Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Pennsylvania has the fourth largest older adult population in the United States, roughly accounting for 21.4 percent of the total population. At any given time approximately 1.5 million people are residents in a nursing home. It is illegal in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for a nursing home to allow their staff to abuse or neglect a resident, or to allow another resident to abuse or place a resident in imminent harm. Elder abuse is a highly under-reported act. While it may be difficult to place a definitive number on the percentage of elders impacted, it is believed that 1 in 10 elders suffer abuse or neglect, but only 1 in 5 cases are ever reported. Fear of retaliation, loss of freedom, or familial connection, can play a role in the under reporting of elder neglect and abuse. More often than not, elder abuse occurs at the hand of a caregiver, family member, or someone that the older adult has grown to trust. A recent study by SeniorLAW Center found that older Americans who have suffered some form of elder abuse, neglect, sexual assault, or financial exploitation had three times the heightened risk of dying prematurely as compared to older Americans who had not suffered any harm. Elder abuse can take place in any living condition be it a nursing home, long term care facility, or in home care. The medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenbaum and Associates have over 25 years experience holding negligent nursing homes accountable for the injury caused to their residents.
Nursing home negligence occurs when a resident is abused or neglected by nursing home employees. Unfortunately, this neglect or abuse can result in significant injuries including wrongful death. Because the nursing home industry has become a multi-billion dollar business comprised of major corporations, efficiency and profitability have become more important than administering proper care. For this reason, both federal and state governments have introduced legislation to protect residents of nursing homes.
In some homes, signs of abuse show in small ways that can become big — for example, understaffing leads to overworked staff members who make dangerous mistakes. At the most extreme, nursing homes that skimp in vital areas can expose their residents to abusive or criminal staffers; uncontrolled infections; and neglect of some of the basics of patient care. Our Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys are proud to represent residents and family members seeking to hold nursing homes responsible for mistreatment.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
- Nursing Home Falls & Fractures
- Elder Financial Abuse and Nursing Homes
- Sexual Assault In Nursing Homes
- Nursing Home Infections
- Understaffing By Nursing Home Facilities
- If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
- Excessive Force in the Nursing Home
- Ensuring Quality Care
When most people think of improper patient care at nursing homes, they think of physical abuse. This is a serious problem in nursing homes, and can lead to injuries, illnesses and other severe complications to the victim’s health. However, what is more common is the neglect of the nursing home resident’s basic needs. Staff members are overworked, under-trained, unqualified, or just don’t care.
Medication problems are another serious problem in nursing homes. The concentration of powerful drugs in nursing homes invites abuse by unscrupulous staff members. Too much of a medication, too little, or the wrong kind of medication can lead to severe and unnecessary side effects, or suffering from untreated health conditions. Our nursing home abuse lawyers handle all types of medication cases, including cases of:
- Mistakes with prescription drugs
- Prescription of unnecessary drugs for financial reasons
- Improper use of medication
- Theft of a patient’s medications (usually drugs with abuse potential)
- Under-medication due to poor financial management
Abuse, neglect and medication problems can all lead to serious health problems. Often, these preventable problems complicate an underlying condition or general fragile health in the resident. A healthier patient may bounce back from infections or dehydration, but for some nursing home residents, they can lead to a decline or even a death. Our Philadelphia nursing home neglect lawyers represent family members in wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions against negligent nursing homes.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
The are many indicators of neglect including: rapid weight loss, bed/pressure sores, multiple falls, poor hygiene. If more than one of these conditions exit, then it may indicate an overall staff inattention and should be immediately addressed. If you suspect neglect contact our staff to review your concerns.
Bed sores are sometimes called pressure sores or decubitous ulcers. A decubitus ulcer is a pressure sore or what is commonly called a bed sore or pressure ulcer. It can range from a very mild pink coloration of the skin, which disappears in a few hours after pressure is relieved on the area, to a very deep wound extending to and sometimes through internal organs and into bone. These ulcers or wounds are classified according to the severity of the wound, usually in four stages or types.
These sores are caused by prolonged pressure in patients permitted to lie too still for a long period of time. The bony prominences of the body are the most frequently affected sites. The ulcer is caused by diminished blood supply to the underlying structures of the skin, fat, and muscles as a result of the sustained and constant pressure.
Bed sores are very common in nursing homes but this does not mean bed sores are acceptable. Bed sores can be prevented by changing a person’s position frequently and regularly and by insuring they have adequate nutrition. Using a moisturizer also helps prevent bed sores.
Families of nursing home residents should ask questions when they see bruises on a loved one’s body. Bruises – actually pools of blood from broken capillaries – heal slowly in people with poor circulation. Bruises often occur when a nursing home resident is struck by a member of the nursing home staff or when the resident falls. Any bruise or cut requires both medical attention and evaluation to determine its cause.
The most common complaint about nursing homes, as reported to state and federal agencies, is that the homes fail to respond to complaints. Your loved one is in a nursing home because she needs care and supervision she can’t get elsewhere. If the staff is too overworked to respond to the call button, then problems will multiple.
