Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
There are over 16,000 nursing homes scattered throughout the United States which collectively board over 1.5 million residents. As the population grows older and citizens live longer due to better healthcare and medical technology, the number of seniors residing in long term care facilities continues to rise. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes provide good quality care. If you suspect that your parent, spouse, or elderly relative is being mistreated or neglected by nursing home staff, it’s very important to take immediate action. There is no reason to let them suffer alone. By speaking up, you could save your loved one from serious injuries or even death. Additionally, if staff members or a medical provider has breached the proper standard of care and caused harm to a resident, the victim may be compensated for his or her losses under the laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
If you’re worried that your parent or loved one has become victim to nursing home abuse or neglect, it is critical to intervene by seeking aggressive legal representation as soon as possible. Nursing home abuse attorney Brent Wieand, founder of The Wieand Law Firm, LLC, has extensive experience investigating nursing home injury and wrongful death claims and getting justice for victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. Brent handles a wide range of accidents and injuries in elder care settings, including:
- Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)
- Broken Bones and Hip Fractures
- Financial Exploitation of Residents
- Improper Wound Care
- Medication and Dosage Errors
- Nursing Home Falls
- Nursing Home Neglect
- Sexual Abuse of Residents
- Wandering and Elopement
- Wrongful Death
The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is headquartered in Philadelphia, and serves seniors and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call Brent today at (800) 481-5206 for a free consultation about your loved one’s legal rights. The call is always confidential. Your loved one’s safety and health may depend on it.
Slip and Fall Accident Injuries
By far, the most common avoidable nursing home injuries occur when residents fall and suffer injury at the facility. Fall-related injuries can occur in a variety of ways:
- Slip and Fall – Slip and fall accidents often occur in poorly maintained long-term care facilities, especially because elderly individuals are susceptible to slipping on wet or cluttered floors. Slip and fall accidents frequently occur if spills are not promptly cleaned, or when mats are not placed by entrances during bad weather. Wet and slippery conditions are especially dangerous to seniors who may suffer from poor eyesight and balance.
- Trip and Fall – Seniors with poor eyesight and cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, are extremely susceptible to trip and fall accidents. These accidents frequently occur due to a defective condition of the facility floor, sidewalks, ramps, or stairs. Other causes include debris on the floor, loose mats, and obstacles blocking an elderly resident’s path. To protect residents from falling, nursing homes should take precautions to install fall protection devices as necessary.
- Fall from a Chair or Bed – Nursing home residents who have difficulty sleeping, or who suffer from incontinence, cognitive impairments, or chronic pain, may frequently get out of their bed or chair and wander about the facility. However, many elderly residents are designated “high fall risks” and cannot ambulate safely without assistance. It is the responsibility of nursing home staff to carefully assess each resident’s fall risk and, wherever necessary, to create a comprehensive plan to protect them from falling. Despite this responsibility, it is sadly not unusual for elderly persons to be injured by falling from a mattress or chair. Some common reasons for this include:
- Unstable chairs at the facility.
- Chairs which cannot support the person’s weight.
- Chairs that move, such as swivel chairs, which can fall from underneath residents.
- Difficulty rising from chairs without armrests. (Even chairs which do have armrests must be sturdy enough to support a person’s weight when standing up or transferring to a wheelchair.)
- Unsupervised Fall – Resident at a high risk for falling should be assisted when walking from one part of the facility to another. Nursing staff should assist residents deemed a high fall risk when walking to and from the restroom as well as throughout the facility. Residents who can ambulate without assistance should be taught safe transfer techniques. Many falls are preventable if proper precautions are taken to ensure a resident’s safety. If a nursing home resident is harmed because the facility fails to implement proper safety measures, the facility may be held liable for fall-related injuries.
Other Common Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
Accidental falls are not the only cause of injuries in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Sadly, preventable issues like pressure ulcers, mismanagement of infections, and failure to supervise residents are also widespread, despite state and federal laws which create strict safety and sanitation standards.
Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)
It’s important for concerned family members to know that bedsores are not a natural product of aging. On the contrary, they are usually preventable if proper care is taken by the nursing home and its medical staff. Therefore, if a bedsore does develop, it may indicate negligent and improper care. Generally speaking, bedsores are caused by one or both of the following issues: failure to change a resident’s sheets regularly, or failure to regularly reposition a resident who is bed bound, which is necessary to alleviate pressure and encourage a healthy flow of oxygen throughout the body. Because bedsores are caused by prolonged pressure on an area of the body, they are also referred to as pressure ulcers. A bedsore or pressure ulcer can develop in a matter of weeks, though it may take several months depending on the person. Most often, bedsores are located on bony areas of the body, such as the wrists and ankles. However, they can also develop on the back, buttocks, neck, legs, heels, or any other part of the body in constant contact with the mattress beneath. If a bedsore is not treated in its early stages, it can result in bone infections, joint infections, and skin infections called cellulitis, all of which can lead to complications of their own. In extreme cases, a pressure ulcer can cause sepsis (septicemia), a rapidly progressing, life-threatening condition which can cause organ failure, or even increase the risk for an aggressive form of squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) called Marjolin’s ulcers. Federal and state regulations require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide proper care in order to protect residents’ safety and well-being. If a facility does not meet the required standard of care, which includes taking steps to prevent bedsores, it may be held liable for the resulting harm to the victim.
Broken Bones and Hip Fractures
While anyone can break a bone, seniors are at elevated risk due to common health issues associated with aging, such as decreased bone density (osteoporosis). Bone fractures in nursing home settings can result from a number of causes, including physical abuse, being struck by poorly-secured objects, and accidental falls. In fact, according to CDC data, falls are responsible for more than 95% of hip fractures among adults aged 65 and older. The CDC also reports that roughly one in five falls among seniors will cause a bone fracture or other serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). All bone fractures are cause for serious concern, but hip fractures can be especially damaging to an elderly person’s overall health. As a study recently published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation pointed out, “Hip fractures are associated with significant morbidity, mortality, loss of independence, and financial burden. In usual care, the reported one-year mortality after sustaining a hip fracture has been estimated to be 14% to 58%.”
Dosage Errors and Overmedication
Most seniors who reside in nursing homes depend on at least one prescription medication. However, while prescription drugs are vital to the proper management of serious health conditions like heart disease and arthritis, medication can cause more harm than it prevents when administered in excessive doses or mixed with inappropriate prescriptions. Sadly, it is not unheard-of for nursing home staff to overmedicate residents or administer unnecessary sedation just for the sake of convenience. In other cases, medication errors result from careless acts of negligence, like sloppy, incomplete record-keeping, or inattention to residents’ medical records. Regardless of the underlying cause, overmedication of residents can be grounds for a lawsuit when the dosage error results in injury or death. Some medications can have debilitating side effects when taken not as directed, including seizures, cardiac arrest, hallucinations, and coma.
Financial Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Residents
Abuse in nursing homes doesn’t always involve physical violence. Financial exploitation, which essentially amounts to theft, is another common problem reported by seniors and their families. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, “Major financial exploitation was self-reported at a rate of 41 per 1,000 surveyed, which was higher than self-reported rates of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.” Financial exploitation can take many different forms, which include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Cashing checks without obtaining the resident’s explicit permission, while he or she is capable of granting such permission. This excludes getting “permission” while the resident is disoriented by medication or an episode of dementia.
- Changing the dates or dollar amounts on financial documents.
- Forging signatures on financial documents.
- Lying to, intimidating, or otherwise coercing a resident in order to obtain a signature, password, or other information.
You can help reduce the risk of financial exploitation by carefully checking your loved one’s bank statements, credit card statements, shopping receipts, and other financial records. However, if you’re worried that financial abuse is already ongoing, you should seek legal help immediately, before the problem escalates. Sexual abuse is, sadly, another common form of abuse in elder care settings. Since feelings of shame and fear keep many seniors from speaking out about sexual victimization, it’s absolutely crucial to be as vigilant and supportive as possible so that your loved one feels safe about opening up and getting help. If your loved one is suffering sexual abuse, he or she may seem unusually agitated, fearful, apathetic, or depressed. Soiled or torn undergarments are another urgent red flag.
