As U.S. Population Ages, Reports of Nursing Home Abuse on the Rise
National data on cases of elder abuse in America’s 15,600-plus nursing homes and other elder-care programs is hard to come by. But several recent studies by government investigators, advocacy groups and the news media have chilling implications.
According to the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS), 14,258 (7.6 percent) of approximately 188,599 complaints reported to state ombudsman programs in 2014 involved abuse, gross neglect or exploitation. Another study of nursing home staff throughout the country found that 36 percent had witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly patient in the previous year, 10 percent committed at least one act of physical abuse and 40 percent admitted to committing psychological abuse. It gets worse: A CNN special investigation in February of 2017 found that the federal government cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of sexual assault and abuse from 2013 to 2016.
Given that 1.4 million aging adults already live in nursing homes and that the number of Americans 65-plus will double between 2010 to 2050, this issue will only become more pressing.
Keep a Watchful Eye
Elder abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviors, including physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse and neglect. Beyond the physical scars left by abuse, neglect and mistreatment have dangerous effects on the quality of life left to an aging person. Elders who have been abused have a higher risk of early death compared to those who have not been mistreated. If your loved ones are in a nursing home or other elder care program, watch for these warning signs:
Broken bones or fractures
Bruising, cuts or welts
Signs of dehydration
Mood swings and emotional outbursts or unusual depression
Reclusiveness or refusal to speak
Refusal to eat or take medications
Unexplained weight loss
Poor physical appearance or lack of cleanliness
Caregivers not wanting patients to be left alone with others
Sudden changes in financial situation or missing personal items
Protect Your Most Vulnerable Loved Ones
For a family member or caregiver choosing a care facility, the risk of abuse can be overwhelming and traumatic. The best way to prevent elder abuse is to choose the right care facility, which is not always easy given location or financial constraints. Nevertheless, here are factors to consider:
Talk to residents or other patients. Observe their physical well-being and behavior. Also visit with residents’ families if possible, and learn whether they have experienced problems with the facility.
Avoid facilities that have restricted access.
Meet with key personnel (nurses, aides, social workers, administrators and doctors).
Read contracts carefully before signing and look for a forced arbitration clause. The rights of your loved one may be denied even if they are abused. Ask that the forced arbitration clause be removed or consider another facility.
Visit frequently. Vary your visits to different times of the day and evening to assess the care provided during the day, night, weekends and holidays.
Trust your gut. Pay attention to whether residents appear clean, well fed and free of bruises or other wounds. Also note if the environment is peaceful and feels safe.
Document in writing the details about any problems or concerns.
Compare facilities. Look up state survey reports here.
Contact NH Elder Abuse Attorneys
Before pursuing a civil action for institutional elder abuse, it is important to objectively evaluate the facts of the case. The NH Nursing Home Injury Attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC provide aggressive yet caring legal representation to those whose loved ones have been the victims of NH nursing home abuse. Our goal is to help our clients receive full and fair compensation for their injuries. This includes pain and suffering that has been suffered due to negligent care of the elderly.
If you need help bringing a NH nursing home abuse claim, or have any questions, including needing information about a nursing home requiring the signing of a forced arbitration clause, we are available to help. There are no up-front costs for our services. All NH personal injury cases are handled on a contingency basis. This means that we are only paid for our services if we successfully recover damages from the responsible party. For a free consultation, call (603) 239-2101, email us at info@MZLawNH.com, or contact us by using the “contact us” form or chat feature on our website.
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Attorneys Manning and Zimmerman were professional throughout the entire experience. They kept us informed and pursued our case with our best interest. We were pleased with our experience. I recommend them for their attention to detail, conscientiousness and kindness.
According to a study in the Journal of Patient Safety, every year between 210,000 and 440,000 Americans who visit the hospital for care may suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death. To put that in perspective, only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans than medical errors in hospitals and other health care facilities. In fact, according to Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care.”
One of the first questions you may have about your potential medical malpractice lawsuit is, “What do I need to prove?”
If you are injured in a hospital, you will have to prove that a health care professional was negligent in their treatment of you and that you were injured as a result of that health care professional’s negligence. This is an overview of what you will need to prove in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital, and the types of damages that you can reasonable expect to recover.
