Your family members are some of the most important people in your life. As they age and require extra care you aren’t able to give them, a nursing home may become a necessity. Depending on the extent of care your loved ones need, an assisted living facility could be their next home.
When nursing homes and assisted living centers accept your family members as residents, you place your trust in their staff. You expect a certain level of attention and don’t want to consider the possibility of abuse.
Unfortunately, however, it does exist. In such instances, protecting a beloved elder may require legal intervention. Below we’ll explain how legal professionals assist with nursing home abuse cases, including prevention and litigation.
You may not think of consulting with nursing home abuse lawyers until you suspect mistreatment is happening. By then, you’re ready to take action against the facility.
You may have evidence such as photos and documented conversations with the center’s staff. Getting an attorney involved at the first signs of abuse can help prevent more harm from occurring.
However, consulting with a legal professional before your loved one moves into a facility could help avert ill-treatment. They may be able to provide information about the prevalence of nursing home abuse cases in your area.
A legal professional can educate you about the laws that apply to the home your loved one is moving to. They can also point out what signs of neglect and abuse to look for.
In many cases, mistreatment escalates over time. It could start with staff neglecting your family member’s daily hygiene. Maybe they’re not getting their food and medicine according to schedule because the facility’s short-staffed.
A whopping 87% of nursing homes struggle with moderate to high staffing shortages. Nearly all of them — 98% — also experience problems recruiting new employees.
A legal team could help your family prepare questions about how facilities in your area address staffing shortages. For instance, you could ask a nursing home about patient loads and what they do to ensure neglect doesn’t happen.
These measures could include a system of checks and balances, including meeting or exceeding minimum federal guidelines. If a facility can’t consistently meet them, the chances of potential neglect and abuse can increase.
Signs of neglect and abuse can be subtle. You may sense that something isn’t right but question your intuition. Conversations you’ve had with the facility may trouble you, but you dismiss them. You want to believe everything’s OK with your loved one when it isn’t.
The signals that something is amiss can become more complicated if your family member is unable to speak. Voicing their concerns can be extremely difficult if they’re in a care facility because of a serious injury or illness. They require an advocate who can do it for them. While close relatives and friends are often the ones to speak up, they may not spot abuse early enough.
For one thing, you may be unable to visit the home as often as you’d like. And what looks like an accident or an innocent oversight might be the initial signs of something more dire.
A legal professional can provide guidance, helping you notice and act on typical symptoms of abuse. If they represent your family, they may also be able to check in on your loved one when you can’t.
To present a case of nursing home abuse, you need evidence. However, instances involving emotional and psychological mistreatment are tricky to document.
There may not be any physical proof or signs. Instead, you may notice behavioral changes in your family member. They may tell you what’s happening to them, but they might also be hesitant to say anything.
Signs of emotional abuse can include uncharacteristic depression, anxiety, and shifts in personality. Say your mom is usually talkative and upbeat. But a few months ago, you noticed her demeanor started to change during your visits.
She now seems withdrawn, apologizes for everything, and is overly anxious. You haven’t witnessed any mistreatment, so you’re unsure why her behavior is drastically different.
A legal team can help you document the signs of neglect or abuse and get to the root cause. They can guide you on ways to get your loved one to start talking. Once you know what’s occurring, how often, and how severe it is, you can build your case. Legal teams can tell you what evidence you need to protect your family member if you go to court.
Legal professionals obviously play a significant role when filing a court case to get justice for your loved one. Some cases involve mediation or arbitration rather than a jury. However, litigation can help your family recover from the harm and prevent future abuse from happening to others.
Litigation may be necessary when the outcomes are grave, including the worst-case scenario, wrongful death. Financial abuse is another situation that often requires legal intervention. Lawyers can file suit for recovery of your loved one’s funds plus damages.
Whether you can enter the litigation stage will depend on your state’s statute of limitations. The nature of the abuse and the type of claim you want to present may impact the time you have. Legal professionals can advise you on the applicable statute of limitations and whether it makes sense to file.
Standing Up for Your Loved One
When your loved one moves to a nursing home, you want reassurance they’ll be cared for and safe. You have to make sure someone stands up for their needs because of their age-related vulnerability.
Doing this yourself can be overwhelming and confusing when someone you trust mistreats a cherished relative. When you need help, legal professionals can protect your family member’s interests and advocate for their well-being.