According to the American Psychological Association, more than two million American elders are abuse victims. As West Virginia nursing home abuse attorneys, we know the vast majority of people love their dear elders. These loved ones are old and frail and are in retirement and nursing homes, supposedly receiving the special medical and personal care they need However, this isn’t always the case. Elder abuse may occur in any type of retirement facility:
- Long-term care facility
- Rehabilitation centers
- Old-age centers
- Residential treatment and care facility
- Community integrated living arrangement
- Assisted living or shared housing facility
- Supported living facility
- Adult living facilities
- All other homes to elders
If you believe your elderly loved one is being mistreated in a retirement facility, it is up to you to take the necessary action to help them. Additionally, you may seek compensation for them by contacting a personal injury attorney in West Virginia. Tiano O’Dell, PLLC is committed to protecting the rights of individuals who have been harmed by the intentional or negligent actions of others.
Nursing Home Laws in West Virginia
In West Virginia, all nursing home facilities must adhere to federal standards of care as well as state regulations. When facilities fail to exercise a reasonable and compliant standard of care, they open the door for negligence and abuse. In West Virginia, notable regulations and requirements state:
- Certain professionals must report instances of abuse to the state Department of Health and Human Services within 48 hours of identification. These individuals include mental health professionals, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, dental professionals, nursing home employees, social workers, and religious healers.
- Anyone who suspects abuse may file a report using a 24-hour hotline. Call (800)352-6513 to report an incident. West Virginia residents may call (866) 241-5062 to report financial abuse. Include as many details about the situation as possible.
- Nursing homes must maintain a valid state license for operation.
- They also must provide every resident with an accurate and complete list of costs and provide a 30-day notice if the terms of billing change. Residents are not liable for undisclosed costs.
- Directors must create and use a set of rules to investigate complaints and take action if they find instances of negligence or abuse.
- Nursing home residents maintain rights, including the right to be treated with respect, manage their own money, have privacy and a comfortable, home-like environment, and receive notification about their own medical care and medications.
Nursing homes must also follow the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act. This Act affects nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid and requires quality of care:
- “Nursing homes must provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care.”
- Sufficient nursing staff
- Prevent the deterioration of a resident’s ability to bathe, dress, groom, transfer and ambulate, toilet, eat and communicate
- Provide good nutrition, grooming, and personal hygiene
- Maintain dignity and respect of each resident
- Provide pharmaceutical services that meet the patient’s needs
- Give all patients the right to express grievances without fear of retaliation or eviction
Our experienced West Virginia nursing home abuse attorneys can help you confirm your suspicion of abuse, file reports with appropriate state and federal agencies, and take action against negligent individuals and facilities. Laws exist to protect you and your family from unethical practices, neglect, and abuse. Any facility that fails to maintain compliance and to respect the rights of residents may face regulatory fines, lose its license to operate, and face civil actions.
Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse
Attributing nursing home abuse to malicious staff members oversimplifies the problem. In reality, many causes give rise to abusive conditions. Some people do abuse elders with malicious intent, but the following causes may also play a role in instances of nursing home abuse:
Overworked employees and understaffing
Federal and state laws govern basic staffing requirements, but these may not provide adequate care for elders at the facility. When a nursing home relies on a small group of people to tend to the needs of multiple patients, staff members start to make mistakes.
Long hours, extensive job responsibilities, and poor staff support services all take a toll on employees, from registered nurses who oversee care to nursing aides. Over time, these conditions lead to forgetfulness, negligence, and unidentified instances of malicious abuse.
Poor training programs
Aside from registered nurses and physicians, nursing home employees may include a mixture of skilled and unskilled workers. In an effort to cut costs, some facilities may only invest in the minimum requirements for training. Poorly trained employees make mistakes and may provide inadequate care.
The United States’ elderly population is currently the largest it has ever been. As more baby boomers age and life expectancy continues to lengthen, nursing homes often struggle with supply and demand. Nursing home work is tough, and facilities need to hire employees as quickly as possible. As a result, management may not vet each candidate properly before offering a job.
Lack of oversight
In a tightly managed nursing home facility, employees who begin to demonstrate signs of negligence or abuse do not last long at the facility. Inadequate training, negligent hiring, and negligent internal promotions may prevent facilities from identifying and handling malicious employees.
In addition to clothing, feeding, and assisting residents as needed, nursing home facilities administer medications. When employees make mistakes, purposefully overdose, or under-provide medications, elders may suffer injuries or die. The wrong blood pressure medication can severely drop or raise blood pressure or blood sugar to the point of crisis. Many elders take several medications requiring careful and regular dosing.
