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Families Hold Facilities Accountable

Almost every family at some point faces a difficult decision of having to place an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. What family members want is a facility that provides a safe, compassionate and clean environment where loved ones can expect to get the quality care and medical support and where they can expect to live comfortably.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Too often, family members discover that those entrusted with the care of their loved one contributes to their neglect and abuse. Poorly run facilities have poor hiring procedures, fail to train employees properly, and put low costs and high profits ahead of health and wellness care.

Residents and patients develop bedsores, fall and get hurt (and even break bones) and suffer from overall neglect. This mistreatment can lead to serious injuries, infections and even death. The number of instances of abuse is also underreported.

Families of victimized seniors file lawsuits to get justice and hold negligent companies accountable. Attorneys help families fight back against negligent long-term care facilities every day.

Why Should You File A Lawsuit?

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have a duty to uphold federal standards for care that are outlined in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987 – also called the federal Nursing Home Reform Act. Some facilities – both corporate run and family owned and operated – fall below the bar and continue to operate, taking in more patients than they can care for. These facilities routinely promise services and staffing levels that they can’t deliver.

Families can file complaints with local law enforcement and local and state government agencies in the hopes of holding these facilities accountable. By federal and state law, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities must abide by a standard of care. But it can be a frustrating process that can end in government regulators simply not following through with complaints.

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Just finding out who owns a nursing home can be a confusing, stressful chore. Many companies go out of their way to operate under a number of names, making it difficult to find out who the facility owner really is. (This also serves as a way for facilities to shield themselves them from regulators and liability.)

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This is where attorneys come in. There are a number of legal professionals who understand the way the nursing home industry works and can unravel the tangled web of nursing home ownership and help families seek compensation for injuries suffered by residents.

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Common Injuries in Lawsuits

While there are many different types of injuries and abuses that residents of long-term care facilities suffer because of neglect, there are a number of more common ones that are often included in lawsuits filed by families.

This type of abuse can include:

Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)

Bedsores are injuries that people are most familiar with, but few people know that these skin lesions can lead to death. These sores form when parts of the body press against objects too long and cause pressure on an area that decreases blood flow. Nursing home residents who are bedridden are most at risk for these injuries because staff may leave them in beds or in wheelchairs for prolonged periods of time.

There are four stages of bedsores:

Stage I:

The sore looks like an area of redness on the skin

Stage II:

Abrasion or blister with some skin loss

Stage III:

Full skin loss and tissue death

Stage IV:

Full skin loss, tissue damage and infection that can reach muscle or bone

Doctors worry most about Stage IV bedsores. They’re especially dangerous because infections can be deadly to seniors. Nursing homes have a duty to check on patients at risk for bedsores and provide proper care to avoid them, such as special mattresses, and boots and protectors to alleviate pressure.

Wandering

Residents who wrestle with dementia or Alzheimer’s sometimes wander aimlessly through the facility, putting themselves at risk of falling or falling into harm in other ways. They may leave the facility unsupervised and get exposed to harsh weather, traffic or other dangers. Nursing homes should know which residents are at risk of this behavior and provide enough supervision to avoid it.

Falls

For seniors, falls can be debilitating and deadly, and they happen all too often. Many residents of nursing homes are especially vulnerable to falling which can cause fractures, loss of mobility and an increased risk of bedsores.

Nursing home and assisted-living staff should be aware of residents at increased risk for falls and monitor them closely. Items such as bed rails, non-skid foot wear and canes can be used to prevent falls.

Physical Abuse

This is one of the worst types of abuse a resident at facility can suffer. Many are bedridden and physically dependent on their caregivers. This makes them vulnerable to sexual assault and physical abuse. The injuries from this type of abuse can also be humiliating to residents.

Abuse can come from nursing home staff or other residents without proper supervision. In these cases, both the perpetrator and nursing home should be held liable.

Malnutrition and Dehydration

Lack of proper nutrition and hydration can make seniors frailer and put them at risk for falling, infections and muscle weakness. Not to mention, it makes healing from injuries, surgeries and bedsores more difficult.

Humans tend to have less water in their bodies as they get older, and when that happens they don't feel the urge to drink as often. This makes them susceptible to dehydration. They are also prone to depression, which tends to suppress the appetite and can lead to malnutrition. In addition, some medications have side effects like vomiting and diarrhea, both of which contribute to dehydration and malnutrition.

