Things lawyers should know about nursing home abuse

Things lawyers should know about nursing home abuse

Taking care of the elderly can be challenging, which is why many Americans trust nursing homes to take care of their aging relatives. Unfortunately, many elders experience abuse in such institutions, leading to physical injuries and long-term psychological harm. In extreme cases, such abuse even results in death.

According to the World Health Organization, two in three staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities admitted to committing elder abuse in 2020. The number of nursing home abuse cases is expected to rise further as many countries experience rapidly aging populations.

If your client suspects their loved one was wrongfully harmed in a nursing home, that loved one may be entitled to compensation in order to cover their medical expenses and other damages. As their lawyer, you need to know the following so you can help them win a lawsuit or collect a settlement.

What is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse is a violation of trust through an act — or a failure to act — that harms an resident. Such abuse can come in different forms:

  • Neglect – resident does not receive standard care, such as food, housing, proper hygiene, medicine, or timely medical diagnosis and/or treatment
  • Financial – theft or misuse of a resident's money or property or deception to give up property or money
  • Emotional – subjecting a resident to verbal or psychological torment, such as yelling, name-calling, humiliation, social isolation, mocking, intimidation, manipulation, and threats, that causes mental anguish
  • Physical – any form of violence against a resident, which can result in bruising, cuts, burns, or even death
  • Sexual – nonconsensual sexual contact, such as unwanted touching or rape, with a resident

What are the telltale signs of nursing home abuse?

If your client thinks their loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse, ask them to look for these telltale signs:

  • Bruises, cuts, bedsores, or other wounds that are unexplained or appear to be inflicted by restraints
  • Unexplained fractures, dislocations, or internal injuries
  • Poor personal hygiene or unkempt appearance or clothing
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Sudden changes in behavior, such as becoming withdrawn, agitated, or noncommunicative
  • Signs of depression, anxiety, fearfulness, or confusion
  • Reluctance to talk about the nursing home, their care, or their staff
  • Unexplained genital infections or sexually transmitted diseases

What steps should you take when handling a nursing home abuse case?

First, advise your client to remove their loved one from the abusive situation. If the elder is in imminent danger or the abuse is in progress, then your client should contact 911 or the local emergency number to get the authorities involved immediately.

Next, instruct your client to report the abuse to law enforcement agencies, the Department of Social Services, and Adult Protective Services. They should also request medical screening to get an expert’s opinion about the injury or overall mental or physical health of the elder. Doing these steps will generate documentation that will help prove the abuse.

Afterward, discuss your client’s legal options — whether through settlement or trial verdict — to claim compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills acquired due to the abuse
  • Mental pain and suffering
  • Finances lost to financial abuse
  • Cost of moving the victim to a new nursing home, if necessary
  • Cost of wages your client lost due to managing their loved one’s medical needs after the abuse

For your client to receive compensation, you must be able to prove the abuse using clear and convincing evidence.

How can you prove nursing home abuse?

If your client suspects their loved one has suffered abuse, they should compile as much evidence as they can, such as:

  • Photographs of the elder’s visible injuries (e.g., bruises, contusions, broken bones) or other signs that indicate abuse (e.g., weight loss)
  • Journal entries kept by the elder or close family members related to the nursing home’s staff or treatment, if any
  • Notes on personal observations of the elder’s physical or emotional conditions kept by family members
  • Notes on relevant conversations with the elder or staff (e.g., their explanation for the bruises)
  • Psychiatric reports and other medical records of the elder that may indicate abuse
  • Financial and property records of the elder that may show financial abuse
  • Ombudsman complaint records filed against the nursing home and their outcome
  • Statements confirming the abuse from witnesses, such as other residents, family members of other residents, and staff of the nursing home
  • Past inspections conducted by the state, which may prove that the nursing home has a record of violating state requirements

Read also: 5 Common medical record challenges law firms experience

With all the documentation required, successfully claiming compensation for nursing home abuse can be challenging. Fortunately, you can partner with Record Retrieval Solutions so you can get medical records quickly, letting you settle claims and cases faster. Contact us to get started.