Improper Wound Care, Infections, and Limb Amputations
Even for a young person in excellent health, an infection is a serious health problem which generally requires an aggressive course of treatment with powerful antibiotics. Because elderly persons often have compromised immune systems, prompt and aggressive infection management is even more critical. What begins as a simple laceration or toothache can rapidly escalate into a life-threatening health condition. Infection and improper wound management are particularly common in cases involving diabetic residents. Diabetes patients are at an increased risk of infections and infectious diseases, especially foot infections. If diabetes is poorly managed, an otherwise avoidable foot amputation may become necessary. When a medical professional fails to take the reasonable and necessary precautions to reduce the risk of foreseeable death or injury, and a care recipient is harmed or killed as a result, he or she has engaged in medical malpractice. Malpractice claims often hinge upon a careful analysis of the patient’s care history and medical records, as well as expert testimony from qualified medical professionals whose credentials and experience are relevant to the type of care the patient received.
Malnourishment and Dehydration
Severe, prolonged malnourishment can have devastating health consequences, especially when the victim is already suffering from an underlying medical issue, as is true of many nursing home residents. For example:
- Calcium Deficiency – Muscle spasms, numbness, hallucinations, depression
- Calorie Deficiency – Muscle wasting, fatigue, weight loss, low blood pressure
- Vitamin A Deficiency – Blindness, infections
- Vitamin B Deficiency – Fatigue, difficulty balancing, memory problems
- Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy) – Connective tissue problems, such as rashes and gingivitis
- Vitamin E Deficiency – Muscle weakness, vision problems, liver and kidney abnormalities
State laws mandate nutritional standards for nursing homes and other elder care facilities. Failure to comply with these laws may be grounds for a lawsuit against the facility in violation. Like malnutrition, dehydration can also have serious negative effects, which will usually become apparent in a matter of days. When a person is severely dehydrated, he or she might experience rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and fevers, or even enter a state of delirium or unconsciousness. Under-staffing and neglect further exacerbate these problems. Because residents frequently need assistance holding glasses, cutting up food, and feeding themselves – for example, because a Parkinsonian tremor makes it difficult to hold cutlery steady – lack of mealtime assistance can make eating all but impossible. When this is the case, malnutrition and dehydration are all but sure to follow.
Under-Staffing, Elopement, and Neglect
Unemployment is affecting all sectors of the U.S. economy, and nursing home care is no exception. Because adequate staffing is vital to the protection of residents’ personal safety, under-staffing opens up opportunities for wandering and elopement, where residents leave the facility’s premises without proper supervision. If a resident is suffering from a cognitive impairment such as dementia, he or she is at high risk of being assaulted, hit by a car, or succumbing to hypothermia or hyperthermia after becoming lost. Even if a resident doesn’t physically leave the premises, under-staffing can still cause serious harm or even wrongful death. When a nursing home doesn’t employ enough staff members to look after the needs of every resident, it is only a matter of time before a resident suffers an accident that would have been preventable with adequate care.
A wrongful death is a preventable death which occurs because a business or individual doesn’t take the normal, appropriate precautions that would be expected for the circumstances. For example, if a nursing home resident is killed after suffering a serious slip and fall accident, the death could be considered wrongful if the slip and fall was caused by an issue like substandard property maintenance or lack of adequate supervision. Not everyone has the legal authority to bring an action on behalf of a wrongful death victim. The plaintiff must be the representative of the decedent’s estate, defined as the estate’s administrator or executor. However, damages (compensation) resulting from a lawsuit will be distributed among the decedent’s spouse, where applicable, and surviving relatives, including parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings, depending on the family’s situation.
Nursing Home Malpractice Claims
The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is dedicated to serving victims of abuse, neglect, and malpractice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Brent understands how devastating avoidable nursing home injuries can be, and takes pride in giving nuanced legal advice and careful attention to each and every client. Attorney Brent Wieand has the experience and skill needed to handle all aspects of even the most complex nursing home injury claims. Brent works tirelessly to uncover the evidence nursing home defendants try to hide, which often involves sorting through stacks of patient records to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack.” Brent also consults with highly qualified medical experts to help build your case. For a free and friendly no-obligation consultation, call The Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (800) 481-5206 today. Brent practices throughout all of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is proud to serve Berks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, as well as the New Jersey areas of Pennsauken, Gloucester and Camden. Brent works on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing upfront and won’t be charged unless your case is successful.
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