Nursing Home Abuse

Skilled Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

As senior citizens age, nursing home centers can often provide a safe and comfortable way for them to access the resources and care they need as they age. As such, when you enroll your senior citizen family member or loved one into a nursing home center, you expect for them to be treated with diligent care, respect, and warmth. Unfortunately, many nursing home facilities instead offer environments that provide inadequate and often unsafe care to senior citizen residents. In particular, these deficiencies in care can lead to bed sores, falls, medication errors, abuse, and sometimes death. At Aretsky Law Group P.C., our Bergen County nursing home abuse lawyers can help you and your loved ones to navigate the complex legal matters that can arise in the unfortunate event of a nursing home abuse case.

Nursing Homes in The United States

According to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there are more than 15,000 nursing homes in the United States. Out of this figure, roughly 70% are for-profit institutions. These centers house over 1.7 million licensed beds, and host nearly the same amount of patients.

Many for-profit centers take cost-cutting measures that can harm the patient experience. This can include hiring less experienced staff that will accept lower wages, or even neglecting to adequately staff the facility to a capacity that would allow for optimal patient care. Since many patients pay upwards of $80,000/year for nursing home care, they expect a higher standard of care, and certainly one that is safe and will accommodate their medical and physical needs.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

The scope of nursing home abuse encompasses many different areas. Our team of Bergen County nursing home abuse attorneys has elaborated on some of these areas in detail below:

Bed Sores
Bed sores are a tell-tale sign of poor care and treatment at nursing homes. Bed sores develop when a bony area of the body experiences too much pressure over a period of time which can restrict blood flow. Ultimately, this will yield dead tissue which leads to wound development. Bed sores often develop on the legs, heels, buttocks, and back. Unfortunately, bed sores are a gateway to an array of other complications including infection, sepsis, osteomyelitis, gangrene, and even death.

Nursing homes should have a clear plan to prevent the proliferation of bed sores. This plan should include constant attention and communication between medical personnel, the patient, and their family. For patients who already suffer from bed sores, prevention plans include creating a repositioning schedule, and applying comfort techniques that help to mitigate the risk of pressure accumulation – such as water, foam, or alternating air.

When pursuing a bed sore lawsuit, you must be able to prove negligence on the nursing home’s behalf by showing that they violated their duty of care to the patient through inexcusable behavior, which can include neglecting to create a prevention plan, or refraining from pursuing appropriate medical protocol, such as a rotation schedule. Our team of experienced attorneys recommends pursuing a bed sore lawsuit that focuses directly on injuries suffered, which can often reap damages in excess of $1M.

Dropped Patients
Patient drops are a commonplace in many understaffed nursing homes. Most patient drops occur in immobile patients while they are being transported from one area of the center to another. Most often, this occurs when the patient is being moved from their bed to a wheelchair, from wheelchair to shower/bath, or from one chair to another. While this often isn’t a malicious act on behalf of the staff member, falls could be easily prevented with greater staffing. Furthermore, poor equipment and outdated maintenance schedules can lead to drops in patients. It is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure that equipment and staffing needs are handled appropriately in order to ensure patient safety and wellbeing.

Drops can lead to a variety of injuries including fractured bones, traumatic brain injury, internal organ damage, and even death. In fact, falling is the leading cause of death in individuals aged 65+. Unfortunately, patient drops in nursing homes occur at an alarming rate exceeding 2 falls per year per patient.

As a senior citizen ages, many muscles that help to swallow can begin to deteriorate. This can become particularly worrisome, considering that it can require over 50 muscles to properly coordinate a swallow. There are also several disorders that can impair swallowing, including: neurological disorders and damage, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and general aging. As such, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to monitor specific patient abilities and to ensure that they are making easy to consume foods available to each patient depending on their needs.

A physician will typically assess the patient’s needs and provide a recommendation to the nursing home, complete with specific instructions about the best way to feed the patient. It is the responsibility of the nursing home to properly chart this information and ensure that caregivers are following directions to protect the patient’s safety and wellbeing. In the event that the nursing home staff fails to comply with instructions, the patient can choke or asphyxiate. For patients with chronic choking disorders, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to administer and maintain devices such as breathing tubes and other machinery. If your loved one has choked at a nursing home at the hands of mistreatment or negligence, the experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at our Bergen County firm are here to help you restore your family’s sense of well-being.

Medication Errors
As patients in a nursing home, your loved one is entitled to safe conditions that help them to carry out their medical needs. This includes taking medication – something that many elderly individuals cannot manage on their own. Unfortunately, many nursing homes fail to provide appropriate quantities of medicine to their patients, or fail to follow necessary instructions. In fact, nearly 100,000 people die annually as a result of medication errors. Disturbingly, over 800,000 adverse drug events (ADE’s) occur at long-term facilities each year, resulting in upwards of $3M in medical costs.

