Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect: Your Legal Rights

While most nursing homes provide proper care for residents, there are cases of reported abuse and neglect each year in facilities across the country.

In 2000, one study involving 2,000 nursing home residents showed 44-percent said they had been abused and 95-percent said they had been neglected or had seen another resident neglected.

A 2008 study by the U.S. General Accountability Office revealed that state surveys actually understated problems in licensed facilities:  70-percent of state surveys missed at least one deficiency and 15-percent missed actual harm and immediate jeopardy of a nursing home resident.

So what legal rights does a nursing home resident have?

Federal nursing home regulations state that "the resident has the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion."

Those regulations defined nursing home abuse and neglect as:

  • Abuse:  an intentional infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, care/service deprivation or punishment that results in physical harm, pain or mental anguish.
  • Neglect:  a failure, intentional or not, to provide a person with the care and services necessary to ensure freedom from harm or pain; a failure to react to a potentially dangerous situation resulting in resident harm or anxiety.

State regulations address similar types of conduct.  

Here are the common types of abuse or neglect:

          ·        Assault and battery (including physical abuse, as well as threats and verbal or 
                  emotional abuse)

·        Lack of care for existing medical problems

·        Prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water

·        Rape or other forms of sexual assault or battery

·        Unreasonable physical restraint or seclusion

·        Use of a physical or chemical restraint or psychotropic medication for any purpose not consistent with that authorized by a physician

 Here are common signs of abuse or neglect:

·        Bed injuries/asphyxiation

·        Dehydration

·        Emotionally upset or agitated, extremely withdrawn and non-communicative

·        Falls, fractures or head injuries

·        Infections

·        Instances of wandering/elopement

·        Malnutrition

·        Pressure ulcers (bed sores)

·        Rapid weight loss or weight gain; signs of malnutrition

·        Reluctance to speak in staff members’ presence

·        Unexplained or unexpected death of the resident

·        Unexplained injuries such as wounds, cuts, bruises or welts in various stages of healing

·        Unsanitary and unclean conditions

·        Unusual or sudden changes in behavior (fear of being touched, sucking, biting, rocking)

·        Wanting to be isolated from others

·        Injuries requiring emergency treatment or hospitalization

·        Any incident involving broken bones, especially a fractured hip

·        Any injury or death occurring during or shortly after an episode of wandering (including outside the facility)

·        Heavy medication or sedation

·        One resident injures another resident or resident is frequently ill that aren’t promptly reported to the physician and family

Here are some online resources for people considering or comparing nursing homes:

http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/02174.pdf

http://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/checklist.pdf

http://longtermcare.gov/ 

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