Fayetteville, AR Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
When we entrust the physical and emotional well-being of our elderly loved ones to assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, we expect they will be diligently supervised with care, compassion, and respect. Sadly, this is not always the reality of the situation. If you have entrusted the care of an elderly loved one to a nursing home, and you now suspect he or she is being abused and/or neglected by facility personnel, is there any legal action you can take?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. If you suspect your loved one is being abused at their nursing home facility, you may be able to bring a lawsuit for nursing home negligence or abuse. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has over 20 years of experience handling nursing home abuse litigation. Our Fayetteville, AR nursing home abuse attorneys’ mission is to provide our clients with thorough, aggressive, effective legal representation to ensure that justice is upheld. We will work diligently to win fair compensation for the suffering your loved ones have endured. Call our office at (479) 316-0438 to schedule a free consultation.
Fayetteville Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is more prevalent than anyone would like to consider. According to a recent study conducted by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, 30% of all nursing homes in the United States — more than 5,200 facilities — were involved in more than 9,000 incidents of abuse over a two-year period. According to the report, the abuse violations in a total of 1,601 cases were described as placing the residents “in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury.”
The already high rate of nursing home abuse is on the rise. The same report determined that the percentage of nursing home facilities cited for abuse violations has increased annually since 1996.
Most alarmingly of all, the American Association for Justice reports that 90% of all nursing homes in the United States have “staffing levels too low to provide adequate care.” In other words, 9 out of 10 American nursing homes provide inadequate care.
Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse in Fayetteville
It is a misconception to assume that all nursing homes and long-term care facilities provide the same standard of care for the residence. Many facilities lack the financial resources or administrative oversight to ensure that patients receive the quality of care they deserve.
When a nursing home lacks resources, oversight, or is understaffed, the chances of intentional abuse or neglect increase. In some situations, staff and administrators will deliberately take advantage of the elderly individuals in their care. However, many caregivers work hard for their patients’ welfare only to be hindered by long hours and lack of adequate resources. For example, some facilities are plagued with overworked staff, improper training, lack of supervision or oversight, and personnel and equipment shortages. Nonetheless, when a resident is harmed, the facility should be held accountable.
Warning Signs of Abuse in Fayetteville, Arkansas Nursing Homes
Nursing home abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and basic neglect. Regardless of how it manifests, nursing home abuse needs to be stopped the moment it is detected.
Unfortunately, such abuse is rarely reported to the appropriate authority. In fact, the American Association for Justice reports that only 1 in 14 incidents of abuse are reported to the authorities. Therefore, you need to be aware of the warning signs to make sure that your loved ones are kept healthy and safe.
A common sign of abuse or neglect is a change in a loved one’s mood or personality. For example, a victim of nursing home abuse could become more aggressive, rude, or quiet. If you notice a significant change in your loved one’s behavior, it could be an indication that they are not receiving the level of care they need. It could also be evidence of intentional abuse. This is especially the case if their change in mood is coupled with other signs.
Anxiety and Stress
Another indication of potential abuse is a significant increase in the levels of stress and anxiety your loved one is experiencing. For instance, if you find that your loved one does not want to be left only or no longer shows an interest in activities they used to enjoy, it could be a signal that something is wrong.
An Inability or Unwillingness to Answer Questions
One of the most significant problems facing a relative who wants to advocate for the well-being of their loved one in a nursing facility is that many victims are unwilling to acknowledge that they are being abused. They might fear retaliation, feel ashamed, or not truly understand what they are experiencing. If someone is being evasive when questioned or unwilling to share information, it should send up a red flag.
Unexplained Charges or Depletion of Funds
Financial abuse also occurs in Fayetteville nursing homes. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone to try and gain control of and exploit an elderly adult’s finances. One method predators use is cutting off others from examining the finical accounts of a resident. Additionally, a victim could have their checking account or credit cards compromised. If there are unexplained withdraws or credit card charges, it could be an indication of financial abuse.
