Smyrna Elder Abuse Lawyer
Nursing Home Neglect and Elder Abuse Attorney in Smyrna, GA
At some point in the lives of our parents, grandparents, siblings, or other close relatives, they may become incapable of living alone. Having dementia or a physical disability may mean that our beloved family member needs round-the-clock care or assistance that a nursing home facility can provide. This is often a heart-wrenching decision, but one that is made a thousand times a day in our country. We worry about how the care will be administered and if our loved ones will be safe and their well-being respected. Sadly, nursing home neglect is too common. If you suspect that your loved one was injured because of nursing home neglect, call a skilled and knowledgeable Smyrna elder abuse lawyer.
Nursing homes owe a duty of care to their residents to provide them with a safe environment and one where their medical, nutritional, and emotional needs can be met. These facilities are designed to house and care for the elderly and disabled in a well-staffed and maintained facility where residents have clean rooms, may have their own kitchens and have easy access to recreational activities. Facilities are supposed to offer cafeterias, and lounge areas, and retain trained, caring staff who conduct exercise classes, administer medications, cook meals, and may shuttle residents to grocery stores, malls, churches, concerts, medical appointments, or other events. However, many nursing homes are understaffed and retain ill-trained staff who ignore and neglect the residents.
Nursing Homes are Highly Regulated
State and federal agencies regulate how nursing homes operate and issue guidelines and standards regarding safety, hygiene, nutrition, medical care, and the well-being of residents. Each state including Georgia has its own bill of rights regarding how residents are to be cared for. In Georgia, we have the Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-Term Nursing Care. O.C.G.A §31-8-126. Your rights as a nursing home resident include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or source of payment in the way that care and other needs are administered; to privacy; to freedom of choice; and to live a dignified life among other rights including:
- To be free of physical restraints or from isolation
- To rise and retire at any hour
- To leave at any time
- To have required care, treatment, and services
- To refuse treatment
- To have a cause of action against a facility for violation of rights
Nursing homes are required to have a dietician qualified through the American Dietetic Association or equivalent agency, and to tailor a diet to the resident’s age, condition, and sex. Meals are served no longer than 5 hours apart with the interval between dinner and breakfast no longer than 14 hours.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Neglect consists of an omission of the duty of care, such as not administering medication, ignoring complaints or calls for help, not caring for the sick, and leaving residents in isolation.
Examples of neglect are:
- Medical neglect—failure to address the personal needs and conditions of a resident or to prevent harm, such as caring for those with diabetes, bedsores, infections, cognitive disorders or mobility issues. Residents have a medical plan that includes medications to be administered, what food allergies the person has, if required assistive devices must be provided, and therapy needs that staff may not be following.
- Neglect of basic needs—failing to provide basic needs of food and water and a clean and safe environment which can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
- Emotional neglect—ignoring residents, not addressing complaints, insulting and demeaning residents, abandoning them, withholding food and drinks, or leaving them in isolation as punishment for complaining.
- Physical neglect—disregarding signs of illness and infection, not moving a resident in a bed to prevent bedsores, restraining a resident so staff can ignore them, slapping or striking residents.
- Neglect of personal hygiene—failing to assist those who need it for daily grooming, brushing their teeth, showering, or laundry.
Although you may not directly observe a sign of neglect of abuse, such as scars or bruises, you should look for:
- A sudden drop in body weight
- Unexplained injuries which were not recorded, or if your loved one disputes the reason
- Constant infections
- Depression or withdrawal that is unusual
- Changes in appearance and demeanor
- Slippery floors
- Noticeable shortage of staff
- Records showing missed medications or medical appointments not kept
- Refusal or delay in providing resident’s medical records or log
It is necessary for you or someone to visit your loved one to check on their condition and the facility. If you are suspicious about the care he or she is receiving, you need to take action by talking to the management, reviewing the medical records and other logs pertaining to the resident, and having your loved one examined by a medical doctor if necessary. It is also recommended to reach out to an attorney who is knowledgeable regarding local and state laws governing the standard of care, treatment, and rights of nursing home residents.
The Serious Issue of Understaffing
A major cause of nursing home neglect is understaffing. Nursing home jobs are notoriously ill-paid positions and facilities rarely attract quality staff. To get staff, some homes perform cursory background checks or overlook applicants with criminal convictions for assault or other violent behavior. Estimates are that an astounding 95% of all nursing home facilities in the U.S. lack adequate staffing levels.
Understaffing leads to having current staff work more hours. Fatigue, as well as frustration, can cause staff to skip certain tasks or to leave them uncompleted. Complaints will be ignored, even if a resident is seriously ill or has sustained an injury. There can be errors in administering medications or in dosages that can have serious or even deadly consequences. A resident’s hygiene or nutritional needs can become a low priority as does monitoring or caring for residents with special needs. If the facility is not cleaned, vulnerable patients with compromised or weakened immune systems become susceptible to illnesses and infections.
Overworked staff are also more prone to irritability and may strike out at residents or refuse to give them certain medical attention.
Filing a Complaint
If you suspect that your loved one is being neglected in a nursing home facility, you can make a formal complaint to the nursing home administrator who is required within 3 business days to respond to you in writing. If the response is not to your satisfaction, you can contact the community or state ombudsman who is required to investigate the complaint.
Should the investigation be inconclusive, or the issue remains unresolved, you may request a hearing at the nursing home before a referee that you (or your attorney) and the home’s attorney or representative have mutually agreed upon. The referee must render a decision within72-hours with recommendations for resolving the issue.
However, you can bypass this administrative procedure by filing a lawsuit in the appropriate court after retaining an experienced Smyrna nursing home neglect lawyer.
Requirements of an Affidavit of Merit
Before you can file a lawsuit alleging that the nursing home neglected or abused your loved one and caused him/her injuries, you must have an affidavit prepared and signed by an expert, who can state that he has examined the relevant records, is familiar with the facts and circumstances, and has an opinion that the nursing home was negligent in its care of the resident who suffered harm as a result. O.C.G.A. § 9.11.9.
A skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable Smyrna personal injury attorney will investigate possible violations and advise you on how to proceed. This can include visiting the home, having your loved one examined by a physician, reviewing all pertinent records from the home, and obtaining statements, or depositions, if litigation ensues, of staff and other relevant persons. If a particular staff member allegedly abused a resident or is the focus of the neglect, then that person’s file and background are relevant and subject to discovery.
Former staff members can sometimes provide valuable information about nursing home policies, conduct, hiring practices, and attitudes toward residents.
Nursing homes are usually owned by large conglomerates that have the resources to retain large law firms that will vigorously defend the nursing home. A good attorney can address the delay tactics and legal maneuvering of defense lawyers who will do what it takes to defend their client and whose goal is to outlast and frustrate you in many cases.
Damages in Nursing Home Neglect Cases
Damages in nursing home neglect cases may include:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was malicious, fraudulent, wanton, willful, or oppressive
Protect Your Loved One – Contact a Smyrna Elder Abuse Lawyer Today
Hire a Smyrna nursing home neglect lawyer who knows how to handle these often-difficult cases and who has a record of success in obtaining compensation for residents who have been harmed by the negligent and wrongful conduct of nursing home staff. Take action now. Call Tobin Injury Law for legal guidance. We are available 24/7 and offer free, confidential consultations. Call us at (404) 665-9665, fill out our convenient online form, or email an attorney directly. There is no time to waste when your loved one is suffering. Reach out to us today.