Protecting Elderly Victims in Skilled Nursing Facilities - Elder Abuse Lawyers in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia
Many grown children of seniors face difficult decisions about how to meet the special needs of their aging parents or other loved one who have physical or mental limitations caused by medical conditions like stroke, dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other age-related conditions. Many families devote exhaustive effort, time and resources to providing the best care possible to their elderly love ones. Despite these heroic efforts, sometimes we have no choice but to admit that we lack the capacity to provide the level of care a loved one needs to ensure that they are safe and all of their needs are met the way we would hope.
While this may be a day that many families are apprehensive about facing, sometimes the best way to show our love and commitment for an aging parent or other loved one is to entrust their care to professionals who can provide 24/7 round the clock services in a controlled environment. Families that make the decision to trust a nursing home or other long-term elder care facility with a loved one might assume it will provide superior care to a senior who has cognitive or mobility challenges that could result in wandering into traffic or suffering a dangerous fall.
Attorney Kenneth J. Annis of the law firm of Annis & Associates has been representing injury victims in seeking financial compensation in the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia area for over forty years. Our nursing home abuse law firm is dedicated to protecting seniors and obtaining the fullest form of financial compensation from the initial stage of investigating a claim through settlement and trial. We work with nursing home industry experts to define the requisite standard of care and identify substandard practices. While we may coordinate our efforts with state regulators and law enforcement agencies to ensure that those who victimize the elderly are properly punished, we know that only a civil claim can provide the financial recovery necessary to compensate victims for the harms they suffer because of neglect, malpractice and abuse in a nursing home facility.
The Epidemic of Nursing Home Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect
Sadly, many nursing homes offer far less than the 24/7 dedicated professional care that families expect when they agree to allow a facility to care for their aging family member. The stories of chronic neglect, resulting in starvation, dangerous falls and deteriorating health to the point of permanent debilitating injury and even death are far too common. There also are a growing number of nursing homes being hit with enormous verdicts in nursing home abuse cases involving chronic neglect and abuse. The extent of the nursing home neglect and abuse epidemic is staggering. A few chilling statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse provide a vivid picture of the scope of abuse and neglect of the elderly:
- There were 5.9 million elderly abuse cases (including neglect) during a recent one year period.
- One in ten seniors is the victim of some form of elder abuse or neglect.
- Less than ten percent of nursing homes have sufficient staff to provide adequate care to their residents.
- Almost forty percent of nursing homes have violated elder abuse laws.
While there is no way to guarantee that a particular nursing home will provide adequate care and support to your loved one, the primary causes of nursing home abuse and neglect provide helpful insight in to what to look for when evaluating nursing care facilities.
Why Does Mistreatment of Elderly Resident in Nursing Homes Occur?
The tragic reality is that most cases of nursing home abuse and neglect that result in serious injury, debilitating illness or wrongful death are preventable. Nursing home abuse and neglect is strongly tied to the economics of nursing home care. Many nursing homes are run by large corporations with minimal background in the health care industry. Those who make financial and managerial decisions for these nursing homes often focus on reducing operating costs to increase the nursing home's profit margin.
The majority of nursing home abuse and neglect issues are a direct result of serious issues related to the staffing of the facility. These staffing issues include:
- Failure to Provide Sufficient Staffing Levels: One of the easiest ways for nursing homes to save money and increase their bottom line is to run on "skeleton staffs." The nursing home understaffing problem is so severe in some facilities that they have only one staff member for every thirty residents. When residents outnumber staff by this type of margin, it compromises the ability of the facility to provide for even the basic needs of residents, such as nutrition, hydration, hygiene and medical care. This type of short-staffing also means that there may be unacceptable delays in responding to emergencies and inadequate supervision to prevent wandering or aggressive altercations.
- Low Nursing Home Pay: The average wage among nursing home caregivers is less than twelve dollars per hour as compared to seventeen dollars per hour for all occupations according to U.S. Department of Labor. Many nursing homes pay direct-care providers only slightly more than minimum wage. Because the work is physically and emotionally demanding, this low wage scale has created an enormous shortage for employees in the nursing home industry. These shortages will only increase according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that estimated that aging baby boomers will increase the demand for nursing home direct-care workers to five million by 2020, which amounts to almost a fifty percent increase from the 2010 demand.
- Lack of Background Checks: While a number of states have implemented background check requirements at least to the extent criminal records are reviewed, the decision whether to run such a background check and the thoroughness of the background check is still up to the individual facility in many states. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently discovered that more than ninety percent of nursing homes employ someone with a criminal record. When the high stress environment and long-hours of nursing home employees are combined with a potential history of violence or sexual abuse, the stage is set for elderly residents to be victimized.
- Lack of Training/Supervision: Many nursing homes provide scant training to the unskilled employees hired to care of residents. Nursing homes are supposed to implement individual care plans for residents, but this level of care requires staff familiar with the procedures required to effectively implement such plans. When untrained employees receive little supervision, neglect, accidents and abuse are the predictable result.
What Can I Do If My Parent or Loved One is a Victim of Elder Abuse?
While law enforcement and state agencies may punish those who engage in acts of abuse or neglect and impose fines for violations, these remedies do little to compensate your loved one that have been victimized. An elderly nursing home resident who suffers physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect of basic necessities, psychological abuse or other forms of mistreatment may have the right to pursue a nursing home personal injury lawsuit. If the abuse or neglect is so severe that it results in death, you may also be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the nursing home accountable for failing to provide a safe environment and adequate care for your loved one.
Contact Kenneth J. Annis - Washington, D.C. Nursing Home Lawyer Today
If someone you love is the victim of substandard care or abuse from an elder care provider or nursing home, we can set up a time for you to talk with an experienced nursing home elder care lawyer. The nursing home abuse and neglect attorney can analyze your situation and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about how you wish to proceed. If you are considering filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit or a legal claim based on nursing home neglect, you should discuss the matter with an attorney promptly because there are legal deadlines that apply. Contact Kenneth J. Annis & Associates at (202) 785-2244 or email us to schedule a free initial consultation.