Nursing Home Neglect, Abuse, or Medical Malpractice?

elderly hands show nursing home neglect

Nursing homes play an important role in our society. Carers in these establishments have a fundamental duty of care for our senior citizens while improving their quality of life.

Naturally, elderly people and their families place significant trust into nursing home workers and expect that they will receive the best quality of care. However, this responsibility is sadly often violated as a result of neglect, abuse, or medical malpractice.

As many as five million seniors are abused each year, and one study reported that nearly one-fourth of nursing home residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in the nursing home.

And now, understaffing, inadequate equipment, and a lack of communication have led to a particular influx of neglect cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which workers have failed to protect residents from contracting the virus.

If you suspect that your loved one has not been cared for properly, it’s important to consider making a claim to hold the responsible parties accountable. However, to file a successful claim against a nursing home, it is also vital to distinguish whether the misconduct that has occurred is neglect, abuse, medical malpractice, or another type of misconduct. Here’s what you need to know to differentiate your type of case:

Nursing Home Neglect

Neglect that takes place in nursing homes is considered as a form of abuse in itself. It can be categorized as any form of care that falls below the expected standard or a breach of responsibility that causes direct harm to a resident. Elder neglect can manifest itself in several ways, including:

  • Carer neglect: This occurs when staff and other responsible individuals fail to meet the adequate care standards to nursing home residents. For example, carers may fail to provide residents with enough food, water, or neglect their social needs by ignoring them. Residents who develop bedsores are also victims of nursing home neglect, although these cases are also sometimes argued as medical malpractice cases.
  • Abandonment: Abandonment is specifically when a carer who is responsible for the needs of an eldelry resident abandons them in a public place, hospital, or nursing facility and deliberately leaves them vulnerable.
  • Self-neglect: This can occur when a resident loses the ability to adequately care for themselves but does not receive assistance, even when they have refused care. For instance, a resident may be physically struggling to maintain their personal hygiene and a carer chooses not to help or intervene.

Many cases of neglect also fall under the definition of medical malpractice or medical neglect.

It is also important to recognize the difference between negligence and gross negligence. While as a legal term, “negligence” refers to failure to exercise the standard of care, “gross negligence” refers to extreme reckless disregard for the safety of others. It is more than a mere failure to act, but must be done with extreme indifference or reckless behavior involving the safety of others.

Nursing Home Abuse

Abuse that occurs in nursing homes covers a wide range of unethical actions and behavior. Among the most common forms of abuse to residents in nursing homes are the following:

  • Physical abuse or violence: This includes any intentional act of bodily injury or trauma to a resident. Those with cognitive disorders are often more susceptible to this type of abuse. 
  • Emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse: Any words that are said or actions that are carried out with the intent of causing distress, fear, or mental trauma to a resident is considered as emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse. For example, this could be in the form of an insult, threat, isolation from other residents or their family, or even controlling and limiting a resident’s usage of facilities in the nursing home. 
  • Sexual abuse: This is the act of violating a resident in a sexual manner. Alongside the physical damage that sexual abuse can cause, such as bruises, scratches, lesions, or even STDs, it can also result in emotional and psychological harm to a resident.
  • Financial abuse: This occurs when a carer uses intentional manipulation over a resident for financial gain. For example, they may take advantage of the unsuspecting character of an elderly resident to steal their important personal documents, money, or other valuable possessions.

Nursing Home Medical Malpractice

To avoid any harm, it is crucial for nursing homes to provide adequate medical attention to their patients. Here are examples of medical malpractice which can put residents in danger:

  • Prescription drug errors: Failing to provide medication at the scheduled times or giving medication in incorrect doses are examples of medical malpractice in the form of medication errors.
  • Poorly trained and equipped staff members: Carers who are inadequately trained are more likely to misinterpret residents’ stated medical concerns and therefore fail to provide appropriate care.
  • Failing to make arrangements for nurses or doctors to visit patients: This can result in prolonged pain or even undiagnosed illnesses that could otherwise be treated.
  • Medical Negligence: This specific type of medical malpractice 

Other Types of Liability:

Alongside neglect, abuse, and medical malpractice, other cases of legal liability can occur when someone is harmed under the duty of a carer. These could be:

Slips/Trips/Falls: A slip-and-fall accident can come as a result of poor lighting, obstructed walkways, or by a lack of appropriate furnishings, such as chairs without armrests or bathrooms without handrails.

Poor Security: To prevent patients from wandering away from the premises, nursing homes should have sufficient security precautions in place. 

No matter the type of mistreatment suffered, when you or a loved one has been mistreated due to insufficient or abusive action by a nursing home, that facility should be held responsible. If you’re ready to take action for an unlawful injury that occurred while in the care of a nursing home, contact a Napoli Shkolnik personal injury attorney or medical malpractice attorney today.