New York Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
Choosing to place a loved one in the care of a nursing home is often a long and difficult decision. You will do your best to find a location that will provide an enriching environment and quality care that you are unable to provide on your own. Unfortunately, however, many nursing homes across the country still face significant problems regarding nursing home abuse and neglect, as these locations still create environments that leave the elderly vulnerable to their caretakers. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we take nursing home abuse seriously.
A nursing home is often that best way to ensure that your loved ones have the help they need with daily tasks, receive appropriate medical care, and are as safe as possible in their living environment. With the numerous nursing home reforms put into place over the last decade, these locations have become an increasingly positive and helpful environment that is the right choices for many people and their family.
We consider it to be one of the most reprehensible and preventable failings of our elder care system. The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is one of the most daunting decisions a family has to make. The primary concern is to make sure the needs of your loved one are attended to with care, skill, and respect. While there are many outstanding facilities, the risk of deficient care is very real.
The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates at least one in 20 nursing home patients has been the victim of negligence and/or abuse, though it concedes that the number is probably higher. A New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence study found that, for every known case of elder abuse, another 24 cases occurred, but were not reported. According to the NCEA study, 57 percent of nurses’ aides in long-term care facilities admitted to having witnessed or participated in acts of negligence and abuse. Even when the consequences are not fatal, nursing home negligence robs victims of their dignity and sense of security. If your loved one has suffered abuse or other indignities in a nursing home, contact the New York nursing home abuse lawyers of Hach & Rose, LLP, at (212) 779-0057 today.
Our attorneys have achieved the following results:
- $6 million Jury Verdict for woman injured in a long term care facility
- $2 million bed sore verdict
- $350,000 bed sore settlement
Understanding Nursing Home Abuse
If you have chosen to utilize the benefits of a nursing home, you should be aware of signs of abuse. Common signs of nursing home abuse include the following:
- Physical neglect, including bedsores, may indicate the nursing home staff fails to provide residents with the necessities of daily living
- Residents who suffer from frequent falls, which can indicate that they may not be receiving adequate oversight from the nursing home staff, or they may be victims of poorly maintained equipment or facilities
- Withdrawal or isolation can be a sign that staff is failing to provide a nursing home resident with adequate assistance or attention.
- Frequent infections could mean that nursing home staff is failing to follow proper hand washing techniques.
- Unexplained weight changes
- Poor hygiene
- Frequent infections or illnesses
- Sudden changes in mood or increased irritation
- Staff members refusing to leave the room during visitation
Abuse often goes unnoticed as many victims are unwilling come forward on their own, either out of fear of the abuser or embarrassment. Additionally, the abuser may take great care to hide their behavior around family or friends. These signs are often subtle and may be difficult to determine definitively as abuse. An experienced attorney may be able to help you understand if the signs you have noticed indicate abuse, and if you are able to make a legal case against the nursing home or staff member responsible. The sooner you identify a potential problem with a nursing home, the earlier you can file a compelling lawsuit that may help put an end to unlawful actions by the nursing home staff.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
By the year 2030, the number of Americans aged 65 years and older is projected to increase by more than 30 percent, from 56 million in 2020 to more than 73 million. And the CDC estimates that the current 1.3 million residents in nursing homes will rise to approximately 3 million in the same timeframe.
It can be a difficult decision to place a loved one in the care of others, but it’s often a necessary step for a family member who needs daily care, or has specific medical needs. Our reliance on nursing homes to care for family members will only increase over time, and there are some exceptional skilled nursing homes that may set the example for facilities in the future.
Unfortunately, however, while all nursing homes should provide a safe space for residents in need of critical care, abuse and neglect is currently a significant issue among the 15,600 nursing homes in the U.S. According to a 2014 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, 85 percent of nursing facilities reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect to the DHHS’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
In 2019, DHHS’s OIG estimated that one in five high-risk emergency room Medicare claims from nursing home residents was the result of potential abuse or neglect. Even when the abuse or neglect is not life threatening, the emotional toll on the victim can be seriously debilitating, resulting in depression, anxiety, and a lower quality of life.