When nursing homes are understaffed, they often fail to monitor how much a resident eats or drinks and do not give residents enough water. It is also not unheard of for seniors with incontinence being denied water so the staff doesn't have to change their adult diapers as often.

Medication Errors

In long-term care facilities, staffers all too frequently make medication errors. When they do, residents receive too much or too little medication. Sometime they get the wrong medication altogether. These mistakes carry varying degrees of risk. At the least, they worsen health and lead to decreased quality of life. At the worst, they cause heart attacks, strokes, dangerous falls and death.

Many older Americans are on several medications and without proper attention, mistakes can be made. Understaffed nursing homes make oversight worse.

Even more disturbing is the use of "chemical restraints." In this practice, nursing homes administer powerful painkillers and antipsychotics to control residents' behavior, making them listless and sedentary. This can lead to mental and physical decline, changes in mood and other side effects. Most antipsychotics also increase the risk of death in patients with dementia.

Medications errors that end in injury or death are grounds for a lawsuit.

Clogged Breathing Tubes

Lack of supervision can also lead to choking and death because of clogged breathing tubes. Nursing homes will sometimes say these deaths are accidental, but they can be held accountable.

Damages Included in Lawsuits

There are number of different damages attorneys may consider when evaluating a claim for negligence or wrongful death.

These may include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Medical expenses before and after death
  • Funeral costs
  • Violations of resident's dignity

Families That Filed Lawsuits

Neglect is a common reason that spurs children and grandchildren to file legal claims against facilities. Among Lawsuits that were filed are:

McAllister v. Sunrise Senior Living

After Lois McAllister of Pennsylvania suffered horrific physical abuse and humiliation at the hands of her caretakers, and daughter Mary French filed a lawsuit against the individual staff members and the nursing home, Sunrise Senior Living, Inc. McAllister complained to her daughter that the staff physically abused her. After French complained to the nursing home administrators, they told her that her mother was lying. Video footage revealed employees hitting McAllister and forcing her into the bed or making her stand naked and humiliating her.

Boice v. Emeritus

A Seattle family filed a lawsuit against Emeritus at Emerald Hills demanding an award of $3 to $5 million for the death of Joan Boice. According to the lawsuit, Boice suffered from neglect at understaffed home that led to her developing bedsores. She died from her injuries. The suit also claims the home focused on profits and not resident care.

United States v. ARBA Group

U.S. attorneys filed a lawsuit against California nursing home owners the ARBA Group for overmedicating residents and "causing, infection, sepsis, malnutrition, dehydration, falls, fractures, pressure ulcers, and for some Residents, premature death." The court filing indicates that the nursing home provided "grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless services" to its residents.

Bush v. Plum Healthcare

The family of Rebecca Bush sued the Plum Healthcare group in 2011 after she became severely dehydrated and developed bedsores that landed her in the hospital. According to the family attorneys, Bush was also left for long periods of time in soiled briefs. Her health deteriorated, and she eventually died as a result of neglect.

Many other families suffer injury of the loss of their loved ones at the hands of negligent long-term care facilities also turn to the legal system, and it happens more often than most people know. If you need help, please fill out the form or call the number at the top of this page.

Free Case Review

Nursing home abuse can severely disrupt the living environment of the ones you love. Residents may suffer from concerns like physical abuse and neglect. Often it takes a family member stepping up to change things. Tell us about your experience and we will provide you with legal options.

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  1. Furillo, A. (2013, April 19). Plaintiffs lawyer asks jury to award millions in elder care case. Sacramento Bee. Retrieved from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article2576763.html
  2. McAllister v Sunrise. Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Law Division. Docket Number 11-7944.
  3. United States of America v. The ARBA Group, et. al. (2014, August 29). United States District Court Northern District of California San Francisco Division, Case No. 14-3946. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-ndca/legacy/2014/09/02/COUNTRY%20VILLA%20-%20Complaint.pdf
  4. Lundstrom, M. & Reese, P. (2014, November 9). Unmasked: Who owns California's nursing homes. Sacramento Bee. Retrieved from http://media.sacbee.com/static/sinclair/Nursing2/index.html
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