Indianapolis Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
As our loved ones age, the difficult decision must be made as to their continued care. Elderly adults often require access to services and facilities their families can no longer provide, and nursing homes step in to deliver those vital needs.
We expect elder care facilities to provide the medical and personal care our family members deserve. So it’s devastating to discover abuse has occurred. But the reality is too many elder care facilities are understaffed, and too few nursing home workers are properly trained to care for senior patients. Those shortcomings increase the odds that nursing home residents will become victims of elder abuse and neglect.
Types of Elder Abuse
The fact that anyone who would abuse another individual, particularly one incapable of defending him or herself is reprehensible, but nursing home neglect is a growing concern for our aging population.
If your loved one is in a nursing home, you and your family should be aware of these documented ways that neglect or abuse occurs.
- Medication Errors: When a patient is provided contaminated drugs, given the wrong prescription or administered an improper dosage by a nursing home employee, it can cause serious complications. Even giving a patient medication at the wrong time, orally rather than injected, using the wrong preparation method and other medication errors can result in a worsened condition, hospitalization, a serious disability, or death.
- Bed Sores: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 10 percent of nursing home residents will develop bed sores. These usually show up on pressure points, such as the hips, back, heels or elbows. Elderly patients must be regularly moved to prevent this condition. If your loved one has developed them, inattention and improper care may be an issue.
- Product/Device Errors: Nursing homes that use defective or recalled medical products and devices are putting patients at risk. The improper use of a medical device can also result in a patient being subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering, as well as more serious consequences. Staff who are not properly trained on the use of certain medical devices, or unfamiliar with delivering treatment, could be responsible for a patient’s injury or death due to an air embolism.
- Patient Protection Errors: Nursing homes are expected to do what they can to keep the patients under their care safe. When patients or residents are allowed to wander unsupervised or doors are not secured, residents may disappear from the home, risking weather exposure or other types of harm. In some instances, lack of adequate patient protection could result in a patient attempting to commit suicide while in a nursing home.
- Care Management Events: When patients are not tended to or care is not managed adequately, patients could experience the onset of hypoglycemia. Neglect may lead to Stage 3 or Stage 4 pressure ulcers (bed sores; see above) being acquired after admission. Failure to follow up or coordinate treatment following laboratory, pathology or radiology tests, as well as loss of irreplaceable biological specimens, could also lead to serious injury or death.
- Environmental Events: Some patients may sustain an electric shock or burn while receiving care in a nursing home. Other patients are given an incorrect, toxic or contaminated administration of oxygen or other gases. Both scenarios can cause potentially severe or fatal injuries. Falls can also be serious, leading to permanent damage or disability. Use of restraints or bedrails may not only cause a patient harm, but prevent him or her from being able to access life-saving care.
- Criminal Events: Workers who are not properly screened, trained or supervised are a recipe for disaster. Physical assaults and sexual assaults have been known to happen at nursing homes. There have also been cases of stolen property, unauthorized access to bank accounts, and other financial crimes.
Types of Significant Injuries from Nursing Home Neglect
Injuries seen in cases where neglect abuse is present may include bruising, welts, lacerations, broken bones, sprains, bleeding, and other physical injuries, as well as changes in emotional and mental behavior. Injuries commonly seen following instances of nursing home neglect or abuse include:
- Serious Falls: When an elderly individual slips or trips and falls, he or she may not be able to get up or recover from the fall without assistance. The elderly residents may have brittle bones. It is not uncommon to see hip fractures and other broken bones among fall victims in nursing homes. The location of the fall, point of impact and various other factors will often determine whether injuries will be minor or cause permanent spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury or death. Falls in Nursing Homes should not happen and when they do are often caused by negligence on the part of a health care provider.
- Bed Sores: When patients are bedridden or have limited mobility, neglect in nursing homes can result in the development of open wounds and ulcers. If patients are being properly cared for, ulcers and sores should never happen. In worst case scenarios, when a bed sore is allowed to reach Stage 4, permanent injury to the skin and underlying tissue can occur. Stage 4 bed sores can also lead to infection that can even spread into the muscle and bone, resulting in death.
- Death: According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elderly abuse who are subjected to abuse or neglect have a 300 percent higher risk of death, as compared to those who have not been neglected or abused. With one in five U.S. deaths reportedly taking place in nursing homes, neglect and abuse are issues which require immediate resolution.
How to Choose a Nursing Home
Before placing an elderly relative in a nursing home or long-term care facility, you want to make sure you have chosen a place that will provide your loved one with the utmost care and attention. If you are beginning the heart-wrenching process of choosing a nursing home, the following tips can help you make sure your loved one will have access to first-rate care:
- Do your background research. The Indiana Division of Long Term Care makes available nursing home reports so consumers can evaluate the quality of certified nursing homes. Review the report cards and inspection reports. Call the facility and request further information.
- Visit the nursing home in person and talk to the staff so you can get a sense of the atmosphere of the home. You may want to visit on the weekend, or at times when the staffing may be reduced, to observe conditions at that time period.
- Do what you can to involve your loved one in the decision-making process. Including your loved one and getting input, when possible, can help to ease the transition.
Once you have found a suitable nursing home, remain alert and pay attention to potential indications of nursing home abuse or neglect such as malnutrition, bed sores, physical restraints, unexplained injuries, changes in behavior, lack of qualified staff or the use of drugs to subdue patients. You owe it to your loved one to do what you can to keep him or her safe.
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you have noticed signs or symptoms of Indianapolis nursing home neglect or abuse, report your suspicions at once. Filing a complaint with the nursing home facility is the first course of action. Should the nursing home fail to address and resolve your concerns, a complaint should be filed with the Indiana State Department of Health.
Inspectors with the Division of Long Term Care visit nursing homes every nine to 15 months to assess adequacy of staffing, quality of care, cleanliness of facilities, and compliance with federal standards. They also investigate individual complaints.
If you believe abuse or neglect has resulted in serious injury, we advise you register a complaint and request an investigation be done as soon as possible. Complaints can be filed online with the Indiana State Department of Health, or calls can be made to the state’s toll-free complaint number, 1-800-246-8909.
As nursing homes and long-term care facilities should be held accountable and legally liable for cases of abuse or neglect, it is recommended that you speak with an elder abuse lawyer about your legal options and rights. The attorneys at Baker & Gilchrist have over 60 years of combined litigation experience and are committed to helping families whose loved ones have been seriously injured as a result of nursing home abuse, neglect or malpractice in Indiana.