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Attorneys Righting The Wrongs Of Elder Abuse

The decision to have a loved one move to a nursing home or other care facility is not easy to make. Even when an aging or disabled relative could obviously benefit from the care that such facilities provide, family members are often profoundly affected by this change.

Because New Mexico nursing home residents are dependent on the care and treatment they receive, it can feel like a major betrayal when those vulnerable people suffer due to neglect or abuse by those entrusted with their well-being. The lawyers at the Albuquerque personal injury firm of Berenson & Associates, PC​ work with families whose loved ones have been victimized by nursing home neglect and abuse.

Work With A Compassionate Advocate For Your Loved Ones

Uncovering nursing home abuse or neglect can be difficult. The victim may not be able to express himself or herself well enough to communicate their suffering. Additionally, legitimate allegations made by those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia might be ignored or minimized due to their serious medical conditions.

Neglect or abuse in a nursing home can take many forms, including:

  • Administering incorrect medication or incorrect dosage of a prescribed medication
  • Failing to prevent a patient from developing pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores
  • Using excessive force to restrain an uncooperative patient
  • Improperly safeguarding a patient from falling
  • Not ensuring sanitary conditions
  • Allowing patients with dementia to be unsupervised, causing harm to themselves or others
  • Emotional or physical abuse from caretakers

Nursing home abuse victims can suffer a range of physical, mental and emotional injuries at the hands of substandard caregivers. Injuries resulting from nursing home abuse include:

  • Unexplained bruises, marks or broken bones
  • Bedsores, especially those involving deep tissue or bone
  • A sudden and unexplained fear of physical touching
  • Poor hygiene and soiled clothing or bedding
  • Unreasonable use of restraints
  • Overmedication or high levels of sedation
  • Signs of malnutrition or dehydration
  • Several injuries all at different stages of healing

These are just some examples that might apply to your situation. While some elderly patients undergo behavioral changes or periods of unrest, be on the alert for any sudden and unexplained shifts in behavior. Abuse can be particularly difficult to identify when the victim suffers from a degenerative cognitive condition.

Medication Errors: Preventable Incidents

Medication errors are preventable medication events that occur when the medication is in the control of either a health care professional or a patient and may cause or lead to patient harm or inappropriate use. Errors in nursing homes often stem from negligent staff and practices.

Medication errors in nursing homes can occur when:

  • A doctor prescribes the wrong medication or an unacceptable dosage amount.
  • A pharmacist or a doctor either forgets about or does not ask a patient about any medication allergies, and the prescribed medication causes an allergic reaction.
  • A doctor fails to review a patient’s complete medical history, and the prescribed medication interacts negatively with other drugs taken by the patient.
  • A nurse or caregiver administers the medication improperly or administers the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage.
  • The nursing home pharmacy mislabels a patient’s medication.
  • The nursing home pharmacy provides the wrong medication to either the patient directly or the caregiver in charge of administering the medication to the patient.

The problems caused by medication errors compound when nursing home staff fails to diagnose the issue or administer immediate medical treatment.

Nursing Home Falls Have Devastating Consequences

On average, nursing home residents are involved in two to three falls annually. Between 10 and 20 percent of elderly fall victims suffer serious injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, hip fractures and internal bleeding. In many cases, falls in nursing homes could be prevented by having appropriate care, supervision and equipment. Residents may suffer a fall when the nursing home:

  • Fails to provide sturdy handrails in hallways, rooms and bathroom areas
  • Fails to use safe handling procedures for transferring patients
  • Uses inadequate lighting in hallways and rooms
  • Has uneven, slippery or wet floors
  • Uses unstable furniture
  • Commits a medication error or uses chemical restraints, causing a loss of balance
  • Fails to consistently supervise patients

Often, nursing home falls go unreported, so family members may not even be aware of the accident until well after the incident occurred. If you see unexplained bruises or other bodily injuries, your loved one may have fallen.

Spotting The Warning Signs Of Abuse

As they age and become frail, our loved ones are less likely to resist or fight back when verbally or physically attacked. Any loss of vision, hearing or mental capabilities contributes to their vulnerability, making it easier for others to take advantage of them. Unfortunately, signs of abuse may be ignored if they overlap with symptoms of mental deterioration.

If you notice any of the following, it could be cause for concern:

  • Unexplained welts, fractures or sprains
  • Wounds in various stages of healing
  • Signs of restraint, such as bruised wrists
  • A sudden aversion to physical contact
  • Bedsores
  • Poor hygiene
  • Soiled or unsafe living conditions
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Evidence of chemical restraint
  • Sudden agitation or emotional withdrawal

Subtle indications of abuse can be harder to identify if you see your loved one infrequently. An abuse victim may also be reluctant to admit to abuse when questioned. If you suspect nursing home staff of abuse or neglect, our attorneys can help you protect your loved one from further harm.

What To Do If You Suspect Abuse Or Neglect

If you suspect abuse, talk to your loved one about your concerns. Take note that your loved one may be reluctant to admit to the abuse. The abuse victim may fear retribution from the abuser or dread moving to a new facility. Also, victims who suffer from a degenerative disease may not be mentally cognizant enough to recognize the abuse.

If you are not allowed to visit your loved one during normal visiting hours or a staff member insists on being present during your visit, voice your concerns with the manager or a supervisor. Unless you believe your loved one is in imminent danger, it is typically best to confront the care facility’s administration before attempting to take legal action. You can also report suspected abuse to the New Mexico Adult Protective Services division. Supplying photos of any injuries or written statements from the victim or witnesses can help support your claim. Speaking with a lawyer can also help you identify your next steps. Give us a call at 505-227-8315.

Common Questions About Nursing Home Neglect And Abuse

When you are concerned about a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, it is important to be observant and proactive. We at Berenson & Associates, PC, in Albuquerque, have years of experience compassionately handling nursing home abuse and neglect cases for clients across the state. Our lawyers strive to help you understand your rights, protect your loved one and obtain compensation for any losses suffered.

Please read through the frequently asked questions and their answers below to learn more about nursing home cases. To schedule a no-cost consultation with a member of our firm, call us at 505-227-8315 or contact us online now.

What is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse is defined as physical, emotional and mental injury or harm to patients in long-term care facilities and nursing homes resulting from caregivers’ intentional acts.

What is nursing home neglect?

Neglect in nursing homes typically causes physical, emotional and mental injuries that are similar to those due to abuse. However, neglect results from caregivers breaching their duty or failing to properly care for a resident in a nursing home or other long-term residential facility.

What is a bedsore?

A bedsore is a type of wound or sore caused by the pressure of one’s body lying in bed or in one position for too long. Bedsores begin to develop within several hours of maintaining one position but worsen over days and become infected very easily. This is just one of many types of injuries that can occur in a nursing home.

What can a nursing home abuse attorney do for me?

Having a lawyer on your side in a nursing home neglect and abuse case can ensure that all aspects of the case are investigated and that caregivers, as well as the larger long-term care facility, are held responsible for the injuries to or death of your loved one. These can be complex cases and difficult to handle on your own. Having an attorney ensures that your rights will be protected and the case will be thoroughly litigated.

How much will it cost to litigate a nursing home case?

Nursing home cases are generally handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay to retain the attorney, but they would be owed a portion of the monetary recovery if one was obtained. Costs may need to be paid throughout the case before a settlement is obtained, and you would be responsible for those. It is important to discuss your lawyer’s specific fee arrangement upfront to understand your obligations.

What can I do if I suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?

It is important to be vigilant when visiting a loved one in a nursing home. If you see any signs of abuse or neglect, you have the right to question the staff about what is going on. Also, talk to your loved one about the situation. Make notes or take photos if you see anything of concern. If abuse and neglect are obvious and continuing danger is likely, call the police.

Report the abuse to your local protective authorities. You can call the National Center on Elder Abuse at 800-677-1116 to learn who your state’s contact is. Finally, talk to a lawyer to understand your legal rights and seek justice and an end to the abuse or neglect.

If my loved one has passed away, can I still file a nursing home lawsuit?

If your loved one died in a long-term care facility or nursing home due to neglect or abuse, you most certainly could still file a lawsuit. This would be handled as a wrongful death lawsuit, as the death occurred wrongfully due to the individual’s intentional abuse or neglect.

How do I find a good nursing home in Albuquerque?

Finding the right nursing home for your loved one may take time. Our firm can provide resources, and many online resources can point you in the right direction as well. Once you have found a few prospective facilities, you should review all online information about the facility, including any reviews; tour the facility; ask questions of the staff; investigate the background of the facility; and more. Being as thorough as possible can put your mind at ease when placing a loved one in someone else’s care.

Get Our Help In Fighting For Your Loved One

No one deserves to suffer abuse or neglect in a nursing home. To fully understand the impact of nursing home abuse and neglect, and what options might be available to you and your family, contact the trusted attorneys of Berenson & Associates today at 505-227-8315 to schedule a complimentary consultation. You can also send us an email with your contact information.