Pennsylvania and New Jersey have strict laws about nursing home abuse. Federal requirements from the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of ’87 and state regulations from the Pennsylvania Department of Health provide for resident rights that each nursing home must honor. These laws prohibit the abuse or mistreatment of a resident and require facilities to treat residents with dignity and respect. When nursing homes fail to obey these laws, a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA can help seek justice by filing a civil lawsuit against the nursing home and its owners.
Statistics about Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is unfortunately a common reality in our nation’s nursing homes. Numerous studies demonstrate that elder abuse in nursing homes occurs much too frequently and puts our nation’s seniors at risk. A nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA trusts at the Wieand Law Firm is all too familiar with the serious impacts of nursing home abuse. Some statistics about nursing home abuse include:
- A June 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that while abuse is often under-reported, abuse citations more than doubled from 2013 – 2017.
- Abused elders are 300% more likely to suffer premature death
- Residents with dementia have a higher rate of abuse than residents without dementia
- Nearly one-third of nursing homes across the United States have been cited by federal regulators regarding failure to meet resident care standards. Of these violations, 10% caused serious harm to the resident.
Nursing Home Abuse Laws
Section §483.12 in the State Operations Manuals states that a resident has the right to be free from abuse, neglect, misappropriation of resident property, and exploitation. This includes but is not limited to freedom from corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion and any physical or chemical restraints not needed to treat medical symptoms.
Additionally, a facility must not employ an individual who has been found guilty of abuse or neglect, or had a finding registered on the nurse aide registry or professional licensing board for abuse. This means that facilities must perform background checks on employees to assure resident safety. The facility must provide competent oversight and monitoring to ensure the implementation of these policies and protection of the residents.
According to a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA depends on for negligence cases against care facilities, each nursing home must have written policies on abuse that include:
- Screening – nursing homes must screen potential employees for a history of abuse or neglect. This screening also applies to volunteers and contract staff.
- Training – nursing homes must train on abuse prevention, identification, and signs of abuse, and reporting. Also required is training of management of behavioral symptoms.
- Prevention – A facility must establish a safe environment, identify, and correct situations that may induce abuse, and provide services to assure that residents are free of neglect and receive access to the care and services they require. This category includes a requirement that facilities provide trained, qualified staff on each shift in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the resident.
- Identification – A facility must have procedures to help staff identify abuse and neglect, including indicators and outcomes that may point to abuse as having occurred.
- Investigation – A nursing home must investigate all allegations of abuse; identify and interview alleged perpetrators, witnesses and victims; and provide complete and thorough documentation of the investigation.
- Protection – A nursing home must act immediately to protect abuse victims, keep them free from retaliation from reporting the abuse, and provide emotional support as needed.
- Reporting – facilities must have policies that outline steps to report the alleged violations, including to state agencies, adult protective services, and law enforcement as required.
If you are considering a nursing home abuse lawsuit, it’s essential to hire an attorney who is well-versed on federal and state regulations governing these facilities. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA depends on at the Wieand Law Firm.
Elder Justice Act
Sometimes, an alleged act of abuse, neglect, or misappropriate of property and exploitation is considered a suspicion of a crime. In these cases, nursing homes have additional reporting obligations. Nursing homes have obligations for reporting crimes under “Reporting Reasonable Suspicion of a Crime in a Long-Term Care Facility: Section 1150B of the Social Security Act. Covered individuals under this act include owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, or contractors of the facility. Examples of abuse that would likely qualify as a crime includes assault, sexual abuse, theft, identify theft, and drug diversion.
The Elder Justice Act applies to nursing homes that receive federal funds. Covered individuals are required to report reasonable suspicion of a crime against any resident in the facility and file reports to both the Department of Aging and local law enforcement.
What is Considered Abuse in a Nursing Home?
Nursing home abuse is defined as the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment that results in physical harm, pain, or emotional anguish. Abuse also includes deprivation of good or services that residents need to maintain their wellbeing. Abuse is general broken down into several categories, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and financial exploitation.
Sections §§1819(c)(1)(A)(ii) and 1919(c)(1)(A)(ii) of the Social Security Act confirm that each resident has the right to be free from abuse. A nursing home is required to provide a safe environment and protect residents from abuse. When a facility fails to prevent abuse, consult a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA turns to for legal representation in a nursing home negligence case.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Physical abuse is the intentional, reckless, or negligent infliction of pain or bodily harm on a resident. Examples of physical abuse may include slapping, pinching, kicking, punching, and the use of physical or chemical restraints.
