Do you suspect that your loved one has been the victim of abuse in a nursing home in Valparaiso? If so, the nursing home attorneys of Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers want to hear from you right away. We have the skill, experience, and resources to help you put an immediate stop to the mistreatment and get your loved one the help, justice, and fair compensation they deserve.
Indiana is, unfortunately, one of twelve states with the highest rate of repeated and severe violations of laws that protect nursing home residents. If you suspect your loved one suffered abuse or neglect at their nursing home, you may be able to pursue financial compensation, and also help prevent abuse from occurring at that facility again.
All nursing facilities hold a responsibility to care for their residents and prevent physical harm. They must assess each individual’s needs, develop a specific plan to treat their medical conditions, and ensure their safety. It’s a requirement that all staff undergoes training and routinely evaluates their patients to provide appropriate assistance consistently.
So, when you learn that the care provided by your family member’s nursing home facility was not only substandard but harmful and unlawful, it’s reasonable to feel anger as well as grief. It’s important to remember that there are laws in place to protect your loved one. The skilled nursing home abuse attorneys at Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers can help investigate your suspicion of your loved one’s abuse and handle every detail of your claim or lawsuit.
Nursing Home Regulations
Over 150 federal regulations exist that nursing homes must follow at all times. Additionally, the Indiana State Department of Health, Long-Term Care Division licenses all facilities in Indiana. The department performs an annual inspection of nursing homes throughout the state and investigates complaints.
Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, all staff must adhere to the following requirements:
- Conduct assessments of each resident’s functions, such as walking, bathing, or dressing with or without assistance.
- Prevent a decline in every person’s health or provide medical services if any decline occurs.
- Supervise individuals during physical tasks or provide assistive devices.
- Ensure the freedom of everyone to decide the activities, schedules, and healthcare they want.
- Maintain complete records of every patient.
- Allow all residents access to their records, finances, and visitors.
- Treat all patients with respect and dignity.
- Provide reasonable security for the residents’ personal belongings and valuables.
- Maintain a clean and safe facility free from hazards.
In addition to state and federal laws, nursing home residents have specific rights, including:
- Nutritious meals and dietary services
- Participate in social or recreational activities
- Access to medical social services
- Basic hygiene and dental care
- Receive the correct medications
- Privacy regarding any personal, financial, or material materials upon request
- Assistance for anyone incapable of caring for themselves or functioning as normal
While every nursing home should provide a safe, caring space for each of its residents, the incidents of abuse and neglect in nursing homes in Indiana and across the country continue to occur at an alarming rate. According to a 2014 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, 85 percent of U.S. nursing facilities reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect, and it’s believed that most occurrences of abuse and neglect go unreported.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Sometimes nursing home abuse is blatant. Other times, it’s difficult to spot. It’s a heartbreaking decision placing your loved one in someone else’s care. However, nursing facilities are the best place to receive 24/7 attention, right? It’s typical for family members to assume their elderly relatives will be safe. Abuse happens in places where we least expect it.
Many times, nurses and administrative staff will try to hide signs that a patient is suffering from abuse. It’s common for the caregivers to evade questioning and try to cover up unexplained injuries. Nursing home abuse generally falls under three categories: physical, emotional, and sexual.
It’s shocking finding out an employee licensed to care for elderly patients ends up hurting them. Whether intentional or unintentional, situations arise that lead to injury. Some staff members might harm a resident out of anger, frustration, or cruelty. In other cases, someone might hurt their patient accidentally, but try to cover it up instead of seeking medical treatment.
The warning signs of physical abuse to look for include:
- Unexplained lacerations, burns, or bruises on the body
- Broken or fractured bones
- Injuries not promptly reported to the immediate family
- Changes in mood, such as becoming depressed or getting startled easily
- Fear or distrust or specific nurses or staff members
- Damaged possessions, such as eyeglasses
Emotional abuse is just as common as physical abuse. It’s also easier to get away with because there’s a lack of physical evidence. Nursing staff might isolate their patients for an extended period as punishment. They could also yell, belittle, or call them derogatory names.
Some elderly individuals might exhibit the following behaviors from emotional abuse:
- Change in behavior, such as withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed or social situations because of anxiety or loss of confidence
- Fear of being left alone with a particular staff member
- Repetitive behaviors, such as mumbling or rocking back and forth
- Refusing medication as a psychological response to the emotional abuse
Seniors are one of the most vulnerable groups of people when it comes to sexual abuse. It’s appalling to think that any human being would take advantage of their patient, but it does happen. Victims usually don’t report these types of cases because of embarrassment or fear of retaliation by the abuser.
