The questions on this page were answered by our team of Virginia Beach & Norfolk personal injury attorneys. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.
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What are the risk factors for seniors and sexual abuse?
Any resident of a nursing home is at risk; however, studies show the following factors causes that risk to spike:
- Seniors who have no support system in place, such as family or friends
- Seniors who suffer from dementia. Statistics reveal that almost 50 percent of dementia patients have suffered some form of abuse.
- Seniors who have already experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, or other trauma in their past.
- Seniors who are in poor health or are functionally impaired.
How common is sexual abuse of the elderly?
All forms of elderly abuse are tragic, but sexual abuse of the elderly is far too common. According to an investigation conducted by CNN in 2017, there were more than 16,000 sexual abuse complaints filed on behalf of nursing home victims between 2013 and 2017. During that same time frame, more than 1,000 nursing homes were cited by the federal government for mishandling reports of sexual abuse or failing to prevent incidents. More than 100 facilities were cited multiple times.
How prevalent is elder abuse in the U.S.?
As the baby boomer generation begins to reach retirement age, the number of seniors has significantly increased over the past few years. Unfortunately, this also means that the number of seniors who suffer abuse has also increased. According to statistics from the federal government, approximately five million elderly people are abused every year. It is estimated that at least 10 percent of seniors have experienced some type of abuse. Only one in every 14 cases is actually reported.
What are some of the common forms of nursing home neglect and abuse?The most common forms are physical and sexual assault; bedsores; infection; overmedication; involuntary physical restraint; preventable injuries such as falls; dehydration and malnutrition; and failure to give proper medical care.
I want to file a complaint about a nursing home with the Commonwealth of Virginia because I am worried about how they are caring for my family member. How do I file a complaint and will the nursing home find out that I complained?
In Virginia, you would file a complaint with the Department of Health Professions. You can submit a complaint in writing and mail, fax, e-mail, or hand-deliver it. You can download the complaint form here. You can also call 1-800-533-1560 and phone in a complaint. Finally, you can make a complaint in person at a department location during business hours.
It’s understandable that you are worried the nursing home will find out you filed a complaint. The fear of retaliation against the family member who may already be receiving substandard care is enough to prevent some people from filing a complain all together. We must stress that if you think a nursing home isn’t taking care of its residents or is violating the law, you should file a complaint. Complaints can be filed anonymously, though depending on the circumstances of the Department’s investigation, eventually your identity may have to be revealed.
While a complaint will alert authorities to the nursing home’s possible abuse, it will not provide compensation for your family member if he or she was already a victim of abuse. The Department can take regulatory and legal action against the nursing home – including shutting it down if violations warrant it – but the Department’s action is separate from a nursing home abuse lawsuit that would compensate your family member. If your family member has been the victim of neglect or abuse, contact our firm to talk to a lawyer who can help you evaluate your claim.
How does someone put a value on a nursing home neglect or abuse lawsuit?
The determination of value in a nursing home lawsuit is difficult to determine and there is no single answer to that question. The factors which are considered include the following:
(i) The effects on the health of the resident in question;
(ii) The age of the resident;
(iii) The actual injury suffered by the resident; and
(iv) If death occurred, how long the resident was actually at the nursing home,
and the relative health at the time of admission.
An experienced nursing home attorney will be able to advise a resident or family as to the guidelines or ranges of value, which again will ultimately be resolved through settlement or jury verdict should the case proceed to trial.
What steps should I take if I believe a loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home?
There are several measures that can be employed if a family member or a friend believes such neglect is occurring in a nursing home.
Step 1 involves making a complaint to the regulatory board or agency in the state where the nursing home is located. Such a complaint can trigger a review by the state to determine minimum compliance with state promulgated regulations governing the care of residents in the nursing home.
Step 2, a civil lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the family or resident if neglect is suspected, which will then be adjudicated and resolved through the civil court system.
Finally, if the abuse is of such a severe nature that criminal negligence may be at issue, a criminal complaint can be brought through contact with the local district attorney’s office.
How is nursing home neglect defined?
Generally speaking, nursing home neglect exists when a nursing home fails to provide the care, services and supervision necessary to adequately provide for the needs of its nursing home residents.
This care includes the provision of food, medicine and physical attention needed to prevent the onset of sickness.
A particularly common condition affecting nursing home patients is the onset of bedside sores, known as decubitus ulcers, which often result from the failure to properly turn nursing home residents.
If I am going to sue a nursing home for neglect should I transfer my family member or loved one to a new facility?
Yes. It is always a concern that staff and the administration of a nursing home may treat a resident suing a nursing home differently once suit is filed. It is always a good idea to seek a new nursing home if this is your situation. Most states have agencies that can assist in this new placement. In addition, qualified attorneys often are aware of the better facilities in their community.
What legal options do I have if I suspect nursing home neglect or abuse?
Response to those suspicions depends on how severe they are. For instance, if you believe that your loved one’s life is in danger, you would get in touch with outside medical support to evaluate the resident. Additionally, you always have the option of meeting with upper level nursing personnel or home administrator to discuss conditions at issue. Finally, you have the option of seeking an additional facility location if possible.