Nursing home neglect is far more commonplace than most people realize, with approximately 2 million seniors subjected to some form of neglect each year.
These forms of neglect range from slip and fall accidents, third-party hazards, and outright abuse by nursing home staff.
What’s important to know is how neglect is classified in a nursing home setting and when a facility is liable.
Find out everything you need to know about nursing home liability and common instances of neglect below.
Defining Nursing Home Liability and Neglect
When you think of a nursing home, you think of a place of comfort, reliability, and trust for an aging loved one.
At the very least, a nursing home should be a place of safety for seniors. The rest is a responsibility as defined in their duty of care to residents.
This duty of care must cover adequate shelter, hygiene practices, food preparation, proper medical care, therapy, and more.
Due to this vast range of care, there are a number of instances where nursing home accidents and neglect can take place.
But how and when is a nursing home liable for negligence? Here are some of the most common examples.
Nursing home staff are responsible for a myriad of daily tasks, including food preparation, bathing, mobility, and medical care to name a few.
This leaves a range of areas open to neglect and abuse for which a nursing home can be fully liable:
- Poor or inadequate training of staff
- The improper hiring of staff for a particular position
- Failure to perform background checks on staff
- The poor management of staff and their daily tasks and techniques
- Inadequate security of the property
- Failure to provide basic day-to-day amenities, i.e. food, water, medical care
- Medical negligence i.e. failing to provide proper medical care when needed
- The improper use of physical restraints or the use of ”punishment” techniques
- Intentional physical, verbal, or sexual abuse by staff members
If you can prove that any of the above instances happened, or are happening, the nursing home is legally liable for all damages.
2. Third-Party Endangerment
While it may be the easiest assumption to make, a nursing home is not always directly responsible for abuse or injury sustained by a senior.
The legal reality is that nursing home staff are not always in direct control of the third-party equipment or devices they use on a daily basis. They also cannot control the actions of third-party contractors working on the property either.
This means that in this type of situation there could be a number of parties held liable for the abuse or injury of a senior:
- The improper use of specific equipment by nursing home staff
- Failure to maintain specific equipment by outside contractors
- Improper manufacturing of nursing home equipment
- Improper design and functionality of nursing home equipment
In any of these instances, the third-party responsible for these items may also be liable for injury. In other scenarios, a third-party can share liability of these common situations:
- Improper dispensing of medication due to an automation malfunction of equipment
- The malfunction of physical therapy apparatus or equipment
- Food poisoning: in this instance, the food vendor or contracted kitchen cleaners could be liable
A situation may arise where security of the property is breached and a senior is injured or abused during a robbery. In this case, if a third-party security contractor is in charge of monitoring the property, they could be liable.
3. Accident and Injury
Accidents and injuries are a daily reality in most nursing homes and aren’t always a direct cause of negligence.
Most seniors residing in a nursing home environment are either ill, frail, cognitively impaired, or in the later stages of their life. As a result, their mobility, strength, and reflexes are not as fine-tuned as other seniors.
This makes for an increased risk of trips, slips, falls, the development of infection, bed sores, property wandering, and other hazards.
The reality is that yes, accidents happen, and in this case, it makes it difficult to determine the exact liability of the nursing home.
Approximately one-quarter of all nursing home injuries are caused by mobility issues and environmental hazards. To add to this, many seniors are medicated during the day with sedatives, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medication.
If not monitored properly, seniors with limited mobility or cognitive function and awareness are likely to injure themselves.
If an accidental injury is caused by any of these instances, however, a nursing home can be liable for damages:
- A wet, slippery floor
- Narrow staircases with poor railing support
- Poorly lit hallways, bathrooms, or bedrooms
- Improper bed height
- Sharp gradations in walkways
- Unnecessary objects in pathways
- Poorly maintained or overgrown walkways
- Poorly maintained bathroom facilities, i.e. slippery, grimy showers
Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that if a nursing home is understaffed, the likelihood of these accidents increases. This is because there’s less staff on-hand to provide care and attention where needed.
This, in itself, is another reason a nursing home can be liable for neglect.
Steps to Take If You Suspect Abuse
If you have a suspicion that an elderly loved one is being neglected or abused by the nursing home staff, you should contact the relevant authorities right away.
Most states have a toll-free hotline that you can call to report suspected abuse.
Otherwise, contact your state’s long-term care ombudsman to report a facility.
Find the Legal Support You Need
At US Attorneys, we’re the experts you’re looking for when it comes to determining nursing home liability.
If you suspect a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse and you’re looking to right those wrongs, get in touch with us today for the legal expertise to win your case.