Communicate with your loved one and take note of any of the following signs:
- Bruises on or near the genitals or breasts
- Diagnosis of venereal disease of infection
- Torn or stained underwear
- Anal or vaginal bleeding
- Self-isolation, angry outbursts, or withdrawal from social situations
While it’s painful to even consider that any of these types of abuse could occur, especially to a loved one, it’s important to watch for signs of abuse, and remember that you don’t have to navigate this situation on your own. The attorneys at Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers will not only advise you on your case, they will advise you on steps to take to substantiate your concerns.
Why Does Nursing Home Abuse Occur?
The short answer: understaffed facilities. Currently, in the United States, around 17,000 nursing homes are caring for 1.6 million elderly patients. Approximately one million individuals live in a nursing home or assisted living facility where there aren’t enough nurses and assistants.
About 40% of residents suffer from dehydration or malnourishment. Thousands sustain a severe or permanent injury from a preventable fall. Others have medical conditions the staff doesn’t treat until it has progressed past the point of curing.
When a nursing facility employs staff that is overworked or not adequately trained, it could lead to anger and frustration getting taken out on the patients. Many nurses feel like they’re burning the candle at both ends. They work overtime, and there’s often no one present to supervise them. In situations like that, it’s easy for them to get away with mistreating their patients.
Despite the laws and regulations, abuse occurs for months or even years without anyone finding out about it. Most nursing home residents are incapacitated or unable to notify anyone of any wrongdoing. Many are afraid of the ramifications of bringing forward their accusations. Others worry no one will believe them, and the abuse will worsen.
Your Loved One Is Entitled to Compensation
If you think your loved one is the victim of abuse, you should take the following steps immediately:
- Notify a manager in the nursing facility. Request a report get written and saved in the resident’s file;
- Transfer your loved one to another nursing home or hospital for treatment of the injury;
- Take detailed notes of the injuries, when you believe the abuse started, and who you think abused them;
- Call the police. In extreme situations, it’s possible to notify local law enforcement to investigate and document the abuse;
- Get the name and phone number of the facility’s general liability insurance to file an insurance claim for compensation. You could also file a lawsuit against the nursing home or pursue legal action against individuals involved in the abuse;
- Save copies of medical records about the treatment of injuries suffered in the nursing home; and
- Hire a lawyer from Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers to help you with your case.
Your loved one could receive reimbursement for any losses resulting from the abuse. The most common compensatory damages sought in an insurance claim or lawsuit are:
- Medical bills for physical and psychological treatment
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental distress
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Immediate family members could also seek compensation for payment of any necessary medical treatment, time away from work to care for the abused victim, or wrongful death benefits if the elderly individual died from the injury.
The ultimate financial award, in any case, is for punitive damages. Punitive damages punish the nursing home or a specific staff member for their role in the abuse. Instead of coming from the liability insurance company, you receive payment directly from the at-fault party.
In the state of Indiana, there’s a law that places a cap on all punitive damages. If you win your case and the judgment allows for payment of punitive damages, you can only collect a maximum of $50,000 or three times the total number of compensatory damages, whichever is higher.
I Can’t Afford a Lawyer. What Should I Do?
The Valparaiso nursing home abuse lawyers from Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers take cases on a contingency basis. That means you won’t have to pay any upfront fees or costs. Throughout your case, we won’t send you a surprise invoice or expect you to recover any lost costs if we don’t secure a settlement. We only get paid if you get paid.
We also offer a free case evaluation. If you’re unsure about how to move forward with your nursing home abuse case, we can meet with you at no risk to discuss all the details. After reviewing your loved one’s unfortunate situation and the resulting injuries, we’ll take you on as a client if your needs match the services we provide.
Valparaiso Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers You Can Trust
Attorney Brian Custy founded Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers intending to seek justice for his clients. He’s licensed to practice law in Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado. He uses his experience and knowledge to pursue insurance claims and fight aggressively in court.
At Custy Law Firm | Accident & Injury Lawyers, we proudly represent victims of nursing home abuse in Valparaiso. We understand the traumatic experience of finding out someone you love suffered because of another person’s cruelty. Our Valparaiso nursing home abuse lawyers will make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. Call (219) 286-7361 today to schedule an appointment.