Restricted Visits From Family Members
A significant element that allows abuse to continue is isolation. When a resident has no contact with friends or family members, signs of abuse will go unnoticed or unreported. If a staff member or the nursing facility administration is restricting access to your loved one, it could be an indication that your loved one is in danger. Any sudden change in visiting hours or unexpected barriers to seeing a resident should be questioned and investigated.
Any unexplained injury could be a sign of nursing home abuse. If your loved one suffered an injury and the facility is unable to provide an adequate explanation of what occurred, you should be concerned. If staff members appear to have excuses or are vague in describing the circumstances surrounding an injury, your loved one could be a victim of abuse. When the injuries are in the genital areas, you should immediately discuss the situation with the authorities and an experienced Fayetteville nursing home abuse lawyer.
Unexplained Deterioration of Physical Health
Residents in nursing homes are likely to experience a slow determination of physical health – it is an unfortunate part of aging. However, if the deterioration is sudden, unexpected, or otherwise unexplained, it could be caused by abuse or neglect. For instance, your loved one could have had a sudden weight gain or loss, increased need for heavy medication, or other rapid adverse physical changes.
Poor Personal Care and Hygiene
When a resident is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, it could result in poor personal hygiene. If your loved one is living in unsanitary conditions or neglects their personal care, it could be an indication of abuse. Soiled bedsheets and unclean areas could be a symptom of intentional abuse or neglect. It is also not uncommon for a victim of abuse to begin to ignore their personal care.
Unexpected Treatment or Medical Care
Some abuse in nursing homes takes the form of overbilling your loved one or conducting unnecessary medical treatments for billing purposes. If your loved one is receiving an increase in tests or doctor’s visits from unknown physicians, it could be a sign that the facility is engaging in fraudulent and abusive conduct.
Signs of Neglect in Fayetteville Nursing Homes
Nursing home neglect another form of elder abuse committed against residents of assisted living facilities. Neglect occurs when a patient receives substandard care. When this level of care results in harm, the nursing home is violating its duty to your loved one.
Many long-term care facilities treat their elderly residents with care and respect. Unfortunately, others do not. If you believe your loved one’s needs are being neglected, do not hesitate to contact our Fayetteville nursing home abuse attorney. While physical abuse might appear intentionally are harmful, neglect is just as bad and unacceptable. Report any allegations of neglect to the facility and contact our Fayetteville nursing home abuse attorney.
Neglect is often the result of insufficient staffing. Overworked and stressed employees might not be able to provide the care residents require. However, this is not an excuse and does not mean that the staff or facility should not be held liable. Another common cause of neglect is improper training. When a nursing home fails to train or vet its employees, the level of care could suffer.
Neglect takes various forms, including medical, emotional, or hygienic negligence. For instance, overworked staff could fail to administer medication or regularly move elderly residents with mobility issues. Emotional neglect occurs when residents are isolated or otherwise ignored. Many residents also rely on their caregivers to regularly dress and wash them.
Below are some signs that could indicate your loved one’s needs are being neglected.
- Unusual Weight Loss
- Poor Hygiene
- Soiled Bedding
Signs of Emotional Abuse in Fayetteville, AR Nursing Homes
While a nursing home resident could suffer from emotional or social neglect, emotional abuse is different. When an elderly victim is emotionally abused, their self-confidence is eroded and their ability to love themselves is attacked. Emotionally abused nursing home residents believe that no one will care for them.
Emotional abuse does not leave physical scars, so the only way to protect your loved one is to be aware of the signs and be prepared to take steps to stop it – including contacting an experienced Fayetteville nursing home abuse attorney.
Since there are rarely any physical indicators, family members must be aware of the emotional indicators of abuse. If your loved one demonstrates any of the symptoms listed below, especially if they are deviations from their normal personality, you should investigate the quality of their treatment.
- Abuse Complaints
- Frequent Crying
- Emotional Outbursts
- Behavioral Changes
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Fayetteville Nursing Homes
Unfortunately, sexual abuse of the elderly in nursing homes is under-researched and poorly understood. Victims of sexual abuse in Fayetteville nursing homes often suffer from medical conditions that limit their ability to communicate, leave them in states of confusion, or result in memory loss. These conditions interfere with their ability to report or even understand what is occurring.
