Nursing Home Neglect and Elder Law

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Nursing home neglect is a serious public health problem. Learn how to recognize the signs of nursing home neglect and what you can do to stop it from happening.

Author: Paul Black

Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as  a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: August 02, 2022. 

Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing Home Neglect

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Nursing home neglect has become very common, with nearly five million cases yearly.

A proper nursing home should observe the legal rights of its residents and be prepared for any emergencies or incidents involving residents. Nursing homes are essential in the community, so ensuring there are no elder neglect or abuse cases is essential to maintain trust in the system.

Fortunately, the most common nursing home neglect acts can be avoided if you know what to look for in a nursing home facility.

You may also consider consulting an estate planning lawyer before choosing a nursing home to prevent potential abuse or neglect and provide a plan on how to deal with it if it occurs.

This article will discuss nursing home neglect, abuse, and the laws to protect elderly residents from neglect or abuse.

Elder Abuse and Elder Neglect: What Is the Difference?

Elder abuse is intentional emotional, physical, or emotional harm or financial exploitation to an elderly.

On the other hand, elder neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide the necessary care to the elderly. It occurs most of the time to those in nursing living facilities.

Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect and elderly abuse are both wrongful treatments of elderly residents. Generally speaking, nursing home neglect is not as intentional as elderly abuse.

Nursing home neglect is defined as poor care or a caregiver’s denial of medical care, food, shelter, or clothing. A caregiver can either be an employed caregiver or a family member.

Different Types of Nursing Home Neglect

There are two types of nursing home neglect: physical and emotional.

A nursing home neglects its residents physically when it fails to provide necessities like healthy nutrition or assistance in the washrooms. When a caregiver is not attentive to these needs, it can lead to severe illnesses or even wrongful deaths. Physical neglect could also be a failure of nursing homes to provide their residents with the appropriate level of services.

Emotional neglect happens when a nursing home does not provide or allow its residents any company. Nursing home residents are social beings, so they should be able to interact with one another and use technology such as receiving and sending emails if they so choose.

A Nursing Home’s Neglectful Behavior

Some of the neglectful behaviors include:

  1. Not caring to call a doctor or obtaining professional medical advice when there are emergencies with the residents
  2. Leaving the elderly in a wheelchair or bed for extreme hours without any care
  3. Ignoring change of clothes or bedding
  4. Ignoring daily baths for the residents
  5. Ignoring duties to feed and hydrate the nursing home residents regularly
  6. Leaving bedsores and other injuries untreated.

These examples are a few of the many ways you can identify that there may be neglect or abuse in a nursing home. If you see the signs listed above, you should enquire from the nursing home management to find out more about what is happening there.

Signs of Elderly Negligence in Nursing Homes

  • Excessive weight loss or weight gain
  • Being dehydrated all the time
  • Showing signs of malnutrition
  • Having unexplained bedsores
  • Untidiness and lack of grooming, for example, having filthy clothes on
  • Change of behavior
  • Sudden and new medical complications

There are many other signs besides the ones listed, so you should observe the elderly closely to ensure they are treated well.

If you notice any signs of abuse or neglect, contact the nursing home management so that further inquiries can be made. The Georgia adult protective services, the Department of Health, or the Georgia Ombudsman’s office should be notified if nursing home management does not act effectively.

Once the case is in one of these offices, your nursing home abuse attorney can follow up on the case on your behalf and ensure that everything is handled correctly. At this point, family members of the abused or neglected elders can also decide if they will file nursing home lawsuits.

Neglect in Nursing Homes

Neglect in Nursing Homes

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Unfortunately, a number of nursing homes ignore their elderly residents’ needs, even after being trained on how much care they need.

As discussed above, a nursing home caretaker’s inaction can cause serious injury and physical and emotional abuse. Therefore you must take care of the nursing home you choose as your future care facility. To ensure that you or someone you love are in the most suitable nursing home, it is extremely critical to carefully do your homework when selecting one.

To make this process smoother, you can request assistance from an estate planning attorney in reviewing and understanding nursing home residents’ rights before making a choice.

Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse occurs when an elderly resident suffers physical, psychological, or emotional harm because of intentional acts by their caregivers.

There are five main types of nursing home abuse cases: 

  • Physical abuse: This one involves hitting or pushing a resident intentionally.
  • Psychological abuse: this includes verbal abuse from caregivers or the act of withholding mail or communications from family members.
  • Neglect: It’s failing to provide medical treatment for bedsores and other injuries
  • Sexual abuse: This happens when a nursing home resident is being used for sexual gratification.
  • Exploitation: Financial abuse includes manipulation of residents to the advantage of caregivers.

Nursing Home Abuse Law

Nursing home abuse law refers to a set of laws (criminal and civil), regulations, and standards in dealing with abusive treatment of the elderly by caregivers in nursing homes. Most nursing care facilities are run with a primary focus on profit, with care for the residents usually coming second. Therefore, cases of negligence and abuse are ample in number.

Elder law in Georgia state takes nursing home abuse cases seriously. The Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act protects those aged 65 and above by emphasizing the need for investigations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.   

If you can prove that there have been acts of negligence or abuse, it is more likely that the nursing homes will face financial penalties. For example, a nursing home charged with elderly abuse is subject to potential loss of government funding, changes in their management, license suspension, etc.

Serious cases might justify several punitive damages to compensate you as the victim and punish the negligent nursing home.

Other types of compensation in nursing home abuse and neglect cases are payments for medical expenses, mental anguish, and physical suffering. If a wrongful death occurs, there may also be financial compensation for the loss of the victim and support for surviving family members.

Nursing Home Abuse Law

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Other Laws to Protect the Elderly

Other Laws to Protect the Elderly

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There are other laws at the federal level which have been specifically enacted to protect senior U.S. citizens from abuse by their caretakers. In addition, these laws educate the elderly about their rights and provide guidance and counseling.

These laws are:

  • The Elder Justice Act: This act draws funds from the government to run programs investigating elderly abuse in nursing homes. After the investigation, they prosecute the parties involved in the abusive acts.
  • The Older Americans Act: This is a set of laws on how assisted living facilities should be run. The Administration on Aging is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services portfolio charged with carrying out the provisions of this act.

Reasons to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer

Planning for retirement is the best strategy to live a better life as a senior citizen. Make your plans with a Georgia estate planning lawyer before you need to move to an assisted living facility. You can feel more assured that you have done your best to prevent future neglect and abuse in the facility you live in. More importantly, you will have the knowledge and support of your lawyer in dealing with instances of neglect and abuse.

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