The House Committee on Government Reform – Minority Office reported that, by 2050, the number of Americans in need of nursing care will rise from 1.6 million to 6.6 million. Considering that over half of the nursing homes in the United States are currently understaffed, it seems inevitable that the epidemic of nursing home negligence and abuse will only continue to grow and affect innocent victims and their families.
Over time, most families are faced with difficult decisions regarding the care of loved ones who can no longer properly care for themselves due to age or infirmity. If you suspect that someone you love has been victimized, a nursing home abuse lawyer from our firm, serving Scranton, Milford, and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, has the experience and compassion to help your family in its time of need. It is vital that you seek help even if you are unsure whether or not abuse or negligence has occurred. At Foley Law Firm, we are able to help you assess signs of abuse and will honestly advise you as to the merits of your case. Should we handle your case, we will work with trusted professionals in the medical, psychological, and other relevant fields to present the strongest case possible. Our nursing home negligence attorneys in our Scranton, Milford, and Stroudsburg offices will work tirelessly to ensure that the parties responsible for your loved one’s suffering are made to answer for their negligent or wrongful acts. We proudly assist families from throughout Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania, including communities such as Hamlin, Scranton, Stroudsburg, Allentown, Hazleton, and Wilkes-Barre. We also handle cases from residents of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Easton, and Pittsburgh who are in need of exceptional legal assistance on behalf of their loved ones. We are active members of the AAJ Nursing Home Litigation Group and have access to the leading experts in the nation. Please contact one of our attorneys to look into your case.
How to Recognize Signs of Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse
If you have entrusted the care of someone you love to a nursing home, it is important that you visit the premises frequently and carefully monitor changes in your loved one’s behavior, health, and physical appearance. Because many elderly people suffer from physical or mental impairments, they are particularly susceptible to threats and manipulation; quite often, they are simply unable to articulate their suffering in comprehensible terms. In many cases, only the vigilance and quick action of the elderly person’s family prevent further abusive and negligent acts from taking place.
Nursing home abuse can assume many possible forms, including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as the theft of money or other goods, deliberate overmedication, and the undue use of chemical or physical restraints. While abuse is intentional, nursing home negligence arises from a facility’s inability or failure to provide care according to a reasonable standard, leading to unintended, but often severe, harm. As with abuse, nursing home negligence embodies a range of wrongful acts, including the failure to properly administer medication or to adequately monitor the whereabouts of residents.
Some signs of nursing home negligence or abuse are more apparent than others; for example, unexplained bruises, cuts, and burns are all clear indicators of possible physical abuse. However, in many cases, the signs are more subtle, including shifts in the victim’s behavior or an uncharacteristic hesitance to speak to family or friends. If your loved one has exhibited any of the following signs of negligence or abuse, please contact our nursing home negligence attorneys and nursing staff in Pennsylvania for more information or to arrange an evaluation of your case:
Changes in Physical Appearance
The most obvious signs of nursing home abuse are sudden, unexplained changes in physical appearance. Be particularly attentive to cuts, scars, bruises, swelling, burns, welts, and other signs of injury that cannot be adequately explained by either your loved one or the nursing home staff. Often, these marks are in telling locations; for example, marks on the neck indicate the possibility of strangulation, while marks on the legs may be the result of forced sexual activity.
Pressure sores, including decubitus ulcers, or “bed sores,” are among the most common physical signs of nursing home negligence. Other common indicators of neglect include signs of malnutrition, including rapid weight loss; signs of dehydration, including severe dryness of the mouth and tongue; and the appearance of scalding, which often results from a failure to properly supervise the resident’s activities. Likewise, an unhygienic appearance may indicate a failure on the part of the nursing home to assist with washing, grooming, changing of clothes, and other aspects of the resident’s hygiene regimen.
Changes in Behavior/Unusual Behaviors
While gradual changes in behavior can certainly occur with age, sudden, radical changes in behavior are often indicative of nursing home negligence or abuse. In some cases, these changes can result in a complete reversal of the resident’s “normal” behavior: a lively, talkative person may suddenly become sullen and withdrawn, while a quiet, good-natured person may become aggressive and hostile. Less overt signs of negligence or abuse can include uncharacteristic requests to be left alone, the sudden inability to express or show emotions, and volatile displays of temper or cruelty toward friends and family. You should also pay close attention to unusual physical behaviors, such as rocking, scratching, biting, pacing, or sucking. Such unexpected changes in behavior are possible indicators of emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse; they can also result from nursing home negligence, including the failure to administer proper medication and otherwise attend to the resident’s needs.
One of the behaviors most common to elders is “wandering,” which is a tendency to roam without any destination or purpose. Residents known to wander must be handled with extreme care and delicacy by the nursing home staff. Improper supervision of the resident can lead to serious injury or even death, particularly if the resident wanders off the premises. However, nursing homes may not resort to undue force or extreme measures in controlling this behavior. They are not permitted, for example, to confine residents to the rooms against their will or use physical restraints or chemical sedation simply to prevent wandering. Such actions can be considered abusive.
Changes in Health
Unreported or untreated illnesses, injuries that require emergency care, and accidents resulting in broken bones or fractures are all strong indicators of nursing home negligence, as well as possible abuse. Other health-related indicators include an extreme loss or gain of weight, lack of access to medical services, undue use of chemical sedation, and generally unsanitary conditions.
Tragically, many victims of nursing home abuse or negligence die as a result of the nursing home’s inability to provide appropriate care. In such cases, our nursing home negligence attorneys in Scranton, Milford, and Stroudsburg may file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the victim’s family. In order to bring a successful wrongful death action against a nursing home, it is necessary to show that the death was caused by an act of negligence or abuse, or could have been prevented if the nursing home had taken proper precautionary measures. Deaths for which nursing homes may be held liable include those that result from lack of supervision, such as drowning, injuries sustained while wandering, and slip and fall injuries. Nursing homes can also be held liable for deaths resulting from medical negligence, such as the failure to provide care for a known condition, the failure to act promptly to treat an emergency condition, and the inadvertent choking of a resident with a feeding tube.
Listen to Your Loved One
Above all else, listen to your loved one’s complaints, fears, and expressions of sadness, anger, or discontent. Take seriously any reports of being hit, pushed, sexually harassed, or otherwise mistreated by the nursing home staff or other residents. Likewise, pay careful attention to explanations—or lack thereof—provided by staff members as to changes in your loved one’s health, behavior, medication, and physical appearance. It is better to act on your instinct and seek professional legal assistance than to risk allowing potential abuse or neglect to continue.
If I Suspect Nursing Home Negligence or Abuse,What Is My Next Step?
If you suspect that your loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence or abuse, please contact a qualified attorney immediately for the answers you need to proceed. Whether you decide to retain our services or not, our experienced nursing home negligence attorneys and registered nurses in Scranton, Milford and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, will answer any questions you might have and provide a no-obligation evaluation of your case. Foley Law Firm is the only firm in Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania to have a full-time board-certified medical doctor on staff, and we are dedicated to helping preserve the rights and dignity of those who have been wrongly harmed by the negligence of others.
If you would like to arrange a consultation with one of our compassionate nursing home negligence attorneys serving Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley, please contact Foley Law Firm today.