Placing a loved one in a nursing home is not easy. Though a family can make every effort to try to find the best available facility, problems can develop that lead to elder abuse or neglect. Although older people often experience a natural decline in health, family members must evaluate nursing home care when an elder experiences unexpected health issues. This includes falls, injuries, pressure sores, malnutrition, and other ailments.
Here are five things to consider when deciding whether or not to sue a nursing home facility over a family member’s illness or injury that may be related to the nursing facility’s lapse of quality care or abuse. These can also serve as guidelines for consulting an elder care attorney to gain a better understanding of your loved one’s legal rights. An attorney can also arrange for a doctor to visit and perform relevant examinations and tests to help clarify if the nursing home may be responsible for a patient’s negative change in medical status. If so, a lawsuit may be warranted.
- Unexplained injuries. Nursing home residents who show evidence of bruises, internal or external pain, or a shift in mental status should be thoroughly evaluated by a doctor for a diagnosis and proper treatment.
- While residents can sometimes fall or bump a limb unobserved, good nursing care will check residents daily for changes of this type.
- Injuries that cannot be satisfactorily explained by nursing staff should arouse suspicion on the family’s part and be further investigated.
- It is imperative to find out why the nursing home is unaware of the cause of the injuries.
- Sudden mental change or physical decline. Abrupt changes in the resident’s emotional status may signal that an alarming event occurred or that there are general problems in routine nursing care.
- Older people who become agitated, lethargic, apathetic, or depressed could be experiencing the effects of medication or adjustment to their circumstances.
- Physical problems involving mobility, communication, or toileting, along with other possible issues, could be signs of problematic nursing staff care. If these changes occur unexpectedly, nursing home issues may be at the root of the problem.
- Elder complaints. Loved ones who are able to comprehend their surroundings and who can communicate clearly can often explain problems in nursing home care.
- Improperly prepared food, inappropriate touching, and other issues may be reported to family who should follow up for details and nursing home accountability.
- Residents who are not given enough water to drink or who are not taken to the bathroom often enough, resulting in an accident, can provide helpful information as to when and how often these abuses occur.
- Staff or resident warnings. Sometimes nursing home staff will subtly or directly warn family members about a facility problem that may impact the wellbeing of the loved one who is a resident. For example, staffing shortages are a red flag that residents may not be monitored adequately.
- Staff reports of disease outbreaks, like head lice or tuberculosis, may not necessarily indicate a nursing home breach of duty, but should alert family members to check on these conditions to ensure their loved one is cared for properly.
- Other residents can also inform family members of a loved one’s mistreatment. Their comments should be followed up on to ensure the loved one’s safety.
- Family observations. Family members should try to visit resident relatives in nursing homes and keep an eye on care and conditions.
- Residents who are improperly dressed, not groomed, or who wear soiled clothing should be noted.
- A loved one who does not receive help with meals or encouragement to participate in social activities, if he or she is able, may indicate a problem.
Although it can be difficult to find clear evidence for a loved one’s breach of care, information that comes from sources like those above should be thoughtfully analyzed and discussed with an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse to determine if a lawsuit should be filed. Contact an experienced attorney such as the Nursing Home attorney DC locals trust.
Thanks to authors at The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn P.C. for their insight into Elder Abuse Law.