Entrusting a nursing home or long-term care facility with the life and wellbeing of a beloved elder is a major decision for you, your loved one, and your family. When making this decision, we expect that our loved one will be properly cared for as though we were doing so ourselves. Unfortunately, many of these facilities are understaffed, employ unscrupulous or poorly trained workers, or simply put profits over the well-being of their residents. As a result, residents at these facilities may be at risk of neglect or deliberate abuse. If you think your loved one is being abused or neglected at a nursing home facility in Georgia, the attorneys at Butler Kahn are ready to help you fight for the accountability you and your family deserve. Call us today to learn about your options in a free, no-obligation consultation.
Nursing Home Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 15,600 nursing home facilities in the United States in 2016. Of these, 69.3 percent were operated for profit. As of 2015, there were 1.3 million people living in nursing homes across the country. The CDC further reports that there were about 28,900 residential care communities housing 918,730 residents nationwide as of 2018. Approximately 78 percent of these were operated for profit. In addition, data compiled for 2015-2016 shows that there were 4,600 adult day-service centers, 12,200 home health agencies, and 4,300 hospices operating in the country. The majority of these were also operated for profit.
Different Kinds of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can take many forms. The Georgia statute protecting elders and disabled adults from mistreatment defines abuse as “the willful infliction of physical pain, physical injury, sexual abuse, mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation of essential services.” Financial exploitation is another kind of deliberate abuse. The same statute defines exploitation as “the illegal or improper use of a disabled adult or elder person or that person’s resources through undue influence, coercion, harassment, duress, deception, false representation, false pretense, or other similar means for another’s profit or advantage.” Finally, neglect is yet another common form of abuse in nursing homes and other assisted living environments. Unlike active forms of abuse, neglect occurs when staff members simply fail to uphold an adequate standard of care, causing the resident to suffer. Examples include leaving a resident with mobility issues to fend for themselves for hours at a time, failing to provide residents with sufficient food and water, and failing to appropriately treat a resident’s injuries.
Potential Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
It can be challenging for family members to detect when their loved one is being neglected or abused in a nursing home, particularly if the victim is not able to effectively report or otherwise communicate the mistreatment. Therefore, it is important that family members stay vigilant, including by familiarizing themselves with common signs of elder abuse and neglect. These include:
- Understaffed or poorly maintained facilities
- Reluctance to speak in front of staff members
- Physical injuries, such as bruising and bedsores
- Malnourishment and dehydration
- Medication dosage errors
- Emotional or social withdrawal
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Dirty sheets and clothing
- Unexplained bank account withdrawals
- Changes to the resident’s will
Nursing home abuse and neglect can lead to a wide variety of physical and psychological suffering. By maintaining regular contact and keeping a watchful eye during visits, families can more easily detect signs of mistreatment and take action to protect their loved one.
Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Abuse and Neglect?
Absolutely. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a responsibility to provide a minimum standard of care to every resident. This includes evaluating the specific needs of each resident and establishing a plan to ensure they receive the care they require. If your loved one was abused or neglected in a long-term care facility, the facility has failed to uphold its responsibility, and you have a legal right to sue. Through a personal injury lawsuit, you can seek compensation for medical bills resulting from abuse, reimbursement for damaged or stolen property, and other financial losses. You may also seek compensation for physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other intangible losses your loved one suffered due to abuse.
State and Federal Laws Against Elder Abuse
There are many state and federal laws meant to guard against and punish elder abuse. One example is Georgia’s Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-term Care Facilities. Among other things, this law requires that residents be informed of their rights and how to report a grievance. Federal law similarly provides that each resident “has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility.” Elder abuse is also punishable under state and federal criminal laws. For instance, in Georgia, knowingly and willfully exploiting, abusing, or unreasonably confining an elder is a felony punishable by up to 20 years behind bars and up to $50,000 in fines. Further, anyone who has an obligation to report elder abuse may also be charged with a crime if they knowingly and willfully fail to inform appropriate authorities.
What To Do If I Suspect Abuse in a Roswell Nursing Home?
If you believe that your loved one is being subjected to abuse or neglect in a nursing home or long-term care facility, you should report the suspected mistreatment right away. There are numerous places you can report elder abuse, starting with the police if you believe your loved one is in immediate danger due to physical or sexual abuse and in need of protection. You can also report elder abuse to:
- Adult Protective Services by calling (866) 552-4464 (press “3”) or by visiting the agency website.
- State of Georgia Department of Community Health by calling (800) 878-6442 or visiting the agency website.
- Georgia State Long-Term Care Ombudsman by calling (866) 552-4464 and (press “5”) or visiting the agency website.
Consult With a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Today
If you suspect that your family member is being abused or neglected at their elder care facility, do not wait to investigate and seek help. At Butler Kahn, our knowledgeable, compassionate elder abuse attorneys are ready to evaluate your case and make sure you know your rights and options. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.