The abusers may be caregivers, medical staff, administrative staff, other residents, or visitors. Causes of abuse and neglect vary, from mental health issues of staff to poor supervision and management. Two of the main causes, however, are staffing shortages, and lack of training and qualifications. In analyzing federal payroll data, Kaiser Health News found that most nursing homes had fewer nurses and caretakers than they reported to the government, including registered nurses. Medicare requires every facility to have a registered nurse working at least eight hours a day, but some facilities would go days without having a registered nurse in house, leaving residents in the hands of understaffed, under-qualified caregivers.
The types of abuse and neglect in nursing homes may include physical abuse and neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and even financial abuse. Examples of abuse and neglect can range widely from bruised wrists and ankles caused by restraints, to improper administration of medication, to improper hygiene, leading to an increased risk of deadly germs and bacteria. However, two of the most common signs of neglect in nursing homes are bedsores and falls.
If you have noticed warning signs that indicate your loved one is being neglected, listed above, you should seek legal counsel immediately. Your attorney will know the best way to present the evidence and may be able to convince the court to award damages to your family. In order to successfully win such a claim, you will need to prove the following:
- The nursing home was responsible for providing the necessary attention and care to your elderly family member. We can prove this by presenting the care contract as evidence.
- The nursing home failed to uphold their duty to care for the resident properly. This is proven by what the nursing home did or did not do to cause the negligence. Our experienced attorneys will have the resources to collect ample amounts of evidence to prove this point.
- The patient suffered harm after the nursing home neglected to provide the proper care.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about what to do when a loved one is being subjected to the negligent actions of a nursing home. If your family is not sure where to turn for help, you should contact Hach & Rose, LLP for a free consultation. We can help you answer any questions you have regarding the unfortunate circumstances you are dealing with.
The most common form of abuse in nursing homes is physical abuse. However, it is important to note that physical abuse is not limited to assault. Other forms of physical abuse can include force-feeding patients or inappropriate use of confinement. Some common indicators of physical abuse include the following:
- Unexplained cuts or bruises
- Torn or bloody clothing
- Broken bones
Physical abuse can result in severe injury, impairment, and extreme pain for the patient.
Unlike physical abuse, which can leave telltale cuts and bruises, emotional abuse is more difficult to detect. The impact of emotional abuse can also have long-term health consequences. Emotional abuse may include the following:
- Coercion through yelling and screaming
- Verbal degradation
- Isolation from other residents
- Ignoring the resident
- Emotional manipulation
Elderly resident suffering from emotional abuse may exhibit behavior changes, such as withdrawal, mood swings, involuntary seclusion, low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.
Financial exploitation is the most common form of non-physical abuse. This type of abuse occurs when the caregiver responsible for monitoring the senior’s financial dealings exploits their position to misappropriate funds, property, and other assets. Deplorable caregivers have been known to do the following:
- Embezzle funds through personal checks or accounts
- Commit credit card fraud
- Forge signatures
- Authorize withdrawals or transfers of funds
- Steal a patient’s identity
Other common criminal rackets used to swindle elderly individuals out of their finances involve phony charities, fake investment schemes, and mail announcing they have won a “prize.”
These shocking instances of abuse occur when someone forces or tricks the resident into unwanted sexual contact. In some cases, the patient is weak or ill and cannot give consent. Sexual abuse in nursing homes can be perpetrated by staff, other patients, family, or visitors. A sexually abused resident may suffer from or show some of the following symptoms:
- Bleeding around the genital or anal area
- Bloody underwear
- Bruises around breast or genitals
- Venereal disease
Other forms of sexual abuse may be more difficult to uncover. Sexually abused patients may be forced to watch pornographic material or have photos taken against their will. In some cases, residents were made to undress or watch sexual acts performed by the caregivers.
