Placing a loved one in a nursing facility is never easy. Not only does it often feel for us like the “least bad” option for caring for an aging family member, our loved ones frequently perceive it as an unwanted restriction on their independence and a sign of having limited time left. We should never have that emotional pain compounded by the realization that nursing home staff or residents have abused or neglected our loved one. And yet, it happens.
Though highly regulated by the Long Term Care Division Of The Virginia Department Of Health, nursing homes throughout the Commonwealth fail to provide a minimum standard of care on a troublingly-frequent basis.
A story in The Virginia Pilot recently reported “multiple violations” of standards of care at Virginia nursing homes, including major deficits in the provision of medical services and in protecting residents against physical, mental and sexual abuse, physical punishment, and neglect.
If you fear a loved one has fallen victim to abuse or neglect at the hands of nursing facility staff or other residents, then schedule a consultation with a member of our team of experienced nursing home abuse attorneys. Call our Tappahannock office at (804) 445-1507 to learn more.
Nursing Home Abuse Takes Many Forms and Has Many Signs
The National Center on Elder Abuse categorizes nursing home abuse into the following subtypes:
- Physical harm;
- Sexual harm;
- Emotional/psychological harm;
- Financial harm; and
The key to spotting signs of nursing home abuse is to visit a loved one regularly and to notice sometimes-subtle changes in your loved ones’ physical and emotional condition and support system. For example:
- Declining personal hygiene;
- An increased lack of self-esteem, or unusual emotional swings;
- Unexplained bruising or other injuries;
- Frequent, unannounced changes in nursing facility staffing;
- Complaints; and
- Emergent medical conditions.
Of course, these are not the only conditions that could signal an abusive situation. As a rule of thumb, at Emroch & Kilduff we urge anyone with a loved one in a nursing facility to follow their instinct. If something feels “off” about the conditions or atmosphere in a nursing facility where a loved one resides, then report it to staff or seek the advice of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
Virginia Nursing Home Abuse Reporting Laws
Virginia’s mandatory reporting law requires the following individuals to report abuse occurring at a nursing facility:
- Anyone licensed, certified, or registered by health regulatory board (except for veterinarians);
- Mental health care providers;
- Emergency medical care personnel;
- A guardian or conservator of an adult residing in a nursing facility;
- Nursing facility employees and contractors; and
- Any paid care provider.
Although the law requires these persons to report suspected abuse, that does not mean others can’t also do so. Anyone who observes an abusive or neglectful situation in a nursing home has at least a moral or ethical obligation to report it. As they say in policing, “if you see something, say something.”
Evidence Suggests Nursing Home Abuse Goes Underreported
A recent report from the U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services Office Of Inspector General suggests that despite mandatory reporting laws like the one above, nursing home abuse too-frequently goes unreported. According to the report, as many as twenty percent of emergency room visits by Medicare recipients may have their origins in neglectful or abusive conditions in a nursing facility—a far higher number than officially-reported cases would indicate.
What explains this mismatch in the data? Nursing home staff may cover up incidents of abuse and neglect, due to fear of losing their employment or licensing. That is why it is so important for family and friends of nursing home residents to raise concerns when they have them.
Violating Resident’s Rights Can Amount to Abuse
In addition to physical and emotional violations, nursing facilities and their staff can face sanctions for violating state laws that give certain rights to Tappahannock nursing home residents, including:
- Rights to access to state records of a nursing home’s performance;
- Rights to participate in decision-making about care and to raise concerns about conditions at a facility;
- Rights to determine when the resident can be discharged;
- Rights to freedom from abuse and neglect;
- Rights to freedom from unnecessary physical or chemical restraints;
- Rights to doctor-patient confidentiality and confidentiality of medical records; and
- Rights to privacy, dignity, and respectful treatment.
In the 39 years we have represented Tappahannock families in connection with nursing home abuse claims, we have seen nursing home residents harmed in a wide variety of ways, including:
- Lacerations, and bruises;
- Under- and over-medication;
- Malnutrition; and
- Assaults by staff and other residents.
If your family member has experienced any injuries while residing in a nursing home, contact our Tappahannock office at (804) 445-1507 for a no-cost evaluation of your case. We are conveniently located at 900 South Church Lane.
Holding Violators Accountable
The most important thing to do if you suspect abuse or neglect in a nursing home is to report it immediately. If your loved one is in acute distress, call first responders. Nothing is more important than your loved one’s health and safety.
Outside of acute or emergency situations, start by raising your concerns with staff. If their reaction does not satisfy you, consider speaking with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney from Emroch & Kilduff. We can help you explore and investigate your suspicions, and to decide whether and how to make a complaint to the authorities, or to seek compensation through the civil legal process.
You and your loved one may have the right to recover damages for, among other things, the costs of relocating to a new facility and for your loved one’s pain and suffering.
Our Tappahannock Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Can Help
At Emroch & Kilduff we have been helping victims of nursing home abuse hold their abusers accountable since 1970. There is no cost for a consultation with our team. Call our Tappahannock office at (804) 445-1507 to schedule your appointment.