Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
We trust nursing homes to take good care of the people we love. Unfortunately, nursing homes do not always deliver the high quality care that they advertise. Serious violations regularly occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These violations can cause illnesses, infections, injuries, and even wrongful death.
If you suspect that your parent, grandparent, or elderly relative is being abused or neglected by nursing home staff, it’s very important to take immediate action. By speaking up now, you could save your loved one from serious harm or death. Additionally, financial compensation may be available for the victim’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, medical bills, and other losses.
To talk about your New Jersey or Pennsylvania nursing home injury claim in a free legal consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (800) 481-5206 today.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse Cases Our Philadelphia Law Firm Handles
There are over 16,000 nursing homes scattered throughout the United States. Together, these facilities board more than 1.5 million residents. As the U.S. population ages, and citizens live longer due to better healthcare and medical technology, the number of seniors residing in elder care facilities will only continue to rise.
Sadly, not all of these facilities meet their duties to keep residents safe from harm. If you’re worried that your parent or loved one has fallen victim to nursing home abuse or neglect, it is critical to intervene by seeking aggressive legal representation as soon as possible. Philadelphia nursing home neglect attorneys at the Wieand Law Firm have extensive experience investigating nursing home injury and wrongful death claims and getting justice for victims. We handle a wide range of nursing home injury and wrongful death cases, 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
Based in Philadelphia, we handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including but not limited to Andover, Athens, Bayville, Beaver Falls, Broomall, Camden, Cherry Hill, Cranford, Egg Harbor Township, Erie, Frackville, Freehold, Hamilton Square, Keansburg, Ligonier, Linwood, Manahawkin, Mercer, Mifflintown, Mount Laurel, Nanticoke, Old Bridge, Passaic, Pennsauken, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Susquehanna, Toms River, Troy, Wellsboro, West Chester, and more.
If your relative resides at a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home, and you suspect that abuse or neglect has occurred, our law firm may be able to help. Contact us immediately for a free consultation.
Who is Liable for Nursing Home Fall Injury Compensation?
By far, the most common avoidable nursing home injuries occur when residents fall at the facility. Nursing home falls are usually preventable. Some common causes of avoidable falls include:
- Nursing Home Slip and Fall – Slip and fall accidents often occur because elderly individuals are susceptible to slipping on wet or cluttered floors. Injuries can happen if spills are not promptly cleaned, if residents are not assisted while bathing or showering, or if mats are not placed by entrances during bad weather.
- Nursing Home Trip and Fall – Similar to accidental slips, these accidents frequently occur due to debris, hazards, or obstacles on the floor, ramps, or stairs. To protect residents, nursing homes should monitor seniors and install fall protection devices as necessary.
- Nursing Home Falls from Chairs or Beds – Nursing home residents who suffer from insomnia, incontinence, cognitive impairments, or chronic pain may frequently get up and wander about the facility. However, many elderly residents are designated “high fall risks” and cannot move around safely without assistance. It is the responsibility of nursing home staff to carefully assess each resident’s fall risk and, wherever necessary, create a comprehensive plan to protect them from falling. Despite this responsibility, it is not unusual for elderly persons to be injured by falling from a mattress or chair.
- Negligent Supervision – Nursing home residents often need assistance when walking to and from restrooms, dining areas, and throughout the facility. Understaffing often results in disaster when residents are left to fend for themselves.
Many falls are preventable if proper precautions are taken to ensure each resident’s safety. If a resident is harmed because a nursing home facility fails to implement proper safety measures or sufficient staffing, the facility may be held liable for fall-related injuries.
Common Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Though very common, nursing home falls are not the only causes of injuries in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Preventable issues like pressure ulcers and mismanaged infections are also widespread, despite state and federal laws which create strict safety and sanitation standards. Some common warning signs of abuse and neglect in nursing homes are described below.
Nursing Home Hip Fractures
While anyone can break a bone, seniors are at elevated risk due to decreased bone density, poor balance, and other effects of aging. Nursing home bone fractures can result from a number of causes that give rise to injury liability, including:
- Accidental Falls
- Object Strikes
- Physical Abuse
Pelvic fractures (hip fractures) are especially common. According to CDC data, more than 95% of hip fractures among adults aged 65 and older are caused by falling. 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.
All bone fractures are cause for concern, but a broken hip in a nursing home can place an elderly person’s health in extreme jeopardy. The following quote is excerpted from a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation:
“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%.”
Nursing Home Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)
It’s important for concerned family members to know that bedsores, also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, 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 develops, it may indicate nursing home negligence.
Generally speaking, bedsores are caused by one or both of the following issues:
- Failure to change a resident’s sheets regularly.