Bedsores: A Telltale Sign Of Neglect
A bedsore, also known as a pressure sore or pressure ulcer, is a wound on the body that occurs as a result of prolonged pressure or friction. It may develop if the resident is not moved or repositioned often enough, or if they’re malnourished and dehydrated. A bedsore can be much more serious than its name implies. It can lead to infection, hospitalization, amputation, and even death. There is no such thing as an excusable bedsore. They’re referred to as a “never event” in the medical industry, as they’re preventable, yet can be devastating if they occur. Sometimes nursing homes and medical professionals will try to insulate themselves from liability by claiming that a bedsore was caused by unavoidable pressure. But even Medicare won’t pay facilities for any costs associated with bedsores, because they simply aren’t supposed to happen.
Residents at risk of developing bedsores should first be assessed using a system such as the Braden Scale, which helps health professionals measure a resident’s risk level. Are they mobile? Are they diabetic? Are they anemic? Do they suffer from incontinence? Are they receiving adequate nutrition and hydration? All of these factors may affect how quickly and easily the skin breaks down. Where they fall on the Braden Scale will help determine whether any extra measures are needed to prevent bedsores.
The gold standard all nursing homes should follow is to reposition residents every two hours. Nursing homes will also ideally use a chart, marking how often the patient is turned, and in what position. But perhaps the resident needs to be repositioned more frequently, perhaps fluid intake needs special monitoring, or perhaps gel should be used to prevent skin from breaking down.
When a bedsore starts to develop with possible itching and reddening of the skin, it’s considered a Stage I bedsore. There are four stages in all, with Stage II indicating an open sore requiring immediate attention, and stage IV indicating a large, deep wound possibly showing muscle, tendons, and bone.
A resident can progress from a Stage I to a Stage II bedsore quickly, so it’s critical that caregivers are on top of any early indications of bedsores. The issue is so rampant, that federal and state governments have put regulations in place requiring care that both protects residents from developing bedsores, and requires extensive treatment if they appear. If a bedsore does appear, it very well may be the basis of an abuse and neglect claim.
The Falls That Shouldn’t Happen
The statistics related to nursing home resident falls is alarming. According to the CDC, a typical nursing home with 100 beds reports 100 to 200 falls each year, and many falls go unreported. Also, while only five percent of adults 65 years and older live in nursing homes, nursing home residents account for 20 percent of deaths from falls in this age group. Falls also account for 36 percent of nursing home patients’ potentially preventable emergency room visits.
Preventing hazardous falls in nursing homes begins with assessing risk. A fall risk-assessment will look at a number of factors to measure a resident’s risk for falls, such as walking or gait issues, muscle weakness, level of cognition, and patient care equipment.
Depending on their risk level, residents may require specific care, such as a bed closer to the floor, two bedrails raised up, padding around the bed to protect a resident in the event of a fall, slip resistant socks, a shower chair and wall handles. If a resident is unattended in a wheelchair, they may require their seatbelt and wheels to be locked, and a non-slip pad. Some residents with a high level of risk require 1:1 supervision at all times.
Causes of Nursing Home Falls
A nursing home fall can result in a serious disability, head injury, health decline, a reduced quality of life, and death. Given that residents are often placed in nursing homes specifically to prevent hazardous falls, why do falls occur so often in nursing homes? Oftentimes it comes down to a lack of adequate care.
Some of the most common causes of falls in nursing homes include:
- Movement from one place to another without proper assistance
- Improper use of walking aids
- Falling from bed — improper bed height and rail usage account for close to 30 percent of nursing home falls in the U.S.
- Environmental hazards — hazards such as slippery floors, dim lighting, and poorly maintained wheelchairs account for 16 to 27 percent of nursing home falls
- Falling from wheelchair
- Falling or slipping in bathroom or shower
- Administration of — and inappropriate prescribing of — medicine that results in light-headedness or dizziness, such as anti-anxiety or sedating medications. In 2018, The Washington Post estimated that, in an average week, “more than 179,000 older people in nursing homes are given antipsychotic drugs without an appropriate diagnosis.”
- Incorrect dosing of medicine
- Vision problems
- Improper foot care
- Improperly fitting shoes
Nursing home residents are often more frail than other community members of the same age, and some falls may be unavoidable. But too often they occur because basic precautions were not taken, and because a sufficient number of qualified staff was not available for residents in need. Nursing homes exist to care for the elderly who cannot care for themselves, and the current extent that residents are hurt or harmed as a result of neglect is inexcusable.
What Steps Should I Take if I Think My Loved One Is Being Abused?
If your family member shows any signs of abuse or neglect, don’t hesitate to take action. Following are some of the steps you can take the protect your loved one:
Keep a Record: Track any possible signs of abuse and neglect that you notice toward your family member, including the severity and frequency of injuries. Signs of abuse and neglect may vary widely, but examples may include bedsores, falls, bruises, cuts, burn marks on wrists and ankles indicating use of restraints, medication errors, poor nutrition and hydration, poor resident hygiene, and also lack of hygiene on the part of staff, such as failure to wash hands, and clean rooms and bathrooms. Emotional signs of abuse and neglect may include withdrawal from social interactions, depression, and a sudden change in behavior. Experienced attorneys can help you determine if signs you’re seeing may indicate abuse or neglect.
Take Pictures: Photos that indicate abuse or neglect in your family member’s nursing home may be important pieces of evidence in your case.
Call the New York State Department of Health: File an official complaint with the New York State Department of Health, which may be used as evidence in your case. The health department will investigate the complaint: They will potentially visit the facility, conduct interviews, review records, and if warranted, make a citation against the nursing home.
Call an Attorney: The abuse and neglect attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP strongly believe that every resident of a nursing facility has a legal right to a safe environment. Our attorneys will help clarify the steps needed to protect your loved one, from learning how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect, to contacting the proper authorities, to providing a clear assessment of your case. The sooner you contact our attorneys, the sooner we can begin collecting evidence to make a strong case against all potentially responsible parties, including the nursing home and staff members.
Hach & Rose, LLP Abuse and Neglect Attorneys
The Hach & Rose, LLP abuse and neglect attorneys have well over 100 years combined legal experience. They are among the top-rated attorneys in New York and, together, have been selected for the New York Super Lawyers list, the New York Super Lawyers Rising Stars list, the Top 40 under 40 trial attorneys list, and have also been named to the elite Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. They take nursing home abuse and neglect seriously, and have helped hundreds of clients recover significant damages through successful settlements and verdicts.
Some of the results our attorneys have achieved include:
- $6 million jury verdict for woman injured in a long-term care facility
- $2 million bedsore verdict
- $350,000 bedsore settlement
Our abuse and neglect attorneys
Michael A. Rose, Partner
Michael Rose has spent his entire career representing personal injury clients, including abuse and neglect victims. He has tried numerous cases to verdict and settled many claims resulting in tens of millions of dollars in recovery for clients. Many of these cases have resulted in seven-figure jury verdicts and settlements. During a recent six-month period, Mr. Rose tried three cases that each independently resulted in a seven-figure jury verdict. He has been selected for the New York Super Lawyers list several years in a row, has been peer rated for highest level of professional excellence by Martindale-Hubbell®, and has been named to the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States, in which fewer than one percent of U.S. lawyers are members.
Anthony Hirschberger is a trial attorney specializing in complex personal injury and medical malpractice cases. He has successfully litigated hundreds of cases, including winning a 2 million dollar verdict on behalf of the estate of a victim who suffered seven months of pain from a single bed sore. It was one of the largest verdicts of its kind. He has been selected as a two-time Super Lawyer and Top 40 under 40 trial attorney.
John A. Blyth, Associate
John Blyth practices in the field of personal injury, including elder neglect and abuse, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. Mr. Blyth has extensive courtroom experience and has tried numerous cases in both New York state and federal courts. Mr. Blyth’s litigation skills have been instrumental in obtaining many settlements in excess of $2,000,000, and has successfully mediated dozens of cases that have settled in excess of $750,000. He is devoted to helping his clients obtain justice and secure full and fair compensation for the harm they have suffered. In 2016 and 2018, Mr. Blyth was recognized for his exceptional litigation work when he was selected to the New York Super Lawyers Rising Stars list.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with Hach & Rose, LLP
It’s important to know that the rights of nursing home residents are protected by both federal and state laws. In fact, New York public health laws have specific provisions protecting nursing home residents against neglect, which can be more favorable for plaintiffs. Every resident has a legal right to a certain standard of care, which includes the assessment of their risks, and taking the necessary precautions to protect those residents from harm.
