Columbia, SC Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorneys

When our elderly family members can no longer care for themselves, we entrust them to the care of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. In these residential communities, we expect that our loved one’s medical needs are taken care of while the facility provides recreational activities proportional to the residents’ limitations. What we do not anticipate is that our loved ones will become victims of abuse.

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse exists. Residents are subjected to neglect as well as physical, sexual, and financial abuse. Because many victims suffer from cognitive issues or are unable to report the abuse, it falls on their loved ones to be aware of the signs of abuse. If you believe your elderly family member is a victim of abuse, call Burriss & Ridgeway immediately.

Our Columbia, SC nursing home abuse lawyers have the experience and resources to hold abusers liable for the harm they cause. Contact our law offices at (803) 451-4000 to discuss the details of your case.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect in Columbia

There are so many potential types of neglect, it is difficult to list them all. But the basic forms of neglect a victim in a nursing home may experience would involve basic physical needs going unmet by the staff who was entrusted to care for the resident.

1

Malnutrition

2

Lack of Adequate Shelter

3

Lack of Proper Hygiene

4

Inadequate Medical Care

5

Inadequate Supervision

1. Malnutrition

A care facility has a legal obligation to provide its residents with appropriate food and water. If family members notice that a loved one looks emaciated, dehydrated, or malnourished, it is important to investigate. 

If a loved one has no appetite and refuses to eat or drink what staff members bring, there may be a medical problem, allergy, or another issue that needs to be addressed. But there should never be a time that the staff just doesn’t bring meals and water or other beverages.

2. Lack of Adequate Shelter

A care facility is responsible to provide a building that provides protection from the cold, the heat, and inclement weather. There shouldn’t be gaping holes in the roof or the walls. Rain and wind shouldn’t be coming through the room. There shouldn’t be black mold in the building or a flood of water on the floor. The facility should be well-constructed and safe.

3. Lack of Proper Hygiene

This is one of the most common neglect issues. Residents deserve to have baths frequently if they can’t bathe or shower themselves. Bedridden patients need to be turned every few hours to prevent bedsores. If people suffer from incontinence and have to have adult diapers or bed chucks, they should be changed often and not have to lay there developing rashes and sores.

4. Inadequate Medical Care

Patients should have their medication on time and it should be the correct medication. They should receive proper medical attention if they are sick or injured. If a resident has a bedsore, the staff should be cleaning and dressing the area and if it becomes infected, the older person should have access to hospital treatment, doctors, and appropriate medications.

5. Inadequate Supervision

Sometimes staff members don’t take the time to be sure that patients are safe from harm others in the facility may cause. Patients who live in skilled care facilities, assisted living facilities, or dementia units deserve to be safe from abuse from other residents, staff members, and visitors. They also deserve to have security features to prevent those with dementia from being able to wander outside into danger.

Nursing Home Neglect Statistics

It is unthinkable that the staff of a facility might not properly care for all of their residents. Neglect is more common than abuse. But it can be dangerous and even deadly.

Neglect means that a facility does not give appropriate care that is due to a patient or resident. There are many types of neglect and they can include not providing adequate food, water, shelter, or medical care. Sometimes, neglect is not intentional. But it is always wrong and always needs to be addressed immediately.

Statistics

The number of senior adults in the US is increasing dramatically as the Baby Boomer generation moves into this age range. Many nursing homes deal with understaffing issues which can lead to difficulty providing proper care.

Sadly, the vast majority of elder abuse cases go unreported, even though most states have mandatory elder abuse reporting laws.

From the Nursing Home Abuse Center:

  • 1 in 5 emergency room visits among nursing home residents was attributed to abuse or neglect in a 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General.
  • 24% of nursing home residents reported that a staff member physically abused them in a 2012 study conducted by Michigan State University.
  • WHO estimates that just 1 out of 24 elder abuse cases gets reported.

 

From the National Center for Elder Abuse

  • The National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) data, in 2014, there were 14,258 complaints involving abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.
  • Victims of elder abuse are 3 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital.
  • Adverse events at nursing homes (resulting largely from Inadequate treatment, care, and understaffing) in nursing homes lead to preventable harm and $2.8 billion per year in Medicare hospital costs alone.
  • Elders who experienced abuse, even modest abuse, had a 300% higher risk of death.

 

Elder abuse often goes unreported. Senior adults who are able to communicate are often afraid that if they report a staff member’s neglect or abuse the staff member may retaliate against them. Other senior adults don’t report incidents because they are physically or mentally unable to communicate to report the problems. 

This is a very vulnerable population that needs to be protected. That is why it is so important to report local nursing home abuse if you become aware of it and elder neglect and abuse often requires an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to step in to make sure that injured senior adults are adequately protected and compensated for any neglect, abuse, or criminal actions.

Nursing Home Abuse

Neglect is often unintentional due to understaffing, lack of training, or other issues. But abuse is worse. Nursing home abuse happens when someone intentionally causes harm to a resident in the facility. And it is completely inexcusable.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse in Columbia

Abuse could be classified in many different ways, from the type of abuse to the severity of harm. Nursing home abuse often is categorized in five ways.

1. Financial Abuse

Nursing home residents are highly susceptible to financial abuse. Financial abuse is defined as the intentional manipulation or exploitation of a resident to gain control of their financial resources.

If a staff member (or other people in the care facility) steals money or checks from a resident, this is abusive, not to mention criminal. But it is also financial abuse to try to coerce or deceive a resident into including a staff member in the person’s will or to put the staff member’s name on a bank account and give them access to a patient’s private financial accounts. Identity theft is another form of financial abuse.

If a trusted family member is not looking out for the resident and doesn’t catch unauthorized withdrawals being made from checking or savings accounts, a lot of money can be stolen this way—even someone’s entire savings.