A predator in a nursing home could be another resident, a member of the staff, or a visiting healthcare provider. No matter who has abused your loved one, they should be held responsible. If you believe your family member is a victim of sexual abuse, contact local law enforcement and our Fayetteville nursing home sexual abuse attorney.
There are many forms of sexual abuse of the elderly. Some typical signs and indicators of inappropriate sexual conduct are listed below.
- Breast/Genital Bruising
- Venereal Disease
- Genital Infections
- Vaginal/Anal Bleeding
- Torn/Stained/Bloody Undergarments
Financial Abuse in Fayetteville Nursing Homes
While it might not receive the same media attention as other forms of elder abuse, nursing home residents are often victims of financial abuse. Also called material exploitation, nursing home financial abuse occurs someone with power or authority improperly or illegally uses another’s funds, assets, or property.
Nursing home residents are in a uniquely dangerous position. They rely on their caregivers, often placing unwarranted trust in them, and are without the supervision of loving family members. These vulnerable individuals are often the targets of unscrupulous nursing home staff members. Some examples of financial abuse include the following.
- Forging a resident’s signature
- Cashing a resident’s check without permission
- Using a resident’s credit card
- Making unauthorized withdrawals from a resident’s bank account
Unlike other forms of abuse, there are no physical signs to look for to determine if your loved one is a victim of financial abuse. If possible, you should review your loved one’s financial statements and accounts from time to time. Additionally, if your relative avoids answering questions about their financial situation or appears apprehensive when you bring up the subject, it could be a sign that something is amiss. If you are aware of any unusual purchases, charges, or withdrawals, you should contact our Arkansas nursing home abuse attorneys.
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse in Fayetteville, AR
In many cases, the actual victims of nursing home abuse are often too scared, ashamed, or ill to explain what is occurring. The responsibility to report nursing home abuse in Fayetteville typically falls on family members and friends. This usually begins with voicing your concerns to the facilities administrators and, if required, reporting the alleged abuse to local law enforcement. You should also contact a knowledgeable Fayetteville attorney who has worked extensively on elder abuse cases.
It is crucial to be proactive when looking for signs of abuse or neglect. Any indication of bruises, wounds, emotional distress, agitation, or anxiety should not be ignored. If, for some reason, you are unable to visit with your loved one, you could observe that something is out of the ordinary or wrong when speaking on the phone. Unfortunately, elder abuse in nursing facilities is all too common and ignoring even the most insignificant sign could expose your loved one to continued abuse. If you have any suspicions of neglect or abuse, you should take immediate action.
Proving Nursing Home Abuse in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Proving nursing home abuse is challenging, even if your loved one has visible signs of injuries. Unfortunately, elderly adults are prone to accidents and their bodies are more susceptible to bruising. Furthermore, many nursing home residents have dementia or take medication that affects their memories or judgment. Singularly or combined, these conditions often make it difficult for a victim of abuse to report what has occurred. In many cases, it is up to a loved one to take proactive steps to gather evidence to prove the abuse happened. Our Fayetteville nursing home abuse lawyer has the resources and knowledge to assist in this task.
If you believe your loved one is the victim of abuse, you should begin by asking them questions and taking detailed notes of their responses. Additionally, you should note your own observations, paying close attention to your loved one’s physical appearance, bruises, and emotional state. Photographs are also helpful. Pictures of your loved one or the condition of the facility and their room could be compelling evidence in a lawsuit. Do not hesitate to ask for explanations from the staff if something appears wrong and take thorough notes of what they say.
It is also helpful to be active in your loved one’s medical care. For example, you should be aware of their medical history, so if anything appears troubling or out of the ordinary, you are able to compare it with their known condition.