We can help you recover compensation for damages such as medical costs, pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life. You don’t have to face nursing home abuse alone. If you suspect a nursing home of abuse or neglect, call the attorneys at Hach & Rose, LLP for a free consultation at (212) 779-0057 or contact us online.
Nursing Home Abuse FAQs
How can I tell for sure if abuse is occurring?
It can often be a difficult task to determine if abuse is affecting physically- or emotionally-injured elderly nursing home residents. This difficulty is a reason many abusers target them in the first place. The elderly are more susceptible to bruises, cuts, and other small injuries that may occur from everyday activity. However, these wounds can also be signs of abuse. To better determine when abuse is occurring, make note of the severity and frequency with which these injuries occur. Also look for other signs that might appear in conjunction with bruises and scrapes. Other signs of abuse include bedsores, a retreat from social activities, symptoms of depression, and other sudden or strange changes of behavior. Looking at all of these signs of abuse over time will help you better determine if abuse is occurring.
In what ways do caretakers take advantage of the elderly?
Caretakers are unfortunately some of the most common abusers of the elderly in nursing homes. In many situations, the people that you and your loved one trust the most are the very ones taking advantage of their charges. Many caretakers abuse their position of authority, the fact that their patients are often at a physical or mental disadvantage, and their access to patient’s personal and valuable belongings. In a lot of cases, victims of elder abuse in nursing homes avoid incriminating their caretakers due to fear of disbelief or retaliation. Some victims who experience memory loss may not be able to identify their abuser. Those that take advantage of the elderly in these situations are committing serious crimes and should be brought to justice for their actions.
Why Should I Seek Legal Help?
When facing an abuser of any kind, it can be very difficult for the victim or their loved ones to make an impact on the situation. This is particularly true of nursing homes, which often aim to protect their reputation more than their residents. The lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP know the underhanded tactics that nursing homes use to get out of lawsuits, and we are prepared to make sure they face the consequences of their actions. We will help you gather the necessary information to prove the nursing home’s abusive behaviors and will then build a case in your favor. The advice and assistance of a lawyer will not only make creating your case a simpler process, but it will also increase your chances of winning your case and bringing an end to this injustice.
What is My Case Worth?
You may question whether it is worthwhile to take your case of nursing home abuse to court if you were able to stop the abuse. However, in many cases, you or your loved one may be able to receive compensation for the suffering you have endured. This may be able to reduce any financial burden caused by an abusive situation. Additionally, it may help relocate the elderly individual involved to a better facility or pay for a different form of care. Damages that are most commonly recoverable in cases of elder abuse include:
- Loss of quality of life
- Past and future medical expenses
- Wrongful death
- Punitive damages against the facility or staff member at fault
In past cases, victims of nursing home abuse have received thousands of dollars in compensation, depending on the severity and extent of the case. This money can help begin the healing process of recovering from an abusive environment.
How can I find the right nursing home?
When selecting a nursing home, it is important to find a facility that suits the health needs of you or your family member. Some of the things you may want to consider when choosing a nursing home include:
- Compile a list of potential nursing homes within traveling distance.
- Speak to friends, neighbors, senior groups, and social groups about potential facilities
- Check the Medicare and Medicaid website for a list of certified nursing facilities
- Determine the facility’s proximity to family members and friends so that visits can be as frequent as possible
- Make an unannounced visit to the facility to determine the general feel of the place. Ask questions:
- Is the atmosphere friendly?
- How does the staff treat residents?
- Is the facility clean?
- How is the temperature?
- How is the food?
- What steps are taken in the event of a medical emergency?
- Are there trained medical professionals on staff?
- Where is the nearest hospital to the facility?
- After the unscheduled walk-through, set up an appointment with the facility’s administrator to ask questions regarding visitation, meals, hiring practices, and staff requirements.
- Finally, try to determine the overall quality of life of the residents. Does the facility provide social events? Opportunities to interact with friends and other residents?