There are hundreds of nursing homes in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Many of them are staffed by dedicated employees who work hard to care for their residents. However, many of these facilities are run in a shoddy, negligent manner. And when they are, your loved ones can be victimized at a time in their lives when they deserve rest and the best possible care.
Our Atlanta nursing home abuse attorneys can represent you if a family member has been hurt or killed as a result of negligence and misconduct in a nursing home. We have the experience, tenacity, and commitment necessary to help you and your family get the justice you deserve.
If you live in the Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, or surrounding areas of Georgia and you want to speak to our nursing home abuse lawyers about the mistreatment your loved one has received, please call Watkins, Lourie, Roll & Chance, PC today at 404-760-7400for a free consultation.
- Types of Nursing Home Abuse
- Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
- Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes
- Preventing Nursing Home Abuse
- Contact our Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
Nursing Home Abuse in Atlanta
When the actions or inaction of nursing home staff, management, or ownership result in harm, victims and their families are entitled to sue. All care facilities are upheld to medical and legal standards. When these standards are ignored or violated, individuals who suffer injury have the right to seek justice through legal channels.
Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse
When thinking about nursing home abuse, we often think in just those terms: about "abuse." However, the reality is that nursing home residents are in danger of more than just active physical abuse – you also have to worry about neglect from poorly trained and underpaid nursing home staff members.
It is safe to assume that most nursing home employees try their best and behave with diligence and compassion. However, there are bad apples, and even the best employees can be undermined by profit-seeking administrators. What’s more, a growing number of nursing homes in Atlanta are part of far-flung corporate empires that oversee thousands of facilities across the country. Suffice it to say, this is not a recipe for quality care.
- Medical Malpractice – Normally, we tend to think of medical malpractice as a kind of pro-active error. A doctor nicks surrounding tissue during an operation or misdiagnoses an illness. And these types of things certainly (and tragically) happen in nursing homes. However, nursing home residents are also endangered by facilities trying to cut corners and costs, resulting in medical neglect that can injure or even kill these already vulnerable patients.
- Medication Errors – A type of medical malpractice, over or under medication, providing the wrong type of medication, and failing to watch for allergies or reactions can all result in serious harm to nursing home residents. In severe cases, this may result in a loss of life.
- Physical Abuse – Physical abuse may include beating, pushing, tripping, cutting, burning, or in any other way physically abusing a nursing home resident. This type of abuse is criminal and should result in charges being filed, but victims and their families are entitled to take civil action and seek justice aside from criminal proceedings.
- Sexual Abuse – In a sexual abuse case, the abuser is obviously criminally responsible for his or actions. However, it's worth examining in more detail the role of the facility administration in these horrific cases. Administrators will often try and cut costs by hiring cheaply available applicants who lack necessary skills or, in extreme cases, even possess criminal records. And facilities are often under-staffed, which makes it easier for an abusive employee to continue exploiting a victim without being noticed.
- Shameful Neglect – When you entrusted your father, mother, grandfather or grandmother to the care of a long-term care facility, you rightfully expected that he or she would be treated according to acceptable standards of care. Unfortunately, many nursing home facilities lack properly trained staff or even proper staff levels. This often results in unsanitary conditions, viral and bacterial outbreaks, infection, parasite infestation, malnutrition, dehydration, and death.
- Pressure Ulcers – Also known as bed sores, pressure ulcers are one of the most common consequences of shameful neglect. When a resident is left lying in one position for lengthy periods of time, pressure placed on certain areas of the body can result in painful sores. Bed sores are a result of long-term immobility and may be linked to poor nutrition and general neglect as well. Left untreated, pressure ulcers may result in infection in the skin, bones, and joints. In extreme cases, bed sores may lead to sepsis and even death.
- Fall Injuries – Slip-and-fall injuries are among the most common in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, yet care providers routinely fail to protect patients from falls. Preventing these falls requires dedicated staff members who are willing to put in the effort required to monitor residents and keep them safe.
- Financial Exploitation and Fraud – Elderly nursing home residents are uniquely vulnerable to financial exploitation and manipulation. And because many of these residents lack significant financial resources, they are uniquely harmed by this exploitation. Nursing home employees are often poorly paid, and unethical staff members see their charges as supplemental income. They steal from residents and use physical and emotional manipulation to force residents to hand over credit card information, checking account numbers and cash.
Tracking down all of the leads in these cases takes persistence, skill and experience. Our nursing home abuse lawyers possess all three traits in abundance. We understand how to perform the difficult work of finding and proving all forms of nursing home abuse and neglect, and we understand how to navigate the legal system on behalf of our clients.
In general, you have two years to file a nursing home abuse claim in the state of Georgia. There are exceptions that may be applicable in some cases that allow for an extension of this short statute of limitations.
Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Signs of physical and sexual abuse may present as:
- Unexplained injury
- Bleeding or bruising around genitals, anus, or breasts
- Sexually transmitted disease
These things can be fairly obvious and should absolutely prompt a call to our Atlanta nursing home abuse attorneys. However, they are not the only indications that mistreatment is occurring. Additional things to watch for include:
- Unusual changes in behavior
- Aggressive or violent outbursts
- Depression or anxiety
- A withdrawal from the nursing home community
- Visible discomfort around certain staff members
In some cases, residents of a nursing home will be frank about abuses they are suffering. Listen to your loved one and take appropriate action immediately if you suspect any form of mistreatment is occurring.
Signs of nursing home neglect may include:
- Bed sores or pressure ulcers
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Rapid weight loss
- Rapid hair loss
- General uncleanliness
- An inability to focus
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that one in ten Americans over the age of 60 have been the victim of some form of nursing home abuse or neglect. Citing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse along with both willful and passive neglect, the NCOA further reports that men and women who are victims of mistreatment have a 300% higher risk of death than do those who have not been victims of abuse or neglect.
Neglect can take many forms in a nursing home. Over and under-medication, being left in bed or seated for unreasonable amounts of time, malnutrition and dehydration, unsanitary conditions, and largely being ignored are all types of nursing home neglect.
Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes
There are many types of nursing home abuse that can lead to a loss of life. However, while some nursing home wrongful death cases involve physical mistreatment, a shocking number involve gross neglect as well.
The process of death from neglect is slow and often painful. It can also be much harder to recognize than more obvious forms of mistreatment. Because they leave no marks, malnutrition, improper or inadequate medication, and other forms of elder neglect may go unnoticed by visiting loved ones – certainly much more than burns, lacerations, broken bones or bruises. Sadly, when neglect is the cause of wrongful death, evidence can easily be withheld by the care facility, leaving loved ones in the dark and without hope of recompense.
The nursing home abuse lawyers at our Atlanta law firm conduct full investigations into these cases to identify signs of mistreatment – including passive and intentional neglect – which can be very hard to prove. We know what to look for to strengthen nursing home wrongful death claims. We have the tenacity and resources necessary to expose those responsible and hold them accountable for the loss of your loved one’s life. We believe in justice for victims of elder abuse and neglect. We are here to represent your family and to help ensure justice is served.
Nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits may take 18 months or more to settle. Much of this depends on the complexities of the individual case. A majority of these claims are settled pre-trial, which reduces the amount of time they last. When a case goes to trial, it may be 24 months or more before it is settled.
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse
At Watkins, Lourie, Rolle & Chance, PC, we understand that legal action is a necessary response to a tragedy. It's not what anyone wants to happen. Doctors like to say that prevention is the best medicine, and that's also the case when it comes to nursing home abuse.
The idea of “preventing” nursing home abuse might sound unrealistic. After all, if a facility employee is intent on abusing residents, how can that be prevented?
The reality is that negligence is as much a problem as outright abuse. And negligence can be headed off through vigilance and a few simple steps.
- Researching potential facilities. The state of Georgia maintains an online database of all documented nursing homes here. This database contains a listing of all reports generated during inspections of these facilities. By searching these reports, you can get a sense of the quality of the facility. Online reviews are also useful for discovering the patient's view of a facility.
- Visit your loved one regularly. Nursing home residents can be made to feel alienated and disconnected from their family, which makes them more vulnerable to physical, financial and emotional abuse. Frequent visits forge a connection. Perhaps more importantly, they allow you to keep an eye on your loved one and spot any signs of abuse.
- Get to know the residents and administrators of the facility. Make yourself known. Acquaint yourself with other residents, especially your loved one's friends. Other residents are often more willing to disclose abuse and negligence than the victim himself.
Of course, you can take every precaution and still find yourself with an abused or neglected loved one. Sometimes, even the most assiduous preparation will not protect your loved one.
This isn't your fault. And it's not your loved one's fault. Negligence is never acceptable. Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers understand this, and we believe passionately in fighting as hard as possible for the victims of abuse.
What is emotional abuse?
When talking about nursing home abuse, emotional abuse can be lumped in with other areas, but it deserves its own definition. According to the Centers for Disease Control in their report on Elder Abuse, this is how they define Elder Emotional Abuse: “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 an older person like an infant; isolating an elderly person from his/her family, friends, or regular activities; giving an older person the “silent treatment;” and enforced social isolation are examples of emotional/psychological abuse.”
What are the signs of financial abuse in nursing homes?
Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse. This can be a case of misplaced trust in the attendant financially exploiting the resident. Or it can be a case of the nursing home patient not being fully aware any longer of the various accounts, credit cards, and such that are already open in their name. This makes it relatively easy for the unethical staff member to get credit card numbers or account numbers, or to even open accounts in the patient’s name. Many nursing home employees have access to the patient’s essential information necessary to open these accounts.
How can a relative or friend spot signs that a nursing home is financially abusing one of its residents? When compared to other forms of elder abuse, financial abuse can be difficult to spot. Here are some things to look for.
- Unusual spending patterns
- Unexplained and unusual transactions
- New credit cards, accounts, or loans opened in the elder’s name
- Large bank withdrawals or transfers between accounts
- Checks or bank statements that go to the nursing home employee
- Forged signatures on legal documents or checks
- Missing belongings or property
- Mood changes in the elder (such as depression or anxiety)
- New changes to an elder’s will or power of attorney
- The elder signed documents they did not understand
- The elder is confused as to their financial situation
- Unpaid bills due to insufficient funds in an account
- An eviction notice, also due to insufficient funds in usual payment account
- Unexplained withdrawals that could not have been made by the elder
- Elder gets upset or anxious when discussing financial matters
What signs can I watch for that a nursing home attendant may be financially abusing an elder?
Someone may be financially abusing an older person if they:
- Are now referred to as my “new best friend” by the elder
- Charge excessive amounts for services or products the elderly person needs
- Have financial problems of their own
- Force the elder to change their will or bank accounts
- Make many new financial decisions for the elder
- Offer strange explanations about the older person’s financial situation
- Show a strange interest in how much money the elder is spending
- Use the elderly person’s credit cards without actual consent
- Use the possessions or property of the older person without their permission
- Use their trusted position to gain the confidence of the elderly person, often in an adversarial posture to family and friends of the elder
How do you collect evidence of nursing home abuse?
If you suspect your family member or friend is the victim of nursing home abuse, the first thing to do is report it. This is important, as most nursing home abuse cases do not get reported. A 2016 study from the National Research Council found that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse gets reported.
You’ll also want to gather evidence of abuse. You’ll need to start by talking with your elder. You’ll need to try and open honest lines of communication because the elder may have been threatened with repercussions should they divulge what is going on.
You’ll want to document signs of abuse:
- Gather documentation related to physical abuse — Photos of injuries, medical records, sudden changes in health, etc.
- Gather documentation of potential financial abuse — Get bank statements, transaction receipts, notices of new accounts, notices of late fees, any new financial documents signed by the elder, etc.
- Gather the information of any involved parties — This includes bankers who may have opened new accounts or changed account access, loan officers, lawyers who authorized changes in a will, etc.
- Observe and document changes — Watch for behavioral changes in your elder. Are they more anxious? Are they more liable to lash out at you? Are they showing an overly involved interest in their “new best friend?” Document when you noticed the changes.
- Interview witnesses — Did a roommate or an elder in an adjacent room witness some form of abuse? Get written or recorded statements from them about the event or events. Also, get your elder to recount any events that could constitute abuse.
How common is nursing home abuse?
Nursing home abuse is not unusual. The combination of frail, trusting, possibly not fully cognizant older people and younger, underpaid employees caring for them makes for a potentially dicey situation physically, mentally, and financially.
According to data reported by Nursing Home Abuse Justice, it’s estimated that every year as many as five million elderly individuals are abused. The same group estimates that about one in four nursing home residents suffers from some type of abuse.
As mentioned above, exacerbating the problem is the fact that these cases of abuse don’t get reported. When only 1 out of every 14 cases of abuse get reported, that allows the perpetrators to get away with the crimes. That in itself is a crime.
What rights do nursing home residents have?
The rights inherent in a nursing home are no different than in any patient/caregiver situation. The elderly person has the right to be free from abuse, neglect, intimidation, and fear. They have the right to a clean environment. They have a right to privacy.
When these rights are infringed upon, the elder has the right to recourse.
By not pursuing cases of nursing home abuse, family and friends of abused nursing home residents simply allow all the inherent rights of the person to be voided.
What damages can be pursued in nursing home abuse cases?
Damages can be actual, say the recovery of lost money from a bank account, plus punitive. Patients can sue to recover the costs incurred with medical bills, rehabilitation costs, physical therapy costs, and costs incurred to address these issues. Patients can sue for attorney fees. Plus, pain and suffering can be financially addressed, along with additional punitive damages.
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The attorneys at Watkins, Lourie, Roll & Chance have decades of combined experience helping victims of nursing home abuse, and their families, get justice. Our top rated, highly respected and award-winning personal injury lawyers have secured numerous large settlements for victims of elder abuse and neglect and we are prepared to take your claim as far as needed to see that your loved one is protected against further mistreatment and your family is awarded every penny you are due.
If you live in the Atlanta area and are in need of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney, call Watkins, Lourie, Roll & Chance at 404-760-7400 to schedule a free consultation today. We serve families living in Augusta, Columbus, Decatur, Savannah, and all surrounding Georgia communities.