Nursing homes are supposed to be safe havens for the elderly and the infirm. They should be secure, comfortable places where our parents, grandparents, and others can live their golden years in peace. When we make the decision with our loved ones that a nursing home is the best option, we trust that the staff will treat our loved ones in the best way possible. Unfortunately, in some nursing homes, individuals prey on the sick, the old, and the unattended for their own personal gain. More often than not, the actions of these individuals go unchecked. If you believe that an elderly loved one has been abused, contact a Silver Spring, MD, nursing home abuse attorney immediately.
Nursing homes often will not believe allegations that abuse has occurred, and there is not always a straightforward way to prove it, because of the nature of how the homes are run. When a resident has been abused at the hands of a staff member, it can be easily covered up. Unfortunately, the patient’s word does not always outweigh the word of the staff member simply due to the fact that the patient may not be very mentally stable.
You may be the only one who suspects that a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse. Even so, you should not ignore the suspicion. Laws exist to protect nursing home residents from those who selfishly would do them harm. Legal issues regarding nursing home care fall into three primary categories: abuse, neglect, and medical malpractice.
Federal laws define nursing home abuse as “willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish.” The key to an action being considered abuse is whether or not there was intent behind it. Everyone, including nursing home staff, can have accidents or unidentified consequences to their actions, especially when they are working with patients, such as the elderly, whose physical states are much more fragile than those of younger patients.
There are a few different common forms of abuse, such as mental and physical abuse, assault and battery, unnecessary restraint, and sexual assault. Another common form of abuse happens when a staff member gives the patient drugs that have not been medically approved. Not everyone who works with a nursing home patient is a doctor; if a staff member is not a doctor, he or she cannot prescribe new medications. If a resident needs a new form of medication, that person must get a prescription from a doctor, just as one would do if he or she were not living in the nursing home.
Deprivation of medical care, nutrition, and other necessities is another form of abuse. Many residents at these homes cannot care for themselves when it comes to eating, bathing, or keeping up with medication. This is very often the reason that people choose to enter a home in the first place. They expect that someone will be there to help them take care of these things. When a nurse or staff member does not show up one day to help a resident eat his or her meals, it is likely that the resident will go the entire day without eating. This same process occurs with medication and bathing as well. When a patient enrolls in a care program, that patient is paying for these services, and if a staff member does not attend to them professionally, this can be considered abuse.
Another unfortunate occurrence in nursing homes is neglect. Abuse implies that the care provider had the intention to harm the victim; neglect, on the other hand, is more a lack of care. Nursing home employees are required by law to provide the same level of care as any other reasonable caregiver would provide in the same position. Failure to do this is a violation of federal law. There is an unfortunate outlook on the elderly—especially the sick—that they do not need as much care, or that their care is not as important since they do not have much life left to live. This is a common outlook that can cause neglect. With neglect, those at fault may not notice that they have this outlook, but it affects their actions, ultimately negatively affecting the patient.
There is a lot of “dirty work” that goes into caring for the patients at a nursing home, and although the staff knew what they were getting into when they took the job, these unappealing tasks can often go undone, resulting in neglect. Some common results of this outlook include dehydration, malnutrition, failure to prevent infection, failure to prevent bedsores, abusive use of restraints, and failure to alert doctors when a medical problem exists.
Medical malpractice is the third most common form of the overarching term of nursing home abuse. Medical professionals in the United States are held to a particular standard of care. A doctor, for instance, is expected to hold to the standards of a “similarly situated reasonable doctor.” When a medical professional fails to meet this standard of care, he or she is guilty of malpractice.
Sadly, medical malpractice is a common occurrence in nursing homes. This extensive and complex area of legal practice is discussed in more detail on our medical malpractice page.
If you or a loved one believes that there has been a case of nursing home abuse, do not hesitate to call DuBoff & Associates, Chartered today. We care about each and every one of our clients, and we will not sit back and let the abusers go unpunished. We believe that everyone should be happy every moment of their life, no matter how many moments they may have left.
We are available any time. These worries about your loved ones do not get put on hold after 5 p.m., so neither should you. Contact an experienced Maryland attorney today.