Nursing homes are meant to be a valuable resource for our elderly population – a place where they can thrive without having to worry about the stress associated with living alone. Unfortunately, a segment of this population faces neglect and abuse in a nursing home setting. According to the National Council on Aging, one in ten elderly Americans are abused in nursing homes each year. However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story, as abuse is typically under-reported.
If you witnessed, experienced, or suspect elder abuse or neglect of any kind at a nursing home or assisted living facility, do not wait to contact a Phoenix nursing home abuse lawyer at Cullan& Cullan. We can work quickly to explain your rights and options, and what you can do right now to stop the abuse and hold at-fault parties accountable. We are passionate about preserving the rights and dignity of our elderly loved ones.
For a free review of your case, call our nursing home abuse attorneys in Phoenix (602) 900-9483.
Nursing Home Abuse Defined
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines several types of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services defines elder abuse as a willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment that results in pain, physical harm, or anguish. This is done by a person, including a caregiver, depriving someone of goods or services needed to avoid physical harm, anguish, or mental illness.
Physical abuse may be slapping, hitting, or improperly using restraints. Neglect and emotional abuse are harder to define, as each situation is unique. Generally, we define neglect as the failure of any caregiver, whether hired or family, to provide basic necessities to an elder. These needs are related to shelter, food, medical care, and hygiene.
Common Types of Nursing Home Injuries
Our elderly are especially vulnerable because they may be unable to vocalize when something is wrong. It is important to know about the most common kinds of elder injuries:
- Medication errors. Overdosing or prescribing the wrong kinds of medications can greatly decrease one’s quality of life.
- Falls or head injuries. As we age, our bodies become weaker and we are more easily injured. A simple fall can lead to broken bones and permanent consequences.
- Bed sores – also called Decubitus Ulcers. Elderly persons who cannot get out of bed must be moved often to avoid the development of painful ulcers. Neglecting to do so can result in serious injury.
- Malnutrition and dehydration. Make sure your loved one has adequate access to quality food and water (or feeding tubes, if necessary). Watch for evidence of dry lips or weight loss.
- Sepsis. Categorized by severe infection and fever, raised heart rate, pain, and inflammation, sepsis occurs in three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock.
Bedsores: Prevention, Stages & Treatment
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are a common sign of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. These occur in sedentary persons in places on the body where bone and skin are closest, such as the hips, ankles, elbows, and heels. It is vital that nursing home staff take proper care and precaution against bedsores, including regularly moving patients and promptly treating patients who have arrived from the hospital with sores present.
A patient’s position should be changed every 15 minutes for those in a wheelchair and once every 2 hours for those who are bedridden. Patients should also not be made to rest directly on their hips and skin should be kept clean, dry, and free of infection. Of course, proper nutrition and regular exercise plays a big part in preventing bedsores and skin damage, and physicians, nurses, and physical therapists should be kept well-informed on their patient’s wellbeing.
There are four different stages of bedsores:
- Stage 1: Sores are painful or warm to the touch and may appear red or blueish in color.
- Stage 2: Open wounds, fluid-filled blisters, and pink colored areas on the body.
- Stage 3: Deep wounds with yellow-colored tissue.
- Stage 4: The final, advanced stage that may exposed muscle or bone and dried, dead skin tissue.
Treatment includes antibiotics and keeping the affected area clean and dry, especially in the earlier stages. Later stages may require surgical intervention, pain medication, and muscle relaxers. Cushions, pillows, and specialized mattresses should always be made available to patients with bedsores.
Elder Abuse & Neglect in Arizona: Who’s Liable?
If an elder is abused in a healthcare or nursing home setting, the facility may be liable for a number of reasons:
- Negligent hiring
- Errors in dispensing medication
- Lack of adequate training
- Failing in fulfilling obligations
Nursing home facilities are responsible for the actions of their employees, a term known as “vicarious liability.” If a third party vendor is involved, it may also be held liable for negligence. For example, if a nursing home hires the help of an outside physician who negligently prescribes medication, the third party practice may also be liable for damages.
Reporting Elder Abuse
Certain entities, like healthcare facilities and employees, are required by law to report suspicions of elder abuse. If you suspect elder abuse, you should immediately contact Arizona Adult Protective Services. You aren’t required to provide evidence of abuse to report it. Arizona also has a free hotline, funded by the National Center on Elder Abuse, to report suspected elder abuse or neglect.
Your Phoenix Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
If you suspect your loved one is being abused or has been injured through someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. Nursing home employees are required by law to exercise reasonable care around their residents and tend to their daily needs. Failure to act accordingly is considered negligence.
Contact our nursing home abuse attorneys in Phoenix at (602) 900-9483 or a free case evaluation. We offer our services on a contingency-fee basis, so you only pay if we win.