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  • Nursing Home Negligence

    Many families have loved ones living in nursing homes, and more family members will be moving into assisted living and other long-term care facilities as the population continues to age. In the best of circumstances, nursing home residents receive good care. However, improper supervision, inadequate staffing, and other factors may result in cases of nursing home negligence, including physical and emotional abuse, medical injury, and neglect.

    What Types of Claims are Filed Against Nursing Homes?

    There are many types of claims that have been made against nursing homes in the past, including the following:

    • A patient fell from their wheelchair in a bathroom because of improper supervision.
    • A nursing assistant sexually assaulted a semi-conscious resident.
    • