Oakland Nursing Home Abuse
The decision to place an elderly family member or loved one in a nursing home can be difficult and emotional for many people. Often the decision is made when a loved one is either no longer capable of living alone or is sick or injured enough that they require care beyond the expertise of nearby family members. When someone places a family member in a nursing home, they typically are anxious to find the very best one they can. The quality of care, skill level and supply of the facility’s staff and resources are important because most people want the best care for their loved ones. Everyone has heard horror stories about nursing homes where negligence leads to injuries and even death. Paying for care in a nursing facility if often quite expensive as well, making the betrayal and outrage even worse when a loved one suffers while in a nursing home.
Nursing homes are complicated places that offer a variety of services to people in very different stages of health or ability. With individualized care plans and patients that often need around-the-clock care and differing levels of aid or attention, finding the volume of appropriately skilled staff in the supply that many facilities need twenty-four hours per day, day in and day out can be a challenge. Most nursing homes are also required by law to run background checks on potential new staff, which can slow the hiring process down significantly, but is essential nonetheless. Background checks are an important step facilities must take in order to ensure that patients are not subjected to physical, sexual or mental abuse by caregivers with a bad history of failing or abusing people around them. Understaffing in nursing facilities can too often lead to neglect of patients, often with dire consequences. It is unfortunately not uncommon for people in nursing homes to suffer when staff is short; not getting medication or meals on time can severely impact a sick person’s physical health, and altering medically necessary routines can also upset many patients who might have dementia or other mental health issues. It takes a patient and caring person to help calm down an agitated elderly person, but if a facility if understaffed and stretched thin, tempers can flare and result in the verbal or physical abuse of patients. A lapse in patience or understanding should never, ever result in the abuse of a patient a nursing home is being paid good money to take proper care of.
Too many horror stories of the elderly being abused in nursing homes have come out for concerned family members to not be aware of them. Anyone who has put their elderly loved one into a nursing facility can and should be vigilant for signs of abuse. Unexplained bruises are an obvious marker to some, but physical abuse can also happen in instances of overmedication, frequent use of physical restraints and even force feeding. Trying to take care of an elderly person who is physically sick or disabled in some way, or who is mentally impaired can be a challenge to anyone’s skill or patience, but there is definitely a time where “for their own good” crosses over into abuse that can and should be dealt with. Emotional and social withdrawal can also be an indicator of abuse, and sudden changes to an elderly person’s will or spending habits can signal manipulation or outright theft by a staff member. An attorney experienced in elder care abuse cases can be extremely helpful in determining if abuse has occurred and what recourse family members might have. Physical symptoms such as dehydration or malnourishment are all too often also signs that an elderly loved one is not getting the kind of care they require.
One current issue that is putting a spotlight on nursing home conditions is the Coronavirus. Because COVID-19 is a brand new virus previously not seen anywhere in humans, scientists and doctors still know so very little about it. In the earliest days of the virus migrating into Europe and the United States, people young and old understood immediately that it was highly contagious and had a much higher mortality rate than the average influenza virus. Because of its infectious nature, people understood, too, that quarantine was necessary if a person had been diagnosed with COVID-19. But in many cities around the world, hospitals were starting to fill up fast, and it did not seem to make sense to send those infected home to their families where they might have to interact with people and potentially infect them as well. In many places hospitals started sending Covid-19-infected patients to nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities to recuperate. This seemed like a practical idea at the time as nursing homes and long-term care facilities are often staffed with doctors, nurses and other support staff who know how to handle patients in ill health and have supplies of medicines and equipment on hand to help just in case a patient needed it. Nobody knew at first, however, was that the elderly and the sick are especially susceptible to contracting the Coronavirus, and especially at risk of dying from it. Nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers made news all around the country and continues to be an issue, but in nursing homes, this type of equipment was especially important as staff went from attending COVID-19 patients to their typical patients without proper gear to stem cross-contamination. Healthcare administrators prioritized hospital workers and front-line healthcare workers whenever they did have PPE, often overlooking nursing homes and skilled care facilities. As a result, COVID-19 started to spread through these facilities like wild fire. Current estimates say that residents and staff at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for more than one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Infections have been confirmed in half of the 15,500 nursing facilities in this country. In many facilities, friends and family members have been barred from visiting nursing home patients in an attempt to cut down on the number of people entering the facility and limit the spread of the virus.
Legal issues surrounding COVID-19 are new, just as the virus itself is brand new. In Florida, a trade group representing hundreds of the state’s nursing homes has asked Governor Ron DeSantis for legal protections that would shield them from negligence lawsuits in the wake of the current pandemic. There is no way to tell how these issues will affect laws or even be interpreted under current laws during a worldwide pandemic, but a good start is to find a reputable, experienced elder care abuse attorney.
If you are in the Oakland area and have a loved one who was injured, neglected or abused in a nursing home, Mary Alexander & Associates can sit down with you and discuss your options. Their experience in nursing home and elder abuse cases can help you get the justice you seek on behalf of your loved one.