Sexual abuse includes non-consensual sexual contact that is perpetrated by force, threat, or a resident’s incapacity. This type of abuse can include unwanted sexual advances, show residents pornography or explicit images, posting pictures of resident’s bodies and genitalia on social media, sexual assault, or rape.
A common type of nursing home abuse, emotional abuse is the inflection of anguish or pain through verbal or non-verbal acts, such as verbal assaults, threats, humiliation, intimidation, isolation and harassment. Examples of emotional abuse include threatening residents to isolate them from their families, making fun of a resident’s physical challenges, or cursing at residents when they can’t remember instructions.
Financial exploitation occurs when an individual steals a nursing home resident’s funds or property. This can look like stolen credit cards or coercing resident to sign checks or documents.
Neglect / Deprivation of Goods and Services
Neglect occurs when a facility fails to provide the good and services to a resident that are needed to avoid physical harm, pain, mental anguish, or emotional distress. Neglect can be due to insufficient staffing, lack of training, lack of supplies, or unwillingness of the staff member to assist the resident. Examples of neglect include:
- A nurse aide is too busy to help a resident who needs physical assistance transferring to the toilet. After waiting for an extended period for assistance, the resident attempts to transfer themselves to the toilet, falls, and breaks a hip.
- The nursing home fails follow the plan of care for dressing changes to a pressure ulcer. As a result, the ulcer worsens, and the resident requires an amputation.
- A resident is not provided with the necessary assistance during mealtimes. As a result, the resident loses weight, becomes malnourished, and suffers severe health problems.
A nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA counts on can help residents and their families that have been harmed by abuse or neglect. Our team of trial attorneys stands up for victims who were needlessly harmed at the hands of a negligent care facility.
Who Are Perpetrators of Nursing Home Abuse?
The most common perpetrators of abuse in nursing homes are staff members. Nursing homes are responsible to keep residents safe from abusive staff. They are also responsible to keep residents safe from abuse from other parties, such as visitors, vendors, and other residents.
Facility staff are frequent perpetrators of nursing home abuse. Nursing homes have the responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of every resident on their care. Staff members, particularly those who are undertrained, overworked, or suffering from burnout, commit abuse when they lash out physically or verbally at residents. It is never acceptable for an employee to abuse a resident physically or verbally, even as a “knee-jerk reaction.” Staff members also commit abuse when they neglect to provide the necessary care and services.
Examples of Staff to Resident Abuse Include:
- A nurse aide who strikes a resident to induce acceptance of care
- A RN who threatens to withhold medications if the resident doesn’t get dressed
- An activities assistant who isolating a resident from attending social activities
- A LPN who conducts unwanted intimate touching of a resident during care
Nursing homes care for diverse populations. Some residents that live in nursing homes may have behavioral problems that impact other residents. Sometimes, these behavioral issues are so severe that they result in abuse of other residents. A nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA trusts has seen many cases in which one resident has physically or sexually abuse another residents causing serious harm.
According to a 2018 report from the National Center of Victims of Crime, 22% of nursing home abuse complaints are regarding resident-to-resident abuse. Sadly, a 2020 focus group study about elder abuse and neglect showed that many care managers perceived resident-to-resident aggression as “a normal part of nursing home life” and so commonplace that it was perceived as normal with no strategy for handling it. This attitude toward resident-to-resident abuse is wholly unacceptable and intolerable.
Some nursing homes will try to defer blame for these incidents, citing that the aggressive resident has a cognitive condition, such as dementia or mental illness, and is unaware of their actions. While this might be true, it does not excuse the nursing home’s responsibility for preventing resident to resident abuse. Nursing homes that accept physically or sexually violent residents into their care must measures in place to assure they don’t harm others. Contact PA nursing home law firm if your loved one suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of another resident.
Vendors and Contractors of residents may gain access to residents and perpetuate abuse. Nursing homes that fail to screen visitors and protect residents from harm may be liable if a vendor abuses a resident.
The nursing home is required to protect the resident from abuse from visitors. While we would like to believe that all of a resident’s visitors would have their best interest in mind, this is not always the case. A nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA depends on understands that in some cases it is a family member or friend that acts abusively towards the resident. Ultimately, it is the nursing’s homes responsibility to protect the resident from abuse from any party, including visitors. A nursing home may have liability if they fail to prevent resident abuse from visitors.
Facility Characteristics That Increase the Risk of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can occur to any resident in any nursing home. However, certain nursing homes are more prone to resident abuse. If your loved one’s nursing home has one or more of these characteristics, keep a careful eye out for any signs of resident abuse.
Chronic staffing problems
Nursing homes that chronically understaff their facilities place their residents at higher risk of abuse. Staff members who are over-worked and stretched too thin frequently experience burnout. High levels of burnout and stress can cause staff to act abusively towards residents.
