Houston Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Billions Won for the Injured, Abused & Neglected
As we age, we require more medical attention—it is simply human to have our health to decline and our bodies weaken. Tens of thousands of Americans find themselves moving into nursing homes and assisted living facilities every year in order to receive the around-the-clock care that they need. This transition can be difficult for many elderly people, not to mention for the families involved. Great pains are taken to ensure that the care their loved one will be receiving is top of the line and will enable them to live safely and comfortably.
While many assisted living centers and nursing homes are positive changes for the aging individual, nursing home abuse and negligence is still far too common. If you or your loved one has suffered while living in a nursing home, our Houston nursing home abuse lawyers are available to answer your questions and help you pursue compensation. We want to restore justice and dignity to seniors who suffered unjust treatment.
Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes
Varying levels of negligence may be traced back to understaffed or underfinanced assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, more extreme versions of abuse may exist in these situations as well. As elderly loved ones begin to age, they become forgetful, frail, and less lucid, which leaves them practically defenseless against others. This results in an industry infected with different abuses. Take a look at some of the most common types of abuse below:
- Inappropriate use of drugs
- Ignoring an elderly individual
- Isolating them from friends or activities
- Inappropriate physical contact
- Forcing them to view pornography
- Forcing an elderly person to undress
- Neglect of proper care
- Denying that an elder needs care at all
Put simply, financial abuse is the exploitation of an elderly person in order to use their money, accounts, resources, or belongings. Anyone in a position of power or authority over a person is capable of financial abuse—this includes everyone from “kindly” neighbors to nursing home employees to other family members.
- Identity theft
- Misuse of personal accounts
- Signature forgery
- Phone scams
Financial abuse is not simply robbery or stealing. For one, elderly people often need their money more than younger people, as many elderly people do not work. Their medical needs are also far more expensive and frequent. Many victims of financial abuse turn to government aid in order to cover their losses, making financial abuse a societal issue. Even worse, this abuse leaves elders psychologically and emotionally in turmoil.
Financial abuse doesn't have to involve complicated embezzlement schemes, but it can. The crime can be as simple as stealing cash from a sock drawer. In many cases, abuse is theft committed by a person they trust.
Elder financial abuse takes many forms, such as:
- Pretending to be a family member to solicit money
- Promising care or companionship for money in bad faith
- Taking money or property without permission
- Using forgery, fraud, or deception to access a person’s accounts
- Coercing an elderly person to sign away property, money, or their estate
- Taking advantage of an elderly person’s mental illness to solicit funds
While it may seem as if scenarios like this are rare, the American Psychological Association reports that about 2.1 million aged Americans have become victims of some form and degree of abuse. Even worse, only 1 in 44 cases of financial exploitation of the elderly are reported, likely because 90% of cases are committed by loved ones.
- Charging for healthcare that was never provided
- Overcharging for services
- Over or under-medicating
Common Signs of Abuse in Nursing Homes
If you suspect that your loved one is being victimized by nursing home abuse, look for common signs:
- Unexplained injuries
- Restraint marks on wrists
- Sudden loss of weight
- Lack of hygiene maintenance
- Messy living conditions
- Sudden emotional withdrawal/sullen behavior
- Unexplained withdrawals from accounts
Falling Danger for New Nursing Home Residents
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveals that one-fifth of newly admitted nursing home residents will suffer a fall within one month of their arrival. The research concluded that this risk could be mitigated by introducing higher levels of staffing, including the presence of certified nursing assistants.
To conduct the study, researchers examined health care data for over 230,000 first-time residents of over 10,000 nursing homes in the U.S. Of those patients, 21% experienced one or more falls in just their first 30 days of residency.
Falls in nursing homes can pose serious health risks to elderly residents. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die from falls each year. Even those residents who survive falls are at risk of sustaining hip or head injuries which can result in decreased quality of life or even permanent disabilities. Falls among nursing home residents are extremely common—just 5% of adults over the age of 65 live in nursing care facilities, yet these residents account for almost 20% of fall-related deaths in this age group, according to CDC data. This is not entirely surprising—falling tends to be indicative of other, more serious, health problems and nursing home residents tend to be frailer and in worse health than peers who are living on their own.
Even so, some external factors do contribute to nursing home falls:
- Environmental hazards like wet floors can cause between 16 and 27% of nursing home falls
- Medications that affect the central nervous system, like sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs, can increase the risk of falls in nursing home residents. Fall risks are particularly high during the first three days of a patient's introduction to a new medication
- Other contributing factors can include poor foot care, improperly fitted footwear, and improper uses of walking aids
In examining many of these potential causes for nursing home falls, the study researchers discovered that facilities with higher certified-nursing-assistant-to-patient ratios reported far fewer resident falls. Lead study author Natalie Leland, a research gerontologist and occupational therapist with the University of Southern California, concluded that nursing assistants reduce fall rates because they provide hands-on patient care during high-risk activities like dressing, using the bathroom and moving between locations.
Leland said, "Identifying risk of falling is essential for implementing fall-prevention strategies." While many previous studies have examined nursing home falling hazards, this study appears to be the first to specifically look at the dangers faced by newly admitted residents. These people are particularly at risk because they are already disoriented by their introduction to a new place with new, unfamiliar staff, the study authors said.
Nursing Homes Continue to Misuse Antipsychotic Medications
Despite a widespread focus on the problem of the abuse of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has shown that 99% of American nursing homes failed to meet one or more of the requirements needed to prescribe these medications to their residents.
In order to treat residents with antipsychotic drugs, nursing home staff members must complete a four-step patient assessment and care plan process. According to the study's findings, 18% of all facilities failed to create planned interventions for antipsychotic drug use and 99% failed to engage in care plan development. The use of antipsychotics must be carefully monitored, particularly in elderly patients suffering from dementia, because they've been shown to significantly increase these individuals' risk of death.
In response to the study findings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has agreed to implement the following suggestions provided by the Office of the Inspector General for the HHS:
- Improve detection of facility non-compliance
- Actively address non-compliance issues with warnings and/or penalties
- Provide methods for nursing homes to improve the development and effectiveness of resident assessments and care plans
According to the published report, "CMS has recently launched an initiative to improve behavioral health and dementia care and to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes by 15% by the end of 2012." At Arnold & Itkin, we know that choosing a nursing home facility for a loved one is already a difficult process, and frightening information such as this can make the choices seem that much less appealing. We advise families to carefully research the drug policies and safety records of any nursing home before allowing a loved one to become a resident.
Victim of Nursing Home Abuse? We Can Help. Call (888) 493-1629 Now.
If you recognize any of these symptoms and suspect your loved one may be undergoing abuse at the hands of a nursing home, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help you fight for your loved one’s rights and take the necessary steps towards protecting their best interests.
Contact us immediately if you are seeking experienced counsel on what to do next. Your consultation with our top-rated Houston nursing home abuse attorneys is free and confidential.