There are times when a loved one has to be taken to a nursing home when their care needs more professional and round-the-clock care than the family can provide at home. This is always a difficult decision, and when you’re in this position, you research a variety of facilities to be sure your loved one gets the best possible care.
What happens when, after all that research, you discover that your loved one was the victim of abuse in the facility you thought would protect them? It is a betrayal of trust for a loved one to be abused or neglected while in the care of a nursing home. You know you need to do something, but what?
The Moreno Valley personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw have years of experience dealing with just this type of situation. Our compassionate and empathetic team of lawyers is ready to come to your aid and help you obtain justice for your loved one and compensation for their injuries. The initial consultation is free. Call now to speak with one of our attorneys and learn more about your legal options.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect?
Although not all nursing home residents are elderly, most of them are. California law includes the following types of conditions as elder abuse:
- Physical abuse. This type of abuse can include hitting, slapping, pinching, or any other kind of assault and can include the use of restraints as a means of punishment.
- Sexual abuse. Not only does this category include forcing someone to have sex, but it could also include forcing a victim to look at sexual images, sexual intimidation, or forcing someone to perform acts against their will.
- Abandonment. This happens when a caregiver simply leaves the elderly person to their own devices for extended periods of time.
- Isolation. This means intentionally cutting off an elderly person from communication with the outside world, including access to a telephone, mail, or visitors. The victim could be kept isolated from others in the facility or kept from engaging in any social contact at all.
- Financial abuse. This is wrongfully taking an elderly person’s money, assets, or other property.
- Neglect. Ignoring a person’s need for food, hygiene, clothing, or shelter, as well as failing to protect an elderly person from health and safety hazards, is neglect.
- Undue influence. This is the use of excessive persuasion to overcome an elderly person’s free will, causing them to act in an appropriate way.
- Other. Any other treatment that causes harm, pain or mental suffering.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect
When you visit your loved one, pay particular attention to their physical and emotional state, and the condition of their dwelling. Some of the signs of abuse or neglect you may see are:
- Bed injuries. Different from bed sores, bed injuries may result from falling out of the bed or being strapped to the bed.
- Emotional upset or extreme agitation. A person who is being abused or neglected may seem upset but unable or unwilling to say why.
- Falls, fractures or other injuries. Signs that your loved one may be suffering abuse could be that they fall more often than normal, have bruises in unusual places, or have broken bones.
- Infections. Most infections should be treated quickly and accurately. An ongoing infection may be the result of abuse or neglect.
- Instances of wandering. The victim may be wandering in an effort to escape their abuser.
- Malnutrition. When an elderly person seems to be losing weight at a rapid rate or is perpetually hungry, this is a sign of malnutrition and may show that the victim is being neglected or purposefully denied food.
- Bed sores. If your loved one is forced to lie in the same position in the bed without appropriate and timely changes of position, places where the body contacts the bed suffer bed sores.
- Rapid weight loss or gain. Your loved one may be eating to comfort themselves and could gain weight. Conversely, if they are worried or distressed, or frightened, they may be unable to eat, which can result in drastic weight loss.
- Reluctance to speak in staff member’s presence. A fear of the abuser will hinder a person from speaking out about the abuse or neglect. There is a genuine fear of reprisal from the abuser.
- Unexplained or unexpected death. When a person who appears to be relatively healthy one moment dies suddenly, abuse may be a factor. A failure to adequately explain why the person died is also cause for questions.
- Unexplained injuries. If your loved one has new injuries they can’t explain, they may be suffering from abuse. In some cases, the victim may have cognitive difficulties that prevent them from saying what happened, but in other cases, it could be a fear of reprisal that keeps them silent.
- Unsanitary and unclean conditions. Nursing homes should provide clean bedding and linens. The rooms should be cleaned on a regular basis. If you see that this is not happening, abuse may be taking place.
- Unusual or sudden changes in behavior. A person who is abused may suddenly withdraw from others or begin to act out in an effort to deflect attention away from what is really troubling them.
- Wanting to be isolated from others. A way to protect ourselves from abuse or neglect is to keep away from other people, including the abuser. Isolation prevents others from prying into odd issues. If your loved one acts in this manner, begin to ask questions.
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect
If you suspect someone is being abused or neglected, there are several things you can do. If the abuse puts the victim in immediate physical danger, immediately remove them from the facility and get them to a hospital for medical care. If the abuse is not physically threatening, call your lawyer from OnderLaw for help in determining what the next steps should be. Depending on the circumstances, we might recommend discussing the situation with the facility, or we might recommend that you NOT mention anything to the facility while we investigate. Advising the facility that there may be a lawsuit or claim coming up may allow them time to destroy or hide evidence.
In the meantime, you can call Moreno Valley Adult Protective Services. The Moreno Valley hotline to report elder and/or child abuse is 1-800-491-7123. Local calls can be made to 951-413-5050. They can also be contacted through this email address: dp*********@ri***********.org.
Anywhere in California, the hotline is 1-833-401-0832. You will be asked to give your five-digit zip code so that the proper authorities in your area can be notified of the abuse or neglect.
You can also make reports to the following agencies:
- Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. This organization investigates elder abuse in long-term care facilities. Their statewide Crisis line is 1-800-231-4024.
- Attorney General’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse. This focuses on medical and financial fraud and abuse. The 24-hour hotline is 1-800-722-0432.
- California Department of Health Care Services. This organization provides healthcare assistance to lower-income families. The hotline is 1-800-822-6222.
Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Claims
California has criminal laws that can be filed against someone for elder abuse or neglect. However, claims can also be filed in a civil suit to recover damages, or compensation for your losses. In a civil suit, damages may include:
- Medical bills
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Damaged personal property
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Physical impairment or disfigurement
If the abuse resulted in a death, you could also pursue compensation for these losses:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of guidance
- Lost love, comfort, companionship, support, assistance, or protection
California Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
According to Nursing Home Abuse Justice, in 2014, over 14,000 complaints were filed in California:
- Physical abuse – 27.4%
- Psychological abuse – 19.4%
- Gross neglect – 15.3%
- Sexual abuse – 7.9%
- Financial exploitation – 7.9%
- Resident-on-resident abuse – 22.1%
Why Choose OnderLaw?
OnderLaw knows how you feel about your elderly loved one. We know the emotions that surround placing loved ones in nursing homes. And we know what the law says. We want to help you make sure your loved one is being cared for in a way that is consistent with your and the loved one’s expectations. If you suspect abuse or neglect of your loved one, we will use the legal system and work to bring the abuser to justice. We will work with you to get to the bottom of the matter and bring the full force of the court system to bear on your behalf. It is our practice to keep in constant touch with you throughout the process of a lawsuit, and we will not make a major decision without your input. After all, when you come to OnderLaw to represent you in a lawsuit, we know it is your case. And because it is your case, we will fight for you and your loved one.
Since 2002, we’ve earned over $4 billion in settlements for our clients. We have been recognized by a wide variety of national legal groups, such as Martindale-Hubbell, Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and Rue Ratings Best Attorneys of America. And we continue to support the community that has supported us and made us the success we are today. Among others, we support MADD and the Lupus Foundation.
We’re Here to Help. Call Today
If your loved one was abused in a nursing home, OnderLaw is dedicated to helping you through this difficult time. We will listen to your side of the issues, and we look forward to hearing from you so we can begin working together to bring your case to closure. The first meeting won’t cost you any money. Contact us by phone or online.