Nursing home abuse and neglect are serious, and growing problems in facilities all over the United States, with tens of thousands of cases being documented each year. Although most nursing homes have devoted professional staff and administrators who care about their patients, many nursing homes are run by large corporations that seem to be more concerned with profits than people.
Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment, maintain adequate health and safety policies and provide the required standard of care and medical treatment. If a patient is neglected or abused at a nursing home, the facility may be liable for the patient’s illness, injury or wrongful death.
The most frequently reported forms of elder abuse in Pennsylvania are self-neglect, caregiver neglect, financial exploitation and emotional abuse. Other most common causes of nursing home deaths and injuries include:
• Physical abuse
• Sexual Abuse
• Malnourishment or dehydration
• Neglect that leads to untreated diseases or death
• Lack of supervision, which can lead to falls
• Medical malpractice, including medication errors and misdiagnosis
• Failure to call in outside medical support
• Failure to have an adequate evacuation plan in case of emergency or natural disaster
Pay Attention to the Signs
Obvious signs of abuse are physical or sexual abuse or neglect, such as bruises or other injuries. However, subtle warning signs are more common – an older person who suddenly becomes more withdrawn and evasive, a person of influence in the senior’s life living beyond their means or accompanying the senior to the bank, the senior’s resources suddenly becoming depleted, running out of prescription medications before they are ready to be re-filled, bedsores, sunken eyes, or weight loss. Additional signs include:
• Rapid weight loss
• Bed sores and ulcers
• Anxiety, irritation, or depression without obvious cause
• Memory loss or forgetfulness
Elder Abuse is a Crime
In Pennsylvania, not only is any type of mistreatment of the elderly morally wrong, it is also illegal. Two Pennsylvania statutes specifically criminalize elder abuse: The Older Adult Protective Services Act (OAPSA) and the Criminal Neglect of a Care Dependent Individual (Act 28 of 1995, 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2713), create criminal and administrative penalties for elder abuse.
What to Do When You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
If you have any suspicion of nursing home neglect or abuse, trust your instinct. It is important to address your concerns, starting with the floor nurse or supervisor. If you feel that your concerns are being ignored, don’t hesitate to take your issues to the facility administrator. If you do not feel that your concerns are being addressed, don’t be afraid to take it to the facility administrator. If you are still not satisfied with the results, you may report potential elder abuse to the police and Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
Before reporting, you must determine the degree of danger and risk the older person faces. If the older person is in imminent danger—meaning that you know that he or she is being abused and his or her life could be in danger— call 911 immediately. You may also contact the Pennsylvania Statewide Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-490-8505. If you believe that an older person is possibly being abused or neglected, be observant and gather as much information as possible.
Contact a Nursing Home Injury Attorney
Making the decision to put a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility is a serious and often emotional decision. You are entrusting nursing home professionals with your loved one’s care, and when that trust is breached, it can be particularly heartbreaking. If you think your loved one is being abused or neglected, the facility and its staff should be held accountable for their actions.
Our experienced and compassionate legal team handles cases involving nursing home deaths due to neglect or abuse. We can help you protect your loved one and ensure that he or she receives just compensation for any illness or injury that is caused by nursing home abuse or neglect.
If you believe your elder suffered a wrongful death because of a nursing home injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses as well.
The skilled West Chester elder abuse lawyers at Wilk Law will assess your case and help you to determine the best course of action to protect your loved one’s rights.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us at (855) 946-3678.