As the population of West Virginia (WV) ages, more residents of the state are faced with the question of how to provide the best care, treatment, and quality of life for elderly or disabled family members. The decision to entrust a nursing home or other facility with the care of a loved one is difficult to make for various reasons. While many establishments do an excellent job of caring for residents, neglect and abuse in nursing home and long-term care facilities still occur far too often. Families must be vigilante and know how to spot nursing home red flags that indicate potential abuse or neglect so it can be prevented or remedied.
Nursing homes are held to a standard of care that is enforced through state and federal regulations. Victims of WV nursing home negligence and abuse – or their families when the abuse results in death – may be entitled to compensation for their losses, injuries, and emotional distress. If you or a loved one have experienced this traumatic breach of trust, a WV nursing home abuse lawyer from Brewer & Giggenbach, PLLC can evaluate your case and help you determine the next best steps to help your family heal and recover.
How to Identify Nursing Home Red Flags
Elderly and disabled individuals often worry that the responsibility for their care is or will become a burden for their family members. This is one factor that leads nursing home residents not to disclose neglect or abuse when it happens. In other cases, individuals in care facilities fear that, if they tell someone about abuse or neglect, they will face retribution or the situation will worsen. And, in some circumstances, the abused or neglected individual is not able to understand and/or communicate that abuse or neglect is occurring.
Whatever the reason, nursing home residents are often not willing or able to convey threats or abuse to their loved ones. Family members must accept responsibility for the care and well-being of their elderly or disabled loved ones by understanding the types of nursing home abuse that occur, knowing about common nursing home injuries, and learning how to spot nursing home red flags and what to do when you see them.
Understanding the Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse and neglect can occur in various forms. Often, abuse and neglect in these settings stem from a larger issue, such as understaffing or failure to properly train employees. Whatever the cause of the problem, families who want to protect their loved ones in care facilities should know the potential types of nursing home abuse so they can spot WV nursing home negligence or abuse as soon as possible.
Nursing homes and other residential care facilities are required to provide a certain standard of care to patients under state and federal laws. If your loved one is receiving inadequate medical or personal care, has to wait too long to be assisted, lives in unsanitary conditions, is isolated for long periods of time, or is otherwise neglected on a regular basis, there may be grounds to file a WV nursing home negligence claim.
Material Exploitation or Financial Abuse
Material or financial abuse can take many forms, from a facility limiting a patient’s access to his or her own money to outright theft. These crimes can involve petty theft: an aide taking physical possessions from a resident’s room, for example. However, there are also cases in which a trusted caregiver gains the trust of a resident and leverages that relationship for the purpose of financial gain. This could involve convincing a patient to add the caregiver’s name to financial accounts or make changes to a will, among other deceitful acts.
Finally, the administration or staff of a facility could mismanage or intentionally misuse your loved one’s financial resources, resulting in significant loss for your family. This kind of abuse could be the product of accidental billing errors or outright, intentional misdirection of funds for personal gain.
Emotional and Social Abuse
Emotional abuse in nursing homes often comes in the form of verbal assaults. This might include name-calling, threats or other forms of intimidation, or general yelling and/or belittling of a resident. The offending party is often staff, but there are also cases of residents verbally abusing other residents. It is the facility’s responsibility to protect its patients from this (and all) abuse, whether it is done by staff or someone else allowed inside the facility.
Another example of emotional abuse in nursing home is controlling or limiting a resident’s access to services and amenities – such as not allowing a resident to use the phone or participate in group activities.
Finally, a relatively new trend in nursing home abuse has emerged with the rise of social media: facility staff have posted pictures and humiliating stories about residents online. This behavior violates various laws and guidelines regarding privacy in medical care. If you or a loved one has experienced any of the treatment above, a WV nursing home abuse lawyer can help you fight back.
Any action that causes physical harm, intentionally or as a result of carelessness, could be considered physical abuse in a nursing home setting. Accidents do happen, of course, but if you see frequent signs of injury without satisfactory explanation, the possibility of physical abuse must not be disregarded.
It is hard for most people to imagine that sexual abuse is an issue about which they need to be concerned when they have entrusted the care of a loved one to a nursing home or other facility. Sadly, though, this kind of mistreatment does occur. Most any form of unwanted sexual contact or harassment falls into this abuse category. The ability of an abused individual to consent (or lack of ability to consent) to an intimate or sexual relationship is also an important question to answer in many of these cases.
Common Nursing Home Injuries and Nursing Home Red Flags
Sometimes nursing home abuse results in obvious physical injuries to the patient. In other cases, the results of abuse or neglect are more subtle. For this reason, families with a loved one in nursing or other residential care should be aware both of injuries that could signify a problem and additional nursing home red flags.
Common nursing home injuries that could be a sign of abuse or neglect include:
- Bed Sores and Cellulitis
- Broken Bones
- Bruises, Contusions, or Lacerations
- Facial Injuries
- Food Poisoning
- Medication errors
- Poor Hygiene
- Respiratory infections and Pneumonia
- Skin Infections
- Unexplained pregnancy
- Urinary Infections
In addition to these physical signs, families should be aware of significant changes in mood, personality, and behavior, as these can indicate a problem as well. If your loved one experiences frequent injuries or you notice other nursing home red flags, such as unsanitary conditions, inattentive staff, missing possessions, or sudden depression or anxiety, it could be time to reach out to an attorney who can help.
When to Contact a WV Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you suspect WV nursing home negligence or abuse, it is important to act quickly and decisively. Too many families disregard signs of abuse because their loved one assures them everything is okay or they don’t want to accept or admit that a problem exists. Nursing home abuse and neglect are not cause for shame upon family members; these matters are cause for shame on the facility and those aware of and responsible for the abuse or neglect. Those individuals and entities must be held accountable.
If you are concerned about nursing home red flags, a WV nursing home abuse lawyer at Brewer & Giggenbach, PLLC will consult with you for free and work on a contingency basis. If you have a claim and decide to work with the firm, there is no fee unless your claim is successful. Contact us today to schedule a meeting by calling (304) 291-5800 or completing our online contact form.