Some common signs of financial abuse include unexplained charges on credit cards, large cash withdrawals, and an unwillingness to discuss finances. Victims of financial abuse could have their money or possessions stolen, their signature forged, or be coerced into signing a power of attorney.

2. Physical Abuse

When someone causes intentional bodily harm or trauma to a resident, it is considered physical abuse. While physical abuse could be committed against any resident, residents with cognitive disorders are the most likely victims.

Some examples of physical abuse include hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, shoving, or restraining a resident. Sometimes, a resident will be struck with another object.

3. Sexual Abuse

Sadly, men and women can experience sexual abuse from staff members, other residents, or visitors. Women and patients with dementia are the most likely to be sexually abused. 

Residents do have the right to consensual sexual activity. But some residents are not mentally or physically able to give consent and all residents deserve protection from predators and unwanted sexual contact.

Sexual abuse includes unwanted sexual touching (of the breasts or genitals), unwanted sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal sex), or rape. It can also include someone videoing a resident who is not clothed or forcing a resident to be naked. And sexual abuse can include forcing a resident to watch someone commit a lewd act or pornography.

Warning signs of sexual abuse include physical like bruises or bleeding around the genital area, broken pelvic bones, unexplained genital infections or new STDS, bloody or torn undergarments, or new problems with sitting or walking.

It is important to note that sexual abuse is often more than just physical. Victims also suffer emotional and psychological damage. Emotional warning signs of sexual abuse include depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, sudden changes in personality, nightmares, or extreme fear of a certain person or situation.

4. Psychological or Emotional Abuse

If a staff member (or other resident or visitor) speaks to a resident in a way that causes that person to feel afraid, intimidated, threatened, or distressed, this is likely verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse includes yelling, threats, intimidation, cussing, using vulgar language, name-calling, insults, blaming, patronizing, or scolding. These are unhealthy and dysfunctional ways to communicate that erode trust and a resident’s sense of safety. It can cause long-lasting emotional and psychological harm and even a weakened immune system that can lead to infections.

Warning signs of verbal/emotional abuse include fear, worry, sudden weight loss, depression, anxiety, changes in personality, and insomnia.

5. Neglect

If a staff member (or other resident or visitor) speaks to a resident in a way that causes that person to feel afraid, intimidated, threatened, or distressed, this is likely verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse includes yelling, threats, intimidation, cussing, using vulgar language, name-calling, insults, blaming, patronizing, or scolding. These are unhealthy and dysfunctional ways to communicate that erode trust and a resident’s sense of safety. It can cause long-lasting emotional and psychological harm and even a weakened immune system that can lead to infections.

Warning signs of verbal/emotional abuse include fear, worry, sudden weight loss, depression, anxiety, changes in personality, and insomnia.

Who Commits Nursing Home Abuse in Columbia, South Carolina

To combat nursing home abuse, a loved one or family member must be aware of the signs of abuse. Additionally, they must know who the potential abusers are in a long-term care facility.

The Facility Staff

In most cases, nursing home abuse is committed by the people who provide direct care and have responsibility for the wellbeing of your loved one. This group includes all levels of nursing home staff, such as healthcare aides, supervisors, nurses, and medical staff.

The Facility Administration

Even though the administrative staff of a nursing home does not have direct physical contact with your loved one, they are still in a position to commit abuse and neglect. Financial abuse is most prevalent among administrators who have access to your loved one’s financial records. In addition to using your loved one’s accounts and identity for financial gain, some facility administrators will also charge for unrendered services to erroneously bill your loved one’s insurance.

Nursing Home Residents

A nursing home facility has a legal obligation to provide an environment that is safe and free of violence, abuse, and harassment. This duty of care also extends to acts of abuse caused by other residents.

The nursing home staff must be aware of their residents’ conduct and interactions with one another. When a staff member witnesses abuse committed by a resident, it is their responsibility to protect the victim.

If you Suspect Abuse

Take immediate action to report any suspected neglect or abuse to the appropriate authorities. Or remove your loved one from harm and secure an injury lawyer who can help your family provide proper care for your family member.

Liability for Neglect and Abuse in a Care Facility

Every care facility has liability to protect its residents from certain kinds of harm. If it can be proven that the nursing care facility allowed:

  • Lack of adequate staffing
  • Negligence in hiring
  • Medication errors
  • Improper training
  • Breach of legal obligations

 

They can be held liable for any harm that comes to residents and would need to pay general damages and special damages to anyone who has a personal injury case against them.

Nursing home abuse and neglect are never acceptable. Residents shouldn’t have to worry about a lack of food or water or inadequate shelter in their building. They should never have to be afraid for their own safety or accept abuse of any kind. They should be able to trust that they will receive proper hygiene, proper medical treatment, adequate supervision, and constant safety. 

We want our loved ones to enjoy their golden years in safety and good health. If someone is being neglected or abused, the resident or family members need to report the alleged neglect to authorities and may need to involve a nursing home negligence lawyer.

Reporting Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

We have laws in the US and in South Carolina to protect senior adults and nursing home residents and to investigate any reports of abuse.

If you suspect that your loved one has suffered from nursing home neglect or abuse, don’t ignore it. You have the power to help protect your loved one by contacting:

Our Columbia, SC Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Offer Free Consultations

When our elderly family members are victims of nursing home abuse, the responsible parties should be held liable. While some abuse warrants criminal charges, you are entitled to file a civil claim seeking financial compensation for the harm your loved one experienced. At Burriss & Ridgeway, our Columbia, SC nursing home abuse lawyers are committed to holding these deplorable individuals accountable. Call (803) 451-4000 to book a free appointment to review the circumstances of your case.

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