factors are related to the nursing home facility itself. These factors include:
- A history of violations and/or abuse.
- Lack of an abuse prevention policy.
- Poorly maintained/updated facility.
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Taking Legal Action Against a Nursing Home for Abuse
If you believe a loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect from the nursing home staff where they reside, you are entitled to take legal action.
The federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987 specifies that in order to receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid, a nursing home must be safe for the residents who live there. Federal regulations dictate that all nursing home residents are entitled to live free from abuse of all types—emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal.
When a nursing home fails to abide by these federal or state regulations, you may have the right to take legal action against the facility in the form of a civil lawsuit.
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Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Will Fight for Your Rights
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm accepts nursing home abuse and neglect cases of all types. When you hire our firm to handle your case, we will explore your legal options while protecting your rights.
As your legal representatives, we will:
- Gather evidence from a private investigation of your loved one’s abuse or neglect
- Calculate your damages, including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses
- Keep you updated on the progress of your case
- Negotiate with the nursing home’s insurance provider for a settlement
- File a lawsuit on your behalf if the insurer fails to agree to a settlement
- Represent you at trial in court
If your loved one passed away as a result of injuries they sustained from abuse or neglect at the nursing home where they resided, you have the right to pursue a wrongful death action. Our attorneys can help you.
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Underlying reasons and explanations for nursing home abuse will always exist, but they do not excuse abuse or neglect. Look for signs and follow your instinct if you believe that your loved one could be at risk of abuse or neglect. If you believe abuse is occurring or did occur, seek legal help.
Call a nursing home abuse lawyer at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free case review at (800) 842-6336.