by HGD Staff
A 2009 study showed that as many as 50% of all seniors living with dementia have been the victim of some form of abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), government reports indicate that as many as 70% of all state investigations of nursing homes result in findings of deficiencies. More terrifying, about 15% of these investigations completely overlook and miss real evidence of immediate jeopardy to a resident.
At Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC, we know that losing a loved one at any age is a traumatic event. When someone you love is seriously harmed, abused, exploited, or neglected by a nursing home facility at which they were supposed to be receiving help, it can be absolutely infuriating. Many families feel they must suffer in silence, and adult children and surviving spouses are often left feeling guilty or ashamed. Fortunately, you have options. Here is what you should know about skilled nursing facilities in the U.S.
1. Most Nursing Homes are Privately Owned
The National Long Term Care Ombudsman reported in 2001 that as many as half of all nursing home residents lived in privately owned nursing homes. Since that time, the number has risen dramatically, with almost 70% of all nursing homes in the country now being owned by private corporations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Privately owned nursing home companies do a lot of fancy accounting in order to hide their true ownership.
In many states, owners can be held personally responsible for injuries and deaths in facilities. Therefore, high-powered law firms and accounting firms have worked hard to shelter these owners. In turn, many nursing home companies operate facilities on slim margins, leaving facilities barely able to meet expenses, all the while passing huge profits to shareholders. By creating strong financial incentives for diminishing the quality of care, nursing homes put our seniors at risk.
2. Nursing Homes do Not Have to be Insured
Surprisingly, there is currently no federal law requiring nursing home facilities to carry professional liability insurance. Regardless of what state you live in, you almost certainly have some form of financial responsibility law that requires you to carry a minimum amount of insurance on your car. Yet, you can own and operate a healthcare facility, designed to provide nursing services to disabled, mentally impaired, or chronically sick seniors who are in the most vulnerable stage of life, and you can do it without any insurance in many states.
With such a low financial requirement, owners hide behind large corporate shell games, leaving injured residents and their families to suffer the burdens of serious injuries alone.
3. Nursing Home Injuries are Often Hard to Spot
Unlike a car crash, it is not always easy to spot nursing home abuse. Victims are often vulnerable and unable to stand up for themselves. They may be ashamed or fearful of retaliation and be unwilling to speak up. Others may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other health-related cognitive delays. As such, many nursing home residents are perfect prey for sexual predators and those with violent tendencies looking for an easy victim.
Worse yet, many elder abuse injuries are subtle and may just look like the “natural” aging process. Consider just a few examples:
- A bedsore is a wound that develops, usually near bony prominences like hips, tailbone, or elbows. A bedsore can rapidly deteriorate, leading to infection and death. At first, you may be told these sores are natural and due to a medical condition. However, keep in mind that most are completely preventable with appropriate care.
- Again, nursing home administrators and nurses will typically tell families that falls are unpreventable, because the senior “would not listen” or “refused to use a call light.” The fact remains, however, that falls are usually also preventable. There are many devices and procedures available for preventing falls in nursing homes. In many situations, the staff simply failed to respond to call lights or refused to implement the necessary devices to avoid falls.
- Medication Errors. Medication errors account for thousands of injuries and deaths each year. Sadly, because nursing home residents are often already quite ill, an unexpected death may look like the natural consequence of a disease, such as kidney failure or respiratory distress. However, the resident may have had years of life left, only to die because he or she was not getting the medication a doctor prescribed.
Get Help Today
If you have any suspicion that a facility may have neglected or abused your loved one, do not take their word for it. Call Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC today. We have a team of dedicated nursing home negligence lawyers who can carefully review the facts and help you determine if you and your family may be entitled to compensation.