- 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.
A bedsore can develop in a matter of months or even weeks. They are typically located on bony areas of the body, such as the wrists and ankles, but can also develop on the back, buttocks, neck, legs, heels, or any other part of the body that is 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 even cause sepsis, a rapidly progressing, life-threatening condition which can cause organ failure.
Overmedicating Nursing Home Residents and Dosage Errors
Most seniors who reside in nursing homes depend on at least one prescription medication. However, while prescription drugs are vital to managing serious health conditions like heart disease and arthritis, medication can cause more harm than it prevents when administered in excessive doses, or dangerously mixed with other medications.
Sadly, it is not unheard of for nursing home staff members 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.
Overmedicating residents in nursing homes may be grounds for a claim or lawsuit if used to sedate restless residents, or if it causes serious injury or death. Some medications can have debilitating side effects when taken not as directed, including:
- Cardiac Arrest
- Failure to Thrive
Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
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, including the following:
- Cashing checks without the resident’s permission, or 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.
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is, sadly, another common form of abuse in senior care settings. Since feelings of shame and fear keep many seniors from speaking out about victimization, it’s 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 in a nursing home, he or she may seem unusually agitated, fearful, apathetic, or depressed. Other red flags include soiled or torn undergarments and bruising around the thighs, lower stomach, buttocks, and/or genital area.
Improper Care for Diabetes and Infections
Even for a young person in peak health, an infection is a serious problem that usually requires an aggressive course of treatment with powerful antibiotics. Because elderly people often have compromised immune systems, aggressive management of infections and illnesses is even more critical.
Infection and improper wound care are particularly common in cases involving diabetic residents. Diabetes patients are at an increased risk of developing infections and infectious diseases, especially foot infections. If diabetes is poorly managed because of neglect or malpractice, an otherwise avoidable foot amputation or leg amputation may become necessary.
Dehydration and Malnourishment in Nursing Homes
Severe, prolonged malnourishment or malnutrition 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. Examples include:
- 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 create mandatory nutritional standards for nursing homes and other elder care facilities. Failure to comply with these laws may be grounds for a lawsuit if malnutrition leads to illness or death.
Like malnutrition, dehydration can also have serious negative effects. When a person is severely dehydrated, he or she might experience:
- Low Blood Pressure
Under-staffing and neglect are often to blame for these problems. Many residents need physical assistance holding glasses, cutting up food, and feeding themselves. In other cases, seniors with cognitive disorders require encouragement and help. If individualized attention is not provided to at-risk residents at mealtime, malnutrition and dehydration are almost sure to follow.
Nursing Home Neglect in PA and NJ
Adequate staffing is vital to resident safety. When facilities do not hire enough staff members, there are more opportunities for neglected residents to wander around and get hurt inside the facility, or even wander off the premises completely.
If a resident is suffering from a cognitive impairment such as dementia, he or she is at very high risk of being assaulted, mugged, hit by a car, or succumbing to hypothermia or hyperthermia after becoming lost. Even if a resident doesn’t leave the premises, lack of supervision can still result in serious harm or wrongful death.
Nursing Home Wrongful Death in NJ and PA
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 considering the circumstances. For example, if a nursing home resident is killed in a fatal slip and fall accident, the death could be considered wrongful if the slip and fall was caused by a preventable issue like substandard property maintenance, or lack of supervision of residents.
Not everyone has the legal authority to bring an action on behalf of a wrongful death victim. The plaintiff usually must be a beneficiary or representative of the decedent’s estate. An attorney can help you determine who has the legal capacity bring a wrongful death claim and set up an estate. If a claim wrongful death claim is successful, any compensation awarded will either be distributed according to the decedent’s will, or among relatives as determined under the state’s intestacy law.
Nursing Home Malpractice Claims
When a doctor, nurse, or medical professional fails to take reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of foreseeable death or injury, and a patient is harmed or killed as a result, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit or claim. Many “nursing home malpractice” claims are really “medical malpractice” claims that occur at a long term care facility.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania malpractice claims against nursing homes often hinge on 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. Our nursing home malpractice attorneys understand the complexities that arise in these cases, and coordinate with medical experts to see that malpractice claims are investigated thoroughly.
Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Handling Neglect Claims for Seniors
The Wieand Law Firm is dedicated to representing the victims of abuse, neglect, malpractice, sexual predation, and financial exploitation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes. We understand how devastating nursing home injuries can be, and takes pride in giving legal advice and careful attention to our clients.
We work 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.” Our firm also consults with highly qualified medical experts to help prove your case.
For a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation, call the Wieand Law Firm at 1(800) 481-5206. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing up-front and won’t be charged unless your case is successful.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*