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If you intend to sue for nursing home neglect or elderly abuse, be prepared to face the opposing parties' claims. The best way to protect yourself in a court case is to have everything documented. Make sure you've included doctors and the insurance company on all correspondence, keep a list of everything that seems wrong or out of context in the nursing home. In some court cases, the person who was actually abused or neglected will have to testify, so make sure that your elder abuse lawyer takes care to let you know what will happen in court.
Elderly abuse, physical or mental, is against the law. National and state laws have been enacted in many states that detail how the elderly should be treated and the punishment involved if these laws are broken. As laws do vary from state to state, check local government websites to get the most accurate picture of your state's view. Abuse against elders (in any fashion, including in nursing homes) is wrong, and federal funding is provided for shelters and other assistance. The Older Americans Act (42 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., as amended) provides for this, but does not set down a direct law and specific punishment against those who abuse the elderly.
There are typically two types of legal cases that can be brought against a nursing home that has abused or neglected its residents. You can bring an individual case against the home because of specific treatment, or lack thereof, to your elderly relative. Or, you can join a class action suit if the mistreatment was widespread. If there were many people at the nursing home who were abused, all of the families may choose to join together and file a lawsuit at one time, making a stronger case against the nursing home. Then, if the case is won, monetary compensation is split among all the parties in the class action suit.
If you've decided to get a lawyer involved in what you believe is nursing home negligence or abuse, it's best to research and interview only attorneys who specialize in this area. Be sure to ask the lawyer how many of these types of cases they've handled, and ask how he/she plans to handle your specific case. Ask the lawyer how familiar they are with the elder abuse laws in your state, and make sure you can give them copies of all medical records and documentation of abuse if they request it.
If you suspect any type of abuse has occurred in a nursing home facility, the first thing you should do is remove your loved one from the dangerous environment. In most cases, nursing homes require a family member to be present for discharge assignments. Discharging a person from a nursing home usually takes doctor approval, but in the event of an emergency, you should call the police for assistance. Prior to removing an elder from a nursing home, you should contact a nursing home abuse attorney to review the allegations and potential charges of the case. You also should make arrangements for a safer place for the relative to stay (at your home, or another nursing institution) until you can resolve the problems with the nursing home. Make sure the elderly person is checked out at a hospital or by a doctor to rule out any serious physical injuries.
If you are looking for more information on nursing home neglect and abuse, a good resource is the Internet. Searching on Google will get you a number of websites with pertinent information. There are also phone numbers that you can call for information and help in the case of encountering an abused nursing home resident. If danger is imminent, always call 911 first, but if you need more help the Eldercare hotline is available at 1-800-677-1116, available Monday through Friday, 9 am - 8 pm.
If someone you know has suffered nursing home neglect or abuse, the nursing home resident should see a doctor immediately. An independent doctor - one that is not employed by the nursing home - can assess how the resident was treated during his/her stay, and evaluate the physical, emotional and medical condition of the patient. The doctor can check for bed sores, malnutrition and aggravated medical conditions (such as untreated diabetes or high blood pressure). Any of these conditions may show neglect on the part of the nursing home, and can be used in the event of a lawsuit or criminal allegations.
If your loved one was placed in a nursing home through a health insurance policy, you should immediately contact the insurance company if you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse. The insurance company can investigate the abuse allegations, and take further action with the nursing home if necessary. The insurance company will also have records of all the treatments and other amenities the nursing home resident received during his/her stay. This can be helpful in proving that the nursing home was negligent or fraudulent in caring for their resident. Medicare or Medicaid can also be helpful if they were paying for any of the cost of the nursing home bills.
Nursing home neglect and abuse is defined as a situation when the nursing home caretakers consciously ignore the needs of an elder resident. Neglect can happen in various ways including:
- Residents of nursing homes can be left alone too long or be underfed.
- Residents can have their medical needs uncared for or appropriately monitored.
- Physical or sexual abuse of the elderly by nursing home staff.
If you believe your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, it's advisable to contact an attorney to review your case.