Damages Available if Your Loved One Was Abused in a Fayetteville Nursing Home
Damages are the financial representation of a victim’s losses, harm, or injuries. In a personal injury lawsuit, damages are intended to compensate nursing home residents and their families for abuse or injuries. Some of the damages are easy to calculate, such as medical bills. However, others are intangible and quickly become complicated. For example, how do you set a price on an individual’s mental anguish?
Typically, there are two broad categories of damages available: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are further broken down into economic and non-economic damages.
Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate an injured person for the harm they endured. Some harm is financial in nature, such as medical expenses or lost income. These types of damages are often called economic damages. You could also suffer harm that is not related to financial losses, such as physical pain, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and mental anguish. These harder to define damages are known as non-economic damages.
One of the most common economic damages are a victim’s medical expenses. Victims of nursing home abuse are entitled to recover any medical expenses incurred because of the abuse. For example, a victim could be compensated for hospitalization, rehabilitation expenses, the cost of required medical equipment or medication, or the expense of physical or psychological therapy.
In a nursing home abuse case, the calculation of medical expenses often becomes very complicated. In many cases, the initial cost will be paid by Medicare, Medicaid, or a private health insurer. Nonetheless, a victim of abuse must obtain a full accounting of all related medical expenses. One reason for this is because a victim’s non-economic damages will often be based on their economic losses. In most nursing home abuse lawsuits, the victim’s non-economic damages are significantly greater, so it is important to prove the full extent of the medical expenses.
If your family member was the victim of financial abuse, such as a caregiver misusing their credit cards or gaining access to their bank account, they should be able to recover their lost funds as well.
In many personal injury lawsuits, lost income is a substantial part of a victim’s economic damages. However, in a nursing home abuse claim, an elderly resident rarely works. In the event that a victim had a part-time job, they should be compensated for any lost wages.
In any personal injury case, non-economic damages are the most disputed. This is especially true in a nursing home abuse case. While victims of abuse are entitled to fully recover their non-economic damages, they are challenging to calculate.
Common examples of non-economic damages include mental anguish, physical pain, emotional distress, insomnia, depression, and loss of enjoyment of life. Placing a dollar amount on this type of harm is not easy; there are no receipts available.
While there is no definitive mathematical equation to calculate non-economic damages, there are some guiding principles used by insurance companies, attorneys, and courts. In many cases, a victim’s non-economic damages are determined by calculating their medical expenses by a set multiplier. For example, our Arkansas personal injury lawyers might use a multiplier of three or four – an insurance company might opt for one or two.
To illustrate how a multiplier works, imagine that your elderly family member was a victim of nursing home abuse resulting in $30,000 in medical expenses. If our office applied a multiplier of three to the case, their non-economic damages would total $90,000. These additional damages would be added to the $30,000 of medical expenses. You want to ensure you have an attorney that will aggressively fight for your non-economic damages. If your loved one was the victim of abuse, you do not want to settle for less than they deserve.
In some Arkansas nursing home abuse cases, a victim might be awarded punitive damages. It should be noted before discussing punitive damages that they are rarely awarded. However, if your loved one was the victim of extreme abuse or neglect, the likelihood of punitive damages increases.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not necessarily related to your loved one’s harm. They are not intended to make the victim whole. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a defendant for their negligence and malice. The broader intent is to disincentivize similar conduct from occurring again. The idea is to not only award damages to an abuse victim, but to prevent further abuse in the future. Punitive damages are very difficult to calculate and will only be awarded on a case-by-case basis. In nearly every instance, the court will determine if punitive damages are appropriate and what they should be.
Our Fayetteville Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Can Help
If you believe your loved one has been abused or is at risk of abuse, contact Ken Kieklak immediately. We are highly experienced in negotiating and litigating nursing home abuse cases, and will advocate for you and your loved ones to better your chances of receiving appropriate compensation. Our Fayetteville, AR nursing home abuse attorneys can help you recognize the signs of abuse or neglect, and work to obtain justice and compensation for you and your family. We litigate aggressively for our clients, and do not get paid until you do. To speak privately with a nursing home negligence attorney, call our law offices at (479) 316-0438, or contact us online.