Understaffed facilities are also prone to resident neglect. Even well-intentioned staff cannot provide adequate patient care when they are required to care for an excessive number of residents.
Unfortunately, understaffing is pervasive throughout the nursing home industry. Some nursing homes struggle with turnover and are unable to retain qualified staff. Other nursing homes purposely limit staffing to unsafe levels to save on expenses and increase profits.
Nursing homes that fail to adequately train their staff on nursing home abuse, abuse prevention, abuse reporting, and the facility’s abuse policies may be liable when nursing home abuse occurs and harms a resident. This training should be conducted for all new staff members and at least annually for existing staff members. A nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA relies on will investigate your claim and determine if inadequate training caused your loved one’s injuries.
Negative Attitudes Toward Residents
Family members who initiate a nursing home negligence case often have similar complaints regarding facility staff members. Overwhelmingly, nursing homes where staff have a negative attitude toward residents have a greater number of complaints that nursing homes with a supportive, resident focused approach. A study of nurse aide attitudes demonstrated that role ambiguity, role conflict, and burnout were significantly associated with attitudes condoning abusive behavior.
Facility Policies Favor the Nursing Home, Not the Resident
Nursing homes with strict policies that favor the institution and not the resident may be at greater risk of resident abuse. Care policies should be directed to have the resident at the center of everything the nursing home does. This means that policies should support care individualization and personalization. Oppositely, facilities with rigid policies that center on nursing home efficiencies may ignore resident needs and put them at greater risk of abuse.
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
When a loved one enters a nursing home, we expect that they will be provided with quality care. However, this does not always happen. If you suspect abuse, it’s critical to speak up and not let suspected abuse to continue unchecked.
You do not need to be “certain” or “have proof” of abuse to request an investigation. A suspicion of abuse is enough to request that the situation be fully explored for potential abuse. Take the following steps to handle a suspicion of abuse:
- Remain calm and rationale. The goal is to protect your loved one and ensure their safety. Maintain a level head, control your temper, and communicate professionally.
- Speak with nursing home management, such as the Administrator, regarding your suspicions of abuse. Be sure to describe your concerns in detail and request their assistance to investigate and resolve your concerns.
- If your loved one can communicate, speak directly with them about the situation. Even residents with some cognitive deficits can often communicate their concerns to a degree.
- Take notes and follow-up with any verbal concerns in writing. This will help provide a trail of information if you need to bring your concerns to other authorities or to a PA nursing home law firm.
- Contact the police if you suspect a crime has occurred or if you believe your loved one is in ongoing danger. Elder abuse is a crime.
- Report suspected elder abuse or neglect to regulatory agencies that govern the facility. Each nursing home is required to post the contact information for a local Ombudsman who is responsible to ensure that nursing home concerns, including abuse, are investigated. If you are not sure who to contact, call the National Center on Elder Abuse at 1-800-677-1116.
- Consult a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA trusts at the Wieand Law Firm. Your loved one is entitled to protection from abuse. They may also be entitled to compensation for their injures
How to Report Abuse in a Nursing Home
If you believe that your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, it’s important to speak up and help protect them. Reporting can vary from state to state, but below are helpful infographics on steps you can take to report abuse in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. All states have laws that prevent the facility from retaliating against you or your loved one for a report of abuse. Additionally, a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA trusts can help advocate for your family and make sure that your loved one’s rights are upheld. Below are some quick guides you can use to report nursing home abuse in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
Can I File a Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit?
Yes. If your loved one suffered serious harm from nursing home negligence, you can seek file a lawsuit to seek compensation for their injuries. The Wieand Law Firm is a PA nursing home law firm that dedicates its practice to personal injury cases, including a focus in nursing home negligence cases.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit?
A nursing home negligence lawsuit is a type of personal injury lawsuit. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the statute of limitations is two years for personal injury cases. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA trusts to learn how the statute of limitations may affect your claim. Remember, if wait too long to file your claim, you may lose your eligibility for compensation.
How To Find the Best Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer in Pennsylvania?
When searching for the best nursing home negligence lawyer for your case, consider a few things:
- Does the lawyer have experience in nursing home litigation?
- Do you want a firm that gives your case personal attention and priority?
- Does the law firm have positive testimonials from satisfied clients?
If answering “yes” to these questions is important to you, consider talking with a nursing home abuse lawyer Philadelphia PA counts on at Wieand Law. Our attorneys have a great deal of experience in nursing home neglect lawsuits. We also strive to build professional relationships with our clients and gain their trust. Call 215-666-7777 or send us a message via the online form to speak directly with an attorney.