With the number of Alabama seniors rising steadily, nursing home abuse and neglect are growing health concerns. The state’s elderly population is expected to grow by 82.4 percent between 2010 and 2040, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Alabama reported 4,622 cases of elder abuse and neglect in a single year, the Department of Health reports.
If someone in your family has been abused or neglected at a nursing home in Decatur or surrounding areas of Alabama, call the Decatur offices of Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., right away.
Get a free and confidential consultation by calling our Decatur offices or visiting our contact page.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is any action or failure to act that causes harm to someone in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
The abuse can be physical, or it could be psychological, or it could involve financial exploitation. Many nursing home abuse cases happen when nursing homeowners or managers are negligent or don’t supervise their staff closely enough.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Decatur
Adult Protective Services Division (APS) is the state agency meant to look out for nursing home residents and other older adults in Decatur and across Alabama. It operates under the Department of Human Resources.
You can contact APS if you suspect someone in your family is being abused at a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Signs of Abuse and Neglect in Decatur Nursing Homes
Here are a few of the most common examples of nursing home abuse and neglect:
Common Types of Abuse
- Physical Abuse – Other residents or staff members sometimes attack nursing home residents. Staff may also injure residents by handling them too roughly or restraining them too tightly.
- Psychological Abuse – Nursing home staffers may emotionally harm a resident by calling them names, threatening them, or humiliating them.
- Neglect – Leaving residents in isolation for long periods, failing to look out for their nutritional needs, not properly medicating residents, failing to take care of their hygiene needs, and leaving wounds or illnesses untreated are all examples of nursing home neglect.
- Sexual Abuse – Nursing home residents – especially those with degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia – are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape. These attacks may come from other residents or staff members.
- Financial Exploitation – Some cases of nursing home abuse and neglect involve some type of financial exploitation. This ranges from taking money from the resident’s bank account to having the resident write a staff member into their will or other estate planning documents and similar crimes.
Common Signs of Abuse
- Falls or Fractures – Neglect or sloppy maintenance at a nursing home causes many falls. Fractures may result from a fall, for example, or from physical assaults, or from staff members being too rough while restraining a resident.
- Dehydration – Residents not getting enough water is a common sign of neglect, especially in overcrowded nursing homes.
- Bruises – Bruises are another common indicator of physical abuse. They can also occur if a resident is sexually abused in some way.
- Changes in Weight – A resident may lose weight if they’re not getting enough food, or they may stop eating if they’re being abused. Weight loss is a common sign of abuse, particularly among residents who may have difficulty speaking about what’s happening to them.
- Improper Handling of Medication – It’s not uncommon for medication errors to occur at overcrowded or poorly run nursing homes. Errors may range from not adhering to the resident’s medication schedule to improperly dispensing medications at the wrong dosage. This can have severe side effects for residents.
- Medical Errors or Negligence – Infections from improperly handling medical equipment and similar errors are a common type of nursing home abuse, particularly at crowded facilities.
- Forced or Unnecessary Sedation (Chemical Restraint) – Nursing home residents generally should not be forcibly sedated unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, some facilities heavily medicate residents to keep them calm and docile, at the expense of the residents’ quality of life.
- Improper Restraint – Staffers being too rough or restraints being applied too tightly can injure nursing home residents.
- Isolation – Isolation can severely impact a nursing home resident’s mental well-being. Residents should generally be around other people whenever possible, but not all nursing homes are good about making sure residents are getting enough social interaction.
Types of Compensation Available in Decatur Nursing Home Abuse Cases
If you are successful in proving a nursing home abuse claim, you could potentially recover compensation for:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional harm
- Lost income or other benefits that were stolen or improperly given away
- Cost of any medical treatment related to the abuse
- Compensation for diminished quality of life
Proving Nursing Home Abuse in Decatur
Nursing home abuse cases can be challenging to prove, especially if the resident has dementia or a similar illness. Some evidence that can be used to support a nursing home abuse claim include:
- Medical records
- Testimony from expert witnesses
- Surveillance footage
- Records from the nursing home or assisted living facility
What Is the Time Limit for Bringing a Nursing Home Abuse Case?
You generally have two years from the injury date to file a lawsuit in an Alabama nursing home abuse case. If you wait too long, you’ll lose the ability to pursue compensation for the injuries you or your family member suffered.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
Here’s what you should do if you suspect someone in your family is being abused or neglected at a nursing home in Decatur:
- Call 911 if it’s life-threatening. Emergency medical treatment is essential if a resident is suffering severe injuries or illness due to abuse or neglect in a nursing home.
- Talk to a loved one in private. If the resident can speak, ask about the abuse in private. Be patient and courteous, as many abuse victims are hesitant to talk about it or admit they’ve been abused.
- Request corrective measures. Notify the facility about the alleged abuse and bring as much evidence as possible. If someone you know is being abused, there’s a good chance it’s happening to others at the facility.
- Be inquisitive and document everything. Nursing homes will do whatever they can to avoid taking responsibility for the abuse and avoid paying for their actions. Be assertive and get documentation of everything you can.
- File a report. A written notice ensures there’s a record of the incident. Reporting the abuse can help get the authorities involved in an investigation.
- Talk to an attorney. While the state may bring charges in abuse cases, you’ll need to talk to a lawyer to seek financial compensation for the injuries the abused or neglected resident has suffered.
Contact a Decatur Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Today
Our team knows that many older adults can’t fight on their own behalf after being abused or neglected in a long-term care facility. That is why our Decatur nursing home abuse lawyers are so committed to fighting for them.
Get a free and confidential case review today by calling our Decatur office or visiting our contact page.