Nursing homes can help to prevent the onset of adverse drug events by updating their technological systems to enhance the computerized monitoring of patient records and prescription information and instructions. However, to cut costs, many facilities fail to update their systems which can result in harm to the patient. Many staff members at nursing home facilities are also poorly trained in how to identify and treat adverse drug events. Some identifiers of these events include: rash, heart rate fluctuations, diarrhea, fever, and issues with hearing, vision, and mental state. It is the responsibility of the nursing home to monitor these symptoms and to ensure that patients are being cared for in a way that respects their needs.

If your loved one has suffered from a medication error due to a nursing home’s negligence, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at our Bergen County firm are here to help you navigate the legal complexities of this situation.

Vital for sustaining life, water is an essential element that humans require to survive and live. Importantly, the elderly and patients of nursing homes require additional hydration. Many patients have medical conditions that deplete their energetic resources more quickly than an average person. These conditions require additional hydration in order to ensure proper functioning and a strong immune system. The elderly suffer from an increased risk of catching diseases that can often be life-threatening, and maintaining proper hydration can help to alleviate the threat of these ailments by securing the immune system.

Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dizziness or fatigue, dry, cracked skin, thirst, loss of appetite, dark urine, and chills. It is the responsibility of the nursing home personnel to keep these symptoms in mind and properly monitor patients to make sure that they are adequately hydrated.

Unfortunately, statistics indicate that over 10,000 deaths have occurred at nursing homes due to malnutrition. As with bedsores, choking, and medication errors, the issue of dehydration is often an issue that occurs due to inadequately staffed nursing homes and insufficient training about how critical hydration is to maintaining a healthy state in the elderly.

Lawsuits regarding issues with nursing home negligence surrounding hydration can achieve high settlements, reaching above $800,000 in many cases. If your family or loved one has suffered from dehydration in a nursing home environment, our staff of nursing home abuse attorneys at Aretsky Law Group P.C. is here to help you navigate the legal complexities of this situation.

The Regulatory Environment Surrounding U.S. Nursing Homes

The Department of Health in the United States holds nursing homes to a high standard, outlined in the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. This provided many protections to patients and their families, including the ability to monitor and update the patient’s Care Plan. Nursing home facilities must be in compliance with these federal regulations in order to receive tax dollars from Medicare and Medicaid to fund operations.


What State and Federal Laws Govern the Care of New Jersey Nursing Home Residents?

Elderly nursing home residents in New Jersey are supposed to be protected from neglect and abuse by state and federal law. The federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 established basic standards of care and fundamental rights for patients residing in nursing homes throughout the United States, while the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program created a network of advocates in each state who investigate suspected nursing home abuses. At the state level, the Adult Protective Services Act requires health care professionals, law enforcement and other emergency personnel to report suspicions that a “vulnerable adult” might be the victim of abuse, neglect, or exploitation to the county. The state’s Nursing Home Resident Rights Act, modeled after the Nursing Home Reform Act, gives patients rights with regard to their medical care, privacy, and personal belongings.

What are Some of the Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

The signs that a vulnerable elderly patient is suffering abuse or neglect in a nursing facility are not always immediately apparent, and often our aging loved ones are incapable of articulating the abuse they are experiencing or afraid to tell anyone. This is why family members must be especially vigilant in looking out for warning signs which can include unexplained weight loss; bruises, scratches, and other marks; sudden personality changes such as depression, anxiety, or angry outbursts; poor hygiene; and soiled or unchanged clothing or bedding. Also take notice if your elderly family member suddenly becomes silent or uncomfortable in the presence of certain staff members or fellow residents.

How Common Is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

Nationwide, nursing home abuse is widely believed to be much more commonplace than official statistics reveal, as a result of difficulties with reporting and collecting accurate data from every state. Sadly, nursing home abuse is a largely hidden problem in the United States and in New Jersey: The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the Centers for Disease Control have concluded that most nursing home abuse and neglect goes unreported.

NCEA estimates that nearly one in three U.S. nursing homes fails to meet federal safety and quality standards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which monitors elder care facilities around the country, found that statewide, 23 percent of New Jersey nursing homes provided their residents below-average care, up to 40 percent had unsafe conditions that created risks for falls and other accidents, and more than 20 percent had poor food sanitation.

Unfortunately, these regulations are often not enough. If you or loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse, contact the Aretsky Law Group P.C. in order to protect your family’s rights and ensure that you are properly compensated for any violations of patient rights that may have occurred at a nursing home.

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