In order to be successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital, you will have to prove the following:
The hospital owed you a duty of care. Hospitals are required to treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay. If you were medically treated at a hospital, then all of the hospital’s treating health care professionals owe you a duty of competent medical care up to the standards established by the medical care profession. The hospital usually will be liable for the acts of its staff and treating health care professionals. Conversely, if you choked on a piece of food and were injured at a dinner party where a physician who works at a hospital was a guest, that doctor and the hospital would not owe you a duty of care since the doctor was a guest and you were not at the dinner party to receive medical treatment.
The hospital breached that duty of care to you. The duty of care refers to the medical standard of competence established by the medical care profession. The question is what a reasonable treating health care professional would have done in a similarly situation and whether the treatment you received met the established medical standard of care. An example would be if a nurse or physician made a prescription error or failed to diagnose your condition which led to an injury. Those mistakes could constitute medical negligence. As another example, if you go to a hospital for treatment and got an infection because the hospital’s facilities were unclean, you could have a case for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The hospital’s breach of their duty of care to you caused your injuries. This refers to whether the hospital’s treating health care professional’s conduct caused your injuries. Common situations of breaches of the medical standard of care include failure to diagnose, improperly performed procedures, an unclean environment, and prescription errors. For example, if you go to a hospital for an emergency surgery and a doctor improperly amputates an extremity or leaves a scalpel inside of you, then you probably have a case for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, if you had a pre-existing condition, such as a heart condition that was not related to your treatment at the hospital, the hospital would probably not be liable for injuries related to your heart condition. An exception would be if your treating health care professional’s actions worsened your pre-existing condition unnecessarily.
That your injuries are compensable. If you were injured because of a hospital health care professional’s negligence, you will have to sustain actual injuries for which you can be compensated. As an example, if your doctor improperly performed a surgery, but you recovered well and suffered no real loss, you would probably not have any compensable injuries. Conversely, if a hospital doctor improperly conducted a surgery and caused you to lose the full use of your arm that would not have otherwise have happened but for the doctor’s substandard medical care, then you would probably have a case for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
These are the types of damages that you can reasonably expect to recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital:
Medical expenses. This includes the cost of your medical treatment and the cost of any future medical treatment attributable to the hospital’s negligence.
Lost and future earnings. This refers to any lost wages, time off work, vacation and sick days, and any future loss of earning capacity caused by the hospital’s negligence.
Pain and suffering. This refers to your monetary recovery for grief, anxiety and other emotional damages.
Loss of use. This refers to damages for loss of use of an extremity or other part of your body or any physical limitations caused by the hospital’s negligence.
Emotional distress. This refers to any emotional damages incurred as a result of negligence that can be attributed to the hospital’s negligence.
Wrongful death. This refers to damages or a cause of action that can be sustained by a family member or a spouse if a hospital’s negligence results in the death of a spouse or a family member.
Enhanced compensatory damages. Unlike many states, in most situations New Hampshire law does not allow for punitive damages – which are designed to not only compensate the victim but to punish the defendant. However, New Hampshire does provide for “enhanced compensatory damages” when the negligence was particularly severe.
If you have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, here are some tips on what to do to ensure that you receive proper medical care and the compensation you deserve:
Seek medical attention right away and get treatment. It is important that you take care of yourself and get proper medical care.
Make a list of witnesses who can attest to your substandard medical treatment.
Document your injuries and expenses. For example, keep track of your medical bills, lost compensation, and any other expenses related to your treating health care professional’s negligence.
If you are medically cleared by a competent treating physician and still feel pain or discomfort, get a second opinion.
Keep a journal of how you feel each day, including your emotions, and any pain, discomfort or limitations that you experience as a result of your injuries.
Areas Served: The attorneys of Manning & Zimmerman represent clients in courts and cities throughout New Hampshire, including: Manchester, Nashua, Concord, Derry, Dover, Rochester, Salem, Merrimack, Hudson, Londonderry, Keene, Portsmouth, Bedford, Goffstown, Laconia, Hooksett, and Hillsborough County, Rockingham County, Merrimack County, Strafford County, Grafton County, Cheshire County, Belknap County, Carroll County, Sullivan County, and Coös County.