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Nursing Home Abuse

At some time many of you will come face to face with the difficult decision of placing your loved one in a nursing home.

The most common problems in nursing home abuse cases are the failure to prevent pressure sores, falls, malnutrition and dehydration, physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect and abandonment.

Pressure Sores
Most pressure sores can be prevented. Steps taken to eliminate them include frequent turning of the patient, and higher quality mattresses with overlays. The areas of the body that are most prone to developing pressure sores are: the heels, the backs of knees, the buttocks, and other bony parts of the body. Even with adequate care, pressure sores may occur, but there is no need for them to worsen.

Pressure sores begin as a red sore on the skin. Left untreated, the sore breaks the skin. As the sore worsens, the wound becomes very deep. In the final stage, which is often followed by amputation or death, the wound becomes so deep it goes to the bone. Pressure sores are not a fact of life for the elderly; they are the result of neglect.

In one case I have seen, a nursing home patient had routine gall bladder surgery, which left him unable to move. The nursing home neglected the patient for 12 days. The man developed such deep sores that he became ill from blood poisoning. He died as a result.

Falls are another problem for the elderly in nursing homes. Many times patients are not properly strapped into wheel chairs and fall or slip out. In other cases, patients are left in their beds without the rails up. Unattended, these patients fall and receive head injuries and broken bones.

Malnutrition & Dehydration
Malnutrition and dehydration are clear signs of neglect. The worst part about this type of neglect is that it slows down healing, and can worsen existing health problems. Other cases of neglect include inadequate supervision. A case that we recently settled involved this type of neglect. An elderly man suffering from dementia was given a butane lighter and permitted to smoke unsupervised. He accidentally set himself on fire and suffered third degree burns over 30% of his body. He died a short time later.
Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Physical abuse may include acts of violence like striking, with or without an object, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. The inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind also are examples of physical abuse.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. Emotional/psychological abuse includes but is not limited to verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. In addition, treating a nursing home resident like an infant; isolating a nursing home resident from his/her family, friends, or regular activities; giving a resident the "silent treatment;" and enforced social isolation are examples of emotional/psychological abuse.

Neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a worker's obligations or duties to a nursing home resident. Neglect may also include the failure on the part of the nursing home to provide necessary care. Neglect typically means the refusal or failure to provide a nursing home resident with such life necessities as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, personal safety, and other essentials included in an implied or agreed-upon responsibility to a resident.

Abandonment is the desertion of a nursing home resident by a nursing home worker, who has assumed responsibility for providing care for the resident.

If you have been injured, hurt, or if someone you know and love has been mistreated at the hands of a caretaker, you have every right to seek monetary damages and compensation for your medical bills, damages, and other losses. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a ridiculous and preventable crime like abuse should-not go unpunished, and this includes making those responsible pay for what they have done. To find out if you have a valid claim, you need the advice of an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer who can evaluate the merits of your claim. The attorney can file any necessary paperwork and represent you in court.

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