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Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Pittsburgh - Morgan & Morgan
When picking a nursing home to care for your elderly loved one, you likely performed a great deal of research to find a place where you would feel comfortable leaving them in their fragile state. Tragically, even though you did your due diligence, there are times when monstrous things can happen. Nursing home abuse does occur in nursing home facilities, and the tragedy of it all is that it is wholly preventable. If you fear your loved one has suffered abuse, now is the time to find expert nursing home abuse lawyers. Pittsburgh, PA, has a high number of elderly residents in certified nursing facilities. In fact, the state ranks #4 across the US as of 2019.
Nursing home facilities and their staff have a sacred trust to care for the elderly in a dignified, compassionate, and non-abusive manner. When you find that your loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of another, it feels nothing short of betrayal. Many times people are abused in secret; however, the nursing home abuse lawyers at Morgan & Morgan can bring these shameful actions into the light.
What constitutes nursing home abuse?
Nursing home abuse is any type of harm that comes to elderly residents living in long-term care facilities. Abuse can come in the form of physical or emotional abuse, sexual assault, or financial breach of trust. We’ve seen some outrageous allegations that have made headline news in this nation in recent years. Sadly, many of these involved the very staff members that are trusted to provide care for our elderly.
Sometimes abuse occurs at the hands of other residents. Still, ultimately, the staff and facility should be held accountable because it happened on their watch. Another cause of elder abuse lies at the feet of the institutions themselves when they cut corners on staff training to pad their profits or don’t perform adequate background checks on staff.
Warning signs that could signify your loved one has suffered abuse
Your loved one is in a nursing home for specific reasons. Perhaps they need more medical care than you are able to provide, or their condition is such that the only responsible thing to do is to put them in a professional facility with the ability to address these conditions. It’s often easy to dismiss bruising or other signs of injury in the elderly because of their age or medications they may be taking. However, as a family member, you have to be vigilant and watch for these warning signs.
Signs of physical abuse:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises, or broken bones, especially around the arm
- Repeated falls
- Sores or marks around the genital region
- Frequent illness or infections
- Poor hygiene
- Untreated bedsores
- Physical discomfort
- Loss of teeth or hair
- Dislocated joints
- A pest infestation, lack of cleanliness
- Lack of proper heating or cooling of the elder’s residence
- Unexplained changes in medication
- Weight loss
Even one instance of physically abusing an elderly resident could result in significant injury or death. It may take months for the victim to heal if they ever do. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9.3% of nursing home staff admitted to physically abusing elderly residents in a study from 2017. And according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), only 1 in 20 cases of physical abuse is reported to the authorities. Physical abuse of the elderly can shorten the lifespan of these victims considerably too. Sadly, common risk factors for physical abuse are people with mental impairments like Alzheimer’s disease and those who are disabled.
Signs of emotional abuse:
- Fear of staff members
- Fear of other residents
- Complaints about treatment by staff
- Avoiding eye contact
- Low self-esteem
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Isolating from friends and family
While emotional abuse may not be life-threatening, it can still impact a person’s quality of life. Emotional abuse can cause an otherwise happy elderly person to experience PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Emotional abuse can come from yelling, harassment, insults, bullying, belittling, or any form of psychological torment. According to a 2020 study performed by the WHO, 1 in 3 nursing home staff members admitted to emotionally abusing their charges. 67% of emotional elder abuse happens to women.
Signs of financial abuse:
- Unusual financial problems
- Changes in their will
- Sudden unpaid bills
- Changes in power of attorney
- Missing valuables
- Credit or debit card charges
- Missing cash
- Large bank withdrawals or transfers to unknown accounts
- The victim talks about signing documents they didn’t understand
- Use of victims possessions without authorization
While any kind of elder abuse is abhorrent, this particular kind of abuse can have terrible consequences for the whole family. Suppose a nursing home staff member somehow manages to gain access to the victim’s financial information and drains their accounts of money, then disappears. The hard work the victim has put in their whole life is suddenly gone. Now it’s the burden of the family to provide the care they may not be able to afford. Oftentimes, elders that get swindled have dementia or Alzheimer’s that require professional care.
