Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Huntsville Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers
Fighting for the rights of those injured in nursing homes from abuse and neglect
At Martin & Helms, we provide compassionate representation for clients who have a loved one who was injured, or died, because of nursing home negligence or abuse. Whether your parent or spouse lives in a nursing home here in Huntsville, elsewhere in Alabama, or anywhere throughout the US, we want to help. Contact us today to learn more.
What is nursing home abuse and neglect?
Elder abuse in nursing homes is chronically underreported, but the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that about 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse, and the estimates can range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year in this country, but only an estimated 1 in 14 cases of abuse gets reported to authorities.
The NCOA lists the following as examples of elder abuse, which can take place in homes and nursing facilities by families and nursing home staff members:
- Physical abuse which inflicts pain or injury on an elder.
- Sexual abuse means nonconsensual touching, fondling, or intercourse with an older adult who is unwilling or unable to consent or physically forced to participate.
- Emotional abuse in the form of verbal threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation.
- Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult other than for medical reasons.
- Passive neglect is the caregiver's failure to provide things that are necessary for life including water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
- Willful deprivation is denying medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or some other form of assistance, exposing a person to physical, mental, or emotional harm--except when a competent, older adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.
- Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult's resources by another.
What are the warning signs of abuse and neglect?
A nursing home is obligated to provide adequate care and security for its patients. When the administration and staff at a nursing home fail to provide the care that residents require and which they are entitled under the law and basic human decency, it can be considered negligence. The following are a few examples of warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect:
- Unexplained weight loss and dehydration
- Unusual anxiety or agitation
- Bruising, cuts, lacerations, or puncture wounds
- Unexplained bone fractures
- Unkept appearance, lack of physical hygiene
- Fearful around certain residents or staff members
When you see any of these or other warning signs of neglect or abuse, it is vital that you inform the nursing home administrators immediately. If you witness a resident being abused, or if you see evidence of an assault, you can dial 911 to reach law enforcement.
Nursing home neglect and understaffing
As the United States population grays, and the number of elderly people increases, the problem of understaffing in nursing homes will only become more evident. According to Alabama Public Health, “Alabama’s elderly population is expected to grow by 82.4 percent between 2010 and 2040, adding 542,061 elderly to the population.” At this rate, understaffing will become the norm, not the exception.
A study published in Health Services Insights journal reports that part of the problem with quality in U.S. nursing homes is because of inadequate nurse staffing; however, it also points out that there needs to be a higher minimum staffing standard for U.S. nursing homes. The study concluded that there is a need for economic, regulatory, and political solutions to ensure that all nursing homes provide safe and high quality of care.
Alabama nursing home residents’ bill of rights
According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which is the federal healthcare agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nursing home residents have rights under federal law which include but are not limited to the following:
- The right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- The right to be informed in writing about services and fees before you enter the nursing home.
- The right to manage your own money or to choose someone else you trust to do this for you.
- The right to privacy, and to keep and use your personal belongings and property as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others.
- The right to be informed about your medical condition, medications, and to see your own doctor. You also have the right to refuse medications and treatments.
- The right to have a choice over your schedule (for example, when you get up and go to sleep), your activities, and other preferences that are important to you.
- The right to an environment more like a home that maximizes your comfort and provides you with assistance to be as independent as possible.
Nursing homes receive a significant amount of federal funding. When they fail to meet federal standards for staffing and safety and patient care, they can be fined.
Using arbitration to protect profits
Nursing homes are often owned by major corporate health care companies, which employ a team of attorneys to protect their position and preserve their profits. One of the ways they do this is by forcing residents and/or caretakers to waive all rights to a trial, and accept arbitration instead. Though there has been pushback in the news recently about overturning mandatory arbitration clauses, that does not mean your loved one’s facility will not try to do it, anyway.
Proving liability can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Just because you signed a contract with a mandatory arbitration clause does not mean it is perfectly legal, or that there are not legal ways to pursue justice through other means. At Martin & Helms we are committed to helping our clients obtain justice, so call us to learn more.
How can a Huntsville nursing home neglect attorney help my case?
If you are planning to take legal action because a loved one was abused or neglected at a nursing home, you will need a legal advocate who will fight for your loved one’s rights. If your loved one is frail or has cognitive impairments and is unable to speak for himself/herself, he or she needs someone willing to stand up for the right to dignity, proper care, and safety.
We are here to protect your right to a fair settlement when the attorneys for the defendant want to make sure that you do not recover anything.
How to report nursing home abuse or neglect, Alabama
If you witness an elder or another vulnerable adult being neglected or abused, if it is an emergency, dial 911 for law enforcement. If you witness or see signs of abuse, neglect, poor care, not enough staff, unsafe or unsanitary conditions, dietary problems, or mistreatment you should file a complaint immediately. You can also file a complaint about the care a resident is receiving in an Alabama nursing home by contacting the Alabama Department of Public Health:
Eldercare hotline: 1-800-356-9596 (to file a complaint)
Write a letter of complaint addressed to:
Alabama Department of Public Health
Bureau of Health Provider Standards
201 Monroe Street, Suite 700
Montgomery, AL 36130-3017
ATTN: Complaint Unit
After you have complained to the nursing facility administration and filed a complaint with the Alabama Department of Public Health, you may want to consider taking legal action if your loved one has suffered serious injuries because of nursing home abuse or neglect.
If you are concerned about your loved one who has been injured as a nursing home resident, we invite you to schedule a consultation so that you can discuss what is going on. You might have grounds for a claim, and if so, our compassionate Huntsville nursing home negligence lawyers can help you.
Schedule a free consultation with our experienced Huntsville nursing home abuse attorneys today
After a serious injury because of nursing home abuse or negligence, the trusted Huntsville personal injury lawyers at Martin & Helms are here to represent you. You are invited to call us at 256-539-1990 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We also serve injured clients in Decatur, Athens and Madison, and throughout the state.