Nursing Home Abuse

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Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes are places where we like to think our aging relatives go to be cared for in their golden years.  We place our trust in strangers, hoping that they will treat grandma and grandpa like family.  Many nursing homes are run by competent, caring professionals, who work diligently to maintain the health, safety, and dignity of their residents.  We never think that our loved ones may be subject to nursing home abuse in what is presented as a caring, happy institution.  All too often, however, a more nefarious picture emerges.

Nursing homes are businesses and many are more concerned with the bottom line.  Patient safety be damned.  I have represented many senior citizens who have been experienced nursing home abuse and have been injured due to the negligence and corporate malfeasance of the staff.  Serious personal injury can result from nursing home abuse.

A recent study prepared by the staff of the House Government Reform Committee found that 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States were cited for nearly 9,000 instances of abuse over a recent two-year period.  The most common problems found were untreated bedsores, inadequate medical care, malnutrition, dehydration, preventable accidents and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, according to the report.

Common Nursing Home Injuries

 The most common nursing home injuries are due to falls and bedsores.

Falls

The fact that someone is in a nursing home clearly means that the person is in need of more assistance than an ordinary man or woman.  When a nursing home resident falls, it could be that he or she did not get the proper help in getting into or out of bed, slippery floors were not properly marked, or there was not proper assistance when the patient was transported form one area of the nursing home to another.  Our aging relatives must be treated with the utmost care, and when nursing homes are poorly staffed or understaffed to help beef up the bottom line, residents pay the price.

Senior citizens, many of whom who have brittle bones due to osteoporosis, are particularly susceptible to injuries from falls.  Some clients have asked me questions such as “Grandma had brittle bones already, so isn’t it partially her fault that she got so badly injured?”

There is a legal concept known as “The eggshell plaintiff.”  This doctrine states that the defendant, (in this case, the nursing home) takes the plaintiff (the injured party) as is.  This means that the plaintiff’s frailty is not a defense.  So while nursing homes and insurance companies can attempt to blame injuries on residents, this argument does not hold up in court.

Bedsores (Decubitus Ulcers)

A bedsore is an open wound on the skin, caused by the pressure of the body on the skin when a person is immobile for long periods of time.  Nursing home residents are very vulnerable to bedsores.  The staff at nursing homes is required to shift the patients so that bedsores cannot develop.  When staff is not adequately trained, or there are simply not enough employees to get to everyone in the home, bedsores are bound to occur.  The existence of a bedsore is essentially evidence in and of itself of negligence.  These do not occur only on senior citizens.  They often occur on those who are disabled or are recovering from an unrelated injury.

I once represented a young man who had sadly been become paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash.  He ended up spending many months recovering in a nursing home.  While there, he developed a bedsore on the skin outside of his sacrum, a bone at the base of the spine.  While the nursing home essentially admitted fault, their defense was that a paraplegic could not feel pain at that area of his body.  A neurologist hired by the nursing home claimed that the patient was faking his pain, because it was impossible for him to feel it at that level.  A neurologist hired by my side countered this argument, and the case ultimately settled.

Signs of Abuse

There are two important general signs of some type of elder abuse:

  • Arguments or tension between the elderly person and the caregiver
  • Changes in personality of behavior of the elder

If you observe either of these general signs, look for the following physical and behavioral signs of elder abuse:

Emotional Abuse

  • Behavior on the part of the elder that looks like dementia, such as rocking, sucking or mumbling
  • Controlling, threatening or belittling behavior from the caregiver that you witness

Physical Abuse

  • Broken bones, sprains or dislocations
  • The caregiver refuses to let you see the elder alone
  • Report of a drug overdose, or prescriptions having more medicine left than they should
  • Unexplained signs of injury
  • Broken eyeglass frames or eyeglasses
  • Signs of physical restraint such as marks on wrists
  • Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises, scars and welts, especially if they occur on both sides of the body

Act Promptly on Nursing Home Abuse

Regardless of the type of injury sustained in a nursing home, it is important that you speak with an experienced lawyer immediately to deal with the possibility of nursing home abuse.  The lawyers on my team can you help you obtain just compensation.  Call the Law Team today at 212-LAW-TEAM.

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About Matthew Haicken

I have been practicing personal injury and insurance law since my graduation from law school in 2007. In addition to years as a practicing lawyer, I also spent three years working at a large insurance company where I worked with excellent lawyers from around the country. This experience has proven invaluable. I gained insight into how insurance companies evaluate claims, and I learned the tactics they employ to fight personal injury lawsuits. I enjoy helping people through difficult situations and making a positive impact on the lives of my clients. When not practicing law, I am actively involved in NYSTLA, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. We are a group that lobbies on behalf of injury victims. I believe the courthouse doors should be open to everyone, regardless of his or her immigration status, or financial situation. I am committed to fighting for a strong civil justice system that enables people who have been harmed to hold wrongdoers accountable.

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