When the staff can’t respond then mistakes happen. Pills are given too often or not at all. Patient hygiene suffers. Signs of serious illness are overlooked.
Many people need the care of a nursing home because of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. People with these conditions often wander. Nursing home facilities must be held accountable when individuals wander. Staff inattention is to blame, not the patient.
Nursing home residents who are visited often tend to get better care. If you can’t visit, try to call and talk to the people who take care of your loved one. Make friends with other residents and ask them to look out for your loved one.
Nutritional well-being is an important part of successful aging. Improper nutrition or malnutrition can lead to infections, confusion, and muscle weakness resulting in immobility and falls, pressure ulcers, pneumonia, and decreased immunity to bacteria and viruses. Malnutrition is costly, lowers the quality of nursing home residents’ lives, and is often avoidable.
Based on the nutritional assessment, the facility must take steps to ensure that the resident maintains good nutritional health and must provide residents with a well-balanced, palatable meal.
Many things can cause malnutrition in nursing home residents. The following are factors that may prevent a resident from receiving adequate amounts of the vitamins, minerals, protein, and calories the resident needs:
- Adverse drug effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cognitive disturbances, or sleepiness
- Food and drug interactions which decrease the ability of the body to absorb vitamins and minerals
- Swallowing disorders
- Mouth problems such as tooth loss, dentures that do not fit properly, mouth sores, and mouth pain
- Tremors, which affect the residents’ ability to feed themselves
- Inadequate attention from staff for residents who need assistance eating
- Staff who are uneducated about malnutrition and proper ways to feed residents who need help
- Reliance on liquid supplements
- Special diets
Ask the following questions to determine whether your loved one is demonstrating signs of malnutrition:
- Cracks around the mouth
- Lips and mouth look pale
- Dentures no longer fit
- Wounds seem to take longer to heal
- Appears confused
- Skin breaking down
- Eyes look sunken
- Losing weight
What to Watch for if You Suspect Elder Abuse
- Problems with basic hygiene — dirty sheets, dirty clothes, bad smells
- Unsanitary bathrooms and kitchens
- Unexplained weight loss or conditions caused by malnutrition
- Signs of dehydration, which include sunken eyes, irritability, unexpected confusion, dizziness and a drop in number of bathroom visits
- A sudden increase in hospital visits
- An illness or injury that has advance significantly before the home seeks treatment
- Irrational residents allowed to wander, or uncontrolled residents who seem to inspire fear in others
- Obvious, uncorrected tripping or safety hazards that could lead to falls
- No guard at the front door
In homes with abuse, signs may be harder to see because staff members will take steps to cover their tracks. Family members should watch for:
- Any use of physical restraints that seems unusual
- Changes in medication that don’t match the patient’s medical condition, especially if the medication is a sedative, painkiller or psychiatric drug
- Running out of medication too soon, or unexplained leftover medication
- Unexpected injuries to the resident, especially if the staff can’t offer a good explanation
- Nervous, controlling or overly affectionate behavior by nursing home staff
- Staff members trying to keep family from being alone with the resident
- Signs that the resident is anxious to keep you from leaving
- Childlike behaviors, like rocking and sucking
- Emotionally or even physically withdrawn behavior
To keep the nursing home staff from hiding incriminating signs before you visit, it’s ideal to drop by unannounced, and at different times of day if possible. And don’t be afraid to visit often. Studies show that nursing home residents get better care when their loved ones visit often. If this is not feasible, you can also try hiding a camera in the resident’s room, especially if he or she has limited mobility. Not only can these cameras uncover the way staff members behave when they think no one’s looking, but they can provide valuable evidence to pursue an elder abuse claim.
Who to Call to Report Elder Abuse
The Older Adults Protective Services Act, established a uniform statewide reporting, and investigating system for suspected abuse, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment of Pennsylvania’s older residents. The federal Older Americans Act mandates state Ombudsman to work to promote the rights and quality of life for all people who reside in nursing homes.
- If there are clear signs of abuse, or if you feel that you or a loved one is in eminent danger do not hesitate to call 911.
- Report elder abuse to the Department of Aging through their hotline 1-800-490-8505, the hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Nursing home abuse can be reported to the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, through their number 1-717-783-8975, or through their regional numbers. The Southeast Region Ombudsman, can also be reached at 1-570-784-4420.
Contact our Experienced Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
After abuse or neglect is discovered at a nursing home, the negligent staff members may be criminally prosecuted, and the home or staffers may suffer professional and administrative consequences. However, none of this is certain — and none of it offers financial compensation for victims and families that suffered an avoidable hospitalization, health problems and sudden need for replacement care. Nursing home residents and their families in this position may also choose to pursue a Philadelphia nursing home negligence lawsuit, to hold the careless nursing home and staffers are held responsible and that you are able to recover compensation for their negligence.
Our medical malpractice lawyer group has offices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Philadelphia. Our team of Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers are dedicated to helping personal injury victims make a full monetary recovery to ease the financial stress that is often associated with significant personal injury.
If you would like more information please call us at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7, or click here for a Free Case Evaluation.