Do you suspect that someone you love is suffering from nursing home neglect or abuse?
As our population ages, more and more families are confronting choices about how best to care for their loved ones. One of every seven people in Alabama is 65 or older, according to 2015 U.S. Census estimates. When a family makes the difficult decision to place an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted living community, you trust that the facility will provide attentive care and keep your loved one safe.
Unfortunately, nursing home neglect and abuse is a serious problem in Alabama and in many states. Too many nursing homes are understaffed and too few nursing home aids are trained to handle difficult patients who display aggressive behavior because of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A 1999 study conducted by the University of California San Francisco found that Alabama’s nursing homes were the third worst in the nation. Because of widespread issues involving abuse and exploitation of senior citizens, the State of Alabama in 2013 enacted the Elder Protection Act to strengthen legal protections from abuse for people aged 60 and older.
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At Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., we believe that nursing homes in Alabama that allow elderly residents to be harmed by neglect or abuse should be held accountable in every way possible. Our compassionate nursing home neglect attorneys represent victims of nursing home abuse and their families in Huntsville and throughout north Alabama. We strongly believe that focusing attention on issues of neglect and abuse can prevent other seniors from suffering similar harm. Learn how we may help during a free, no-obligation consultation. If you choose to work with Morris, King & Hodge, you will be represented by a law firm that other attorneys and legal publications have recognized for exceptional legal service. Call 256-536-0588 or contact us
today to talk to an experienced Alabama nursing home neglect attorney.
How Our Nursing Home Lawyers Can Help
As a family member concerned about the safety of your loved one, you should bring any concerns about neglect or abuse first to the attention of the administrator of the facility. The administrator has a legal responsibility to protect the safety of residents in their care.
If you are not fully satisfied with the response of the administrator, you may report suspected nursing home neglect or abuse to your loved one’s doctor, your county Department of Human Resources or to the Alabama Department of Human Resources Elder Abuse Hotline. Alabama Act 85-657 authorizes the Alabama Department of Senior Services and the state long-term care ombudsman to investigate complaints about health care at long-term care facilities. They are supposed to respond to complaints within seven business days and more quickly in cases of immediate danger.
County social services agencies in Alabama investigated an average of 506 reports per month of adult abuse and neglect in 2015, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources. That totals more than 6,000 reports a year. According to the National Center On Elder Abuse, there are approximately five cases of negligence that go unreported for every case of negligence that is reported. The State of Alabama can levy penalties or bring criminal charges against nursing homes staff that abuse or neglect the residents in their care. But it is often a lengthy process.
For a quicker response, you may contact an Alabama personal injury attorney who investigates cases of nursing home neglect and abuse to review the situation. Our knowledgeable attorneys will listen carefully to your concerns and answer your questions. We will examine the specific facts to determine whether the situation meets the legal definition of institutional abuse or neglect. We will advise you of your legal options based on the specific facts of the situation.
The family of a nursing home resident may have the option of filing a civil lawsuit against the nursing home or other responsible party. A nursing lawsuit can bring attention to serious systemic issues at a nursing home facility and prevent other residents from suffering similar neglect or abuse.
If the case is the type that we handle, we will offer to represent you on a contingency basis and will be prepared to investigate the case. If your loved is still in danger, we can get your loved one relocated to a safe situation.
How Does Alabama Law Define Abuse and Neglect?
Elder abuse can take many forms. It may include physical abuse such as hitting, sexual abuse such as unwanted touching, mental abuse, or theft of an elderly person’s financial resources.
- Physical Abuse—The use of physical force to inflict pain, cause bodily injury, punish or excessively restrain an elderly resident. It includes hitting, slapping, cutting, shoving and physical punishment.
- Emotional Abuse—The intentional infliction of mental torment and anguish by insults, threats, intimidation, name calling or humiliation amounts to emotional abuse.
- Sexual Abuse—Any unwelcome sexual contact with an elderly person including coerced nudity, fondling of the genitals or breasts, rape or sexually explicit photographs.
- Financial Exploitation—The unauthorized use of money or accounts of an elderly person, transfer of property through coercion or pressure, or misuse of a power of attorney for one’s own advantage. Signs of financial exploitation include a senior making unusual account withdrawals, giving excessive financial gifts or transferring property to another.
- Neglect—The failure of a caregiver to provide food, clothing, medical services and shelter for the elderly resident’s health and well being. This can lead to starvation and dehydration, among other ailments.
- Wrongful Death —In some cases, abuse or neglect can ultimately result in the loss of a loved one’s life. In these cases, it is important that an autopsy be performed to determine the cause of death and to preserve the evidence.
It is not unusual for a nursing home resident to experience more than one kind of mistreatment. A person who is being financially exploited by a caregiver may also be lacking adequate care, medicines or food.
Nursing home residents who are victims of abuse are often frightened, embarrassed or unable to report the abuse.
Long-term care residents who have dementia are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The people who prey upon patients with dementia know the patients’ cognitive impairments make it harder for them to report their mistreatment. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 47 percent of patients with dementia had experienced some kind of mistreatment from a caregiver. The authors of the study said that 88 percent of patients had experienced psychological abuse, 20 percent had suffered physical abuse and approximately 30 percent had experienced neglect.
What are the Common Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse?
Our elderly relatives who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are vulnerable to abuse because of their frailty, physical limitations and in some cases cognitive impairment.
Residents of nursing homes in Alabama that are certified by Medicare and Medicaid have certain rights under a federal law called the Nursing Home Reform Act. Despite the requirements of that law, nursing home abuse occurs because of systemic problems at a facility including staffing shortages that create stressful working conditions, lack of adequate staff training to handle difficult patients with behaviors caused by dementia and lack of adequate supervision.
Signs of abuse include:
- Unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, burns, sprains, fractures or broken bones
- Decubitus ulcers
- Abnormally pale complexion
- Excessive or sudden weight loss
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Torn clothing or broken personal items
- Withdrawn or agitated behavior
- Fleas, lice or dirt
- Fecal or urine odors
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unattended health problems
- Residents wandering off the premises
- Staff refusing to allow visitors to see residents
- Staff not allowing residents to be alone with visitors
- Keeping residents in an overmedicated state or using unnecessary sedation
- Loss of a relative’s possessions
- Sudden large withdrawals from your relative’s bank accounts or changes in banking practices
- Abrupt changes in your relative’s will or other financial documents.
Contact a Nursing Home Attorney
Your loved one has a right to have an attorney advocate on his or her behalf in cases of abuse or neglect.
Do not allow your loved one to become a statistic. If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from nursing home negligence, it is important to report it by contacting their primary care physician, the Alabama Department of Health, the Alabama Family Protection Unit, or local law enforcement. Once you have taken steps to report the suspected negligence and protect your loved one’s health and safety, contact the Alabama nursing home lawyers at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C. If you suspect neglect or abuse, it is important to take action without delay.
We will investigate your Alabama nursing home negligence claim and determine who was at fault. We will identify all possible sources of financial compensation for the damages you or your loved one has suffered. While our Huntsville nursing home lawyers try to negotiate a fair settlement before filing a lawsuit, we will not hesitate to go to trial if necessary to stand up for the rights of Alabama nursing home negligence victims.
Our Nursing Home Lawyers Handle a Broad Range of Claims:
- Mental Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Caregiver Neglect
- Wrongful Death
- Financial Exploitation