Common Types of Elder Abuse
The type of nursing home abuse may affect an elder’s emotional and physical experience, long-term prognosis, and financial stability. Family members should and facility employees must report any of the following types of abuse to facility management and relevant state/federal agencies:
Caregivers and third parties engage in financial abuse when they use an elder’s financial information for personal gain or manipulate elders into making purchases or providing financial support. Health care fraud, scams, and identity theft all fall under the category of financial abuse.
Individuals are guilty of physical abuse when they physically attack or intentionally harm elders. This can cause bruises or broken bones. Additional examples of physical abuse include unnecessary physical restraint, medication mismanagement, and traumatic physical contact (i.e. striking or forceful grabbing).
Some forms of elder abuse present subtle signs and symptoms. Emotional abuse often takes place over time and may include any actions or comments designed to belittle, hurt, or frighten an elderly person. Caregivers may knowingly or negligently engage in emotional abuse.
At any age, sexual abuse includes any unwanted communication or forced act involving sexual content. Forcing an elder to watch pornography, making lewd comments, rape, and molestation all fall under the category of sexual abuse.
Inattentive and thoughtless caretaking can harm an elder as much as purposeful abuse. When caretakers fail to or imprecisely fulfill an elder’s needs (e.g. providing food, shelter, and basic hygiene), they are guilty of neglect.
If staff is not giving the correct medication or the wrong amount of medication, your loved one may experience adverse effects or death after medication errors.
Each type of abuse can lead to permanent adverse health outcomes for elderly individuals and their families. In the final years of life, nobody deserves to fear their caretakers or suffer needlessly at their hands. Carefully choose your loved one’s nursing home facility, and watch out for these types of abuse.
Nursing home wrongful death is also a form of abuse. If a patient dies while in the care of a nursing home and that death could have been reasonably prevented, the nursing home may be liable for negligence and neglect. In these cases, certain surviving family members have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of abuse, consult our compassionate Charleston nursing home abuse attorneys to learn more about your legal options.
Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
The first step in combating abuse is identifying its presence. This step often takes patience and perseverance. Perpetrators may cover up the signs of their abuse, threaten their charges, and put on a friendly and charming face when family members arrive. Frightened and embarrassed elders may refuse to open up about their experiences. A few signs may indicate the presence of elder abuse, even in the absence of obvious symptoms:
- Caretakers fail to provide plausible explanations for injuries. Occasionally an elder may suffer an unavoidable or accidental injury. If bruising, lacerations, and fractures do not reasonably match the elder’s and the caretaker’s explanation, abuse or neglect may have played a role in the injury.
- The elder’s personality changes in ways that do not match up with current medical conditions. Some personality changes will occur if an elder experiences dementia or other cognitive disorders. If you notice a typically clear-minded elder avoid eye contact, act fearful around caretakers, or engage in dementia-like actions (such as rocking back and forth) investigate the reason behind the change.
- You witness a caretaker behaving aggressively toward an elder. Threatening, forcefully moving, or insulting an elder may indicate physical and/or emotional abuse.
- The facility looks dirty and the elder appears to have poor hygiene. Nursing home facilities should provide a clean, safe atmosphere for their residents and provide adequate hygiene and sanitation services. Dirty rooms, unwashed linens, bedsores, and a persistent, unpleasant odor may all indicate neglect.
- A resident is suffering from dehydration or malnutrition.
- An elder’s lab results or treatments involve unexplained STIs. The presence of a sexually transmitted infection or injuries to the genitals often serves as red flags of sexual abuse.
- You notice unusual financial activity. Family members may see unusual bank account and credit card transactions if they have access to the information. In the absence of these signs, a new friend who spends an unusual amount of time with the elder and an elder’s report of financial insolvency may point to financial exploitation.
If you notice anything in a facility that makes you feel uncomfortable, ask questions, do some research, and raise your concerns with the management. From there, our law firm can help you investigate the claim and hold the staff, management, or another responsible party liable for damages to your loved one.
Contact Our West Virginia Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Today
Nursing homes and adult facilities have a duty to provide professional, safe care for their residents. These patients depend on the staff to take care of them. When this duty is breached and wrong is committed, it may be considered abuse or negligence. If the abuse is intentional or extreme, your lawyers may seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
The nursing home abuse lawyers at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC have been recognized as West Virginia Super Lawyers and Top 100 Trial Lawyers. They have the legal skills and personal commitment to help you and your loved one. There are no fees unless they win your case.
For legal advice and to schedule your free case evaluation with a West Virginia nursing home neglect attorney, call Tiano O’Dell, PLLC at (304) 720-6700.