Austin Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
At some point in our lives, we may have parents or grandparents who are no longer capable of caring for themselves. For many of us, it is not practical for them to live with us, so we look to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide our seniors a safe and caring environment. An entire industry is devoted to caring for the elderly who need assistance in hygiene, nutrition, medical care and companionship with other seniors.
While a number of these facilities are well-maintained and administered, too many are understaffed, unsupervised, or have ill-trained or incompetent personnel. As a result, the elderly residents suffer from abuse and neglect. If you have a loved one whom you suspect is a victim of nursing home negligence, contact an Austin attorney at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP to discuss your situation.
How Prevalent is Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing homes are heavily regulated by federal and state laws. These regulations include standards that must be met such as staffing numbers, health and safety requirements.
According to a number of studies, over 90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed, meaning that not every resident’s needs can be timely provided for, if at all, and many residents are left on their own during much of the day. Other statistics are more alarming, with 33 percent of nursing home facilities in America having been cited for abuse or other related infractions.
Texas facilities are no exception, with at least 30 percent having been cited. Further, there are about 12,000 complaints of nursing home abuses reported in Texas annually, though many go unreported for a variety of reasons. Also, inspections of Texas nursing homes have revealed that 94 percent did not meet the US Department of Health and Human Services recommended staffing levels.
Almost one-fourth of staff cited or prosecuted for elder abuse have criminal records. Elder abuse crimes in Texas are treated as felonies, but this has obviously not prompted nursing home facilities to tighten its screening and hiring practices.
What is Nursing Home Negligence?
A nursing home has a duty to provide adequate medical and other care to residents. Their standard of care is set forth in federal and state statutes. Nursing home negligence is also any act or omission by the facility or its employees in which a resident is not provided a safe and clean living environment or their physical and mental health needs are not met. This includes physical abuse such as hitting or slapping a resident, sexual assault, lack of medical care and inappropriate methods of restraint.
Examples of Nursing Home Negligence
There are numerous examples of nursing home negligence or abuse, including the following:
Improper Administration of Medication
Incompetent or overwhelmed staff often overmedicate or under-medicate residents. Some staff are unable to read or decipher directions, opt to keep the drugs for themselves, or place false entries in the resident’s record.
Most complaints of nursing home negligence unfortunately involve instances of physical neglect and outright physical harm. These include signs of bedsores, broken limbs, dehydration, bruises from being hit or from restraints, head injuries, drug overdoses, malnutrition and poor hygiene.
Frustrated staff may lash out at residents who refuse to eat or take their medications due to dementia or other mental difficulties. Many injuries result from falls sustained from being too tightly restrained, dropped or from the lack of bed rails.
Sadly, sexual assault or injuries from inappropriate contact is not uncommon. Signs are bruising in the genital and abdominal area, venereal disease and torn clothing.
If you notice that your loved one is constantly depressed, listless, aggressive, is apprehensive around staff or does not want to engage in activities, these could be signs of serious neglect and abuse. Verbal abuse of other residents, teasing in a cruel manner or insulting residents is mental abuse and possibly indicative of other types of abuse or neglect.
Unclean Facilities and Rooms
If you notice that the facility is unclean, has foul odors, soiled bedding, and residents are wandering around unattended to or dressed inadequately, it is a sign of serious neglect throughout the facility.
Understaffing is the most common infraction and complaint. Without enough staff, not every resident’s needs and care can be provided for and the opportunity to cut corners and to hire incompetent personnel who are more likely to abuse residents increases. Other issues of understaffing include:
- Misuse and poor training of nursing aides.
- Lack of staff supervision.
- History of mistreatment of residents.
- Insufficient staff at certain hours of operation.
- Inadequate cleaning of the facility leading to the spread of infections and disease.
Other issues of abandonment, exploitation, and inattention to particular resident needs are more prevalent when the staff is poorly trained, not monitored and overworked.
The Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA)
All residents in nursing homes have certain rights that are protected by federal legislation as embodied in the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1987. Your loved one has the following rights:
- Freedom from abuse, mistreatment and neglect.
- Freedom from physical restraints.
- Right of privacy.
- Right to accommodation of medical, physical, mental and social needs.
- To be treated with dignity.
- To communicate freely.
- To exercise self-determination.
- To participate in the review of their care plan and to be informed in advance of changes in care, treatment or change in status of the facility.
- To voice grievances without reprisal.
Also, residents must be given a care plan and have access to nursing, pharmaceutical and social services.
Though OBRA allows the US Department of Health and Senior Services to bring legal action against a facility for violations of federal standards, you can also bring a private right of acton.
Nursing Home Negligence Litigation
If you suspect abuse or negligence, you should take the following steps to try to remedy the situation or to be prepared in anticipation of litigation:
- Ask for explanations from a staff supervisor or Director.
- Meet with a local ombudsman to make inquiries.
- Take detailed notes of your observations of the home and your loved one, including discussions with identified staff members and their responses.
- Have your loved one examined by your own physician.
- Report your complaint to the Department of Disability and Aging Services.
- Or, make a complaint to Adult Protective Services.
What is more important is to seek consultation from one of our nursing home negligence attorneys at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP. Our law firm will review the nursing home’s documents including the nursing home’s chart and the resident’s entire medical history from a number of sources, which may include numerous hospitalizations. Other vital records include incident reports, nursing notes, doctor’s orders, care plans, and intake and outtake records. The family physician may also provide the pre-admission medical status of the resident that may be compared with the resident’s health after admission or removal from the facility.
Interviewing family members about the resident’s health, habits and mental status is also essential. In some cases, finding and interviewing former employees of the facility can offer insight on policies and procedures at the facility. Once the records and witness testimony are obtained, an expert in nursing home care may be retained to render an opinion whether the practices of the home fell below the accepted standard of care. You can recover medical expenses, pain and suffering and punitive damages in many instances. If a professional malpractice claim is brought, your noneconomic damages may be limited.
The attorneys at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP have over 50 years of experience in obtaining justice and compensation for our injured clients. We are committed to helping you recover the maximum compensation to which you are entitled under the law. When someone else’s negligence has caused personal injury or the death of someone you love, call our law offices at 512-271-5304 for a no cost, no obligation consultation.