What are Pennsylvania laws in place to protect people from nursing home abuse?
The Pennsylvania State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program under the Pennsylvania Department of Aging contracts with 52 state agencies on aging. An Ombudsman is a trained person who is tasked to protect the rights of the aging living in Pennsylvania long-term care facilities. This is not an exhaustive list of rights, but residents in these facilities have the right to:
- Live with dignity, respect, and be comfortable at the residence
- Receive quality care and treatment without discrimination
- Freedom of choice to make autonomous decisions
- Security for their property and money
- Be apprised of policies and procedures at the facility
- Participate in their own healthcare decisions included the right to refuse treatment
- Be knowledgeable about their own medical treatments and health conditions
- Privacy as concerns communications of all kinds, personal and medical
- Speak about problems without fear of retaliation or revenge
- Be free from all forms of abuse, including mental, sexual, financial, physical, and neglect
How can abusers in nursing homes be held accountable?
Your loved one’s abuser could be more than one party. It may be that the facility, caregivers, doctors, nurses, or even administration could be held accountable. To make them pay, nursing home abuse lawyers in Pittsburgh have to prove negligence.
Here are some examples: The facility itself could be negligent if it can be proven they hired staff without sufficient experience to deal with elders who suffer from dementia. Because of this, they snapped and retaliated with force even though the patient had no idea what they were doing. The facility could also be held accountable if they failed to provide sufficient training or hired staff without doing a background check for criminal activity, including violence and theft.
Nursing home administrators could be considered negligent if their attempts to keep costs down resulted in reduced sanitation and your loved one suffered from infections as a result.
Unfortunately, most nursing home abuse happens at the caregiver level. A caregiver could be negligent if they fail to provide the standard of care expected of them, including allowing a resident to become malnourished or dehydrated. Furthermore, they must exercise care to ensure patients don't get injured due to lack of supervision. This could include falls or taking the wrong medication. Additionally, caregivers could be negligent if their charges develop physical ailments like bedsores because they are left languishing without the ability to move.
What are the Regulations on the Standard of Care for nursing homes that accept Medicare?
In Pennsylvania, nursing homes or assisted living facilities are required to maintain compliance with all Federal and State living regulations if they are to receive funds from Medicare. The definition of abuse of an elder includes:
- The infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.
- The willful deprivation by the assisted living residence or its staff persons of goods or services which are necessary to maintain physical or mental health.
- Sexual harassment, rape, or abuse.
- Exploitation by an act or a course of conduct, including misrepresentation or failure to obtain informed consent, which results in monetary, personal, or other benefit, gain or profit for the perpetrator, or economic or personal loss to the resident.
- Neglect of the resident, which results in physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.
Suppose a facility, administration, doctor, nurse, caregiver, or staff member is found to be abusive. In that case, the facility could lose its license, and a civil lawsuit could be filed for nursing home abuse.
Nursing home abuse lawyers in Pittsburgh
At Morgan & Morgan Law Firm, we understand that nursing home abuse is a serious matter. Because of this, we champion the idea that those who are negligent in the care of our elderly citizens should be held accountable. Every year, hundreds of elders are the victims of abuse from the very people their family entrusted to protect and care for them.
Our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers have the background, knowledge, and in-depth understanding of Pennsylvania laws to make sure the abuse stops and those responsible are forced to pay for their misdeeds. While compensation can’t make up for the suffering your loved one endured, it’s one way to punish wrongdoers for their neglect.
Our lawyers are trial-ready and battle-hardened through years of fighting the good fight for our clients. And with our vast support system, you’ll have access to resources, staff, experts, and more to build a strong case for your damages claim. We can help you understand your rights with a free, no-risk case consultation today. Our services are free unless we win your case.