Most Common Nursing Home Injuries
When it comes to our parents and grandparents, we want the best for them at all times. This is especially true when the time comes to move an elderly loved one into a nursing home. Coming to the realization that you can no longer provide the care your loved one needs can be upsetting, stressful, and overwhelming. The situation worsens when you discover that your loved one has suffered nursing home injuries. Whether a loved one endures broken bones, bed sores, sexual abuse, or other common nursing home injuries, your world can be turned upside down by this discovery.
Nursing Home Residents Have Rights
When the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 was passed, the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights was created. Nursing home residents have the following rights under the act:
- The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
- The right to freedom from physical restraints
- The right to privacy
- The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
- The right to participate in resident and family groups
- The right to be treated with dignity
- The right to exercise self-determination
- The right to communicate freely
- The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility
- The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 also created a certification process that all nursing homes in the state and the country must undergo every year. These surveys are to be unannounced and each nursing home must undergo one every 15 months. The surveys include interviews of residents and on-site inspections by surveyors. The following sanctions can be imposed against a nursing home that has been found to not be in compliance with the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987:
- Directed in-service training of staff
- Directed plan of correction
- State monitoring
- Civil monetary penalties
- Denial of payment for all new Medicare or Medicaid admissions
- Denial of payment for all Medicaid or Medicare patients
- Temporary management
- Termination of the provider agreement
What is California Penal Code 368?
California Penal Code 368 was enacted in 1983 in an effort to protect residents who were unable to provide their own welfare. The code has since been expanded to include all adults over the age of 65. Then, the code was expanded to include protections against financial abuse. The code provides protections against the following forms of abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
- Sexual abuse
Penal Code 368 permits the following people to be charged with elder abuse, no matter their relationship to the victim:
- Nursing home doctors, nurses, or other staff members
- Anyone who is aware of elder abuse but fails to report it
The National Council on Aging reports that “In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.”
What are Common Nursing Home Injuries?
The most common nursing home injuries include the following:
- Concussions and other head injuries
- Unexplained bruises or lacerations
- Bed sores
- Fractures or sprains from falls
- Asphyxiation (choking)
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Disorientation or confusion
- Anxiety and Depression
- Death (known as wrongful death)
Nursing home employees are required to provide care for the residents, including the following:
- Ensuring that residents are fed, bathed, and hydrated
- Have their rooms cleaned (beds, sheets changed, etc.)
- Monitored in the event the resident has a history of falling
- Administer medication correctly
- Ensures that the facility does not have any hazards present
How to Spot Signs of Nursing Home Injuries
If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being abused by the staff at their nursing home, you should pay close attention to the following warning signs:
- Bedsores are present on your loved one’s legs, buttocks, or feet
- Weight loss that is sudden and severe
- Frequent open wounds, cuts, or bruises
- Being over-medicated (medication errors)
- Broken bones or fractures that cannot be explained
How Common is Elderly Abuse?
The National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys (NANHA), provides the following statistics on elderly abuse:
- An estimated one in every 10 Americans 60 or older have suffered from some form of abuse
- It is estimated that some five million elderly people suffer abuse every year
A survey of nursing home staff members discovered the following:
- 36% of residents witnessed one incident of elderly abuse in the previous year
- 10% committed an act of physical abuse towards an elderly resident at least once
- 40% of staff members admitted to psychologically abusing residents
Nursing home abuse can be classified in five groups:
- Psychological abuse (11.6%)
- Financial exploitation (6.8%)
- Sexual abuse (6.8%)
- Neglect (4.2%)
- Physical abuse (2.6%)
Citations Issued to Nursing Homes for Violations
When a complaint is filed against a nursing home, the Department of Public Health in California issues citations for those complaints, other investigations, or during the annual certification visit. Citations are issued in three different classes based on the severity of the violations present. The three classes are as follows:
- Class B: A citation issued for violations related to security, health, and safety.
This citation comes with fines ranging from $100-$2,000.
- Class A: A citation issued for violations that present imminent danger to residents or a substantial probability of death or serious injury. This citation comes with fines ranging from $2,000-$20,000.
- Class AA: A citation issued for violations related to the death of a resident that has been directly linked to the responsibility of the nursing home. This citation comes with fines ranging from $25,000-$100,000.
If the nursing home willfully falsifies or omits information in the medical records of a nursing home resident, the facility can face fines ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 for each citation issued. These citations are known as Willful Material Falsification (WMF) or Willful Material Omission (WMO).
The most common regulations violated by nursing homes include the following:
- The facility being free of potential hazards that could lead to accidents
- There is no infection control program in place
- Food has not been stored, prepared, or served under sanitary conditions
- Comprehensive care plans have not been established
- Staff members who have been found guilty of abuse are still employed
- Professional standards of care are not met
- Unnecessary drugs are administered despite a drug regimen being in place
- Professional standards for clinical records are not met
- The highest practicable well-being of care is not provided
- The nursing home fails to follow the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights, offering the residents dignity in their care
Damages Available for Nursing Home Injuries
If your loved one has suffered injuries in their nursing home, you can protect their rights by filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit with the help of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. Lawsuits filed for nursing home abuse can help you recover the following damages:
- Medical expenses for physical therapy, prescriptions, surgery, doctor’s
appointments, therapy, transportation, hospital bills, etc.
- Lost wages if the resident was young and might have been able to return to work following a short-term stay in a nursing home
- Noneconomic damages for the resident’s quality of life
- Punitive damages
If the nursing home abuse case of your loved one exceeds ordinary negligence, you might be able to recover punitive damages for your loved one. Punitive damages are awarded by a judge to the plaintiff when the defendant acted deliberately or maliciously against the nursing home resident who suffered the abuse. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant in the hopes that the same issue won’t occur again. In order for punitive damages to be acquired in a nursing home abuse case, you will need to prove that the defendant acted egregiously or intentionally.
How to Recover Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Case
When the time comes, you should speak to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as you discover your loved one has been abused. Provide the attorney with as much information as possible about the nursing home, the suspected abuse, and the injuries you found. Take pictures of every bruise, cut, or other injury your loved one has suffered. The pictures will be used by the attorney in the lawsuit.
If your loved one can do so, have them keep a daily journal of life in the nursing home. This journal should document when they are bathed, when their bed is cleaned, when they are fed, how often they are administered medication, and any other notes the lawyer feels is necessary for the case.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Injuries
Moving an elderly loved one into a nursing home is never easy. If you worry that your loved one will suffer nursing home injuries, you can do the following to prevent them:
- Pick a facility that has a strong track record of care, professionalism, and safety
- Ensuring that your loved one has the proper equipment (wheelchair, walker, cane, etc.)
- Being on the lookout for signs of nursing home abuse and reporting them immediately
- Visiting your loved one regularly to ensure they are being cared for properly
- Updating the nursing home staff as your loved one’s care needs change
Why You Need a Lawyer for Your Loved One’s Nursing Home Injuries
The law in California protects nursing home residents from all forms of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, and financial). When your loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of a staff member at their nursing home, you need to protect their rights immediately by speaking to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
Berberian Ain LLP provides potential clients with a free consultation when discussing nursing home abuse. Our office is located in Glendale, but we serve clients in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, and throughout California. Call us today at (818) 808-0048, or complete a contact form to schedule a free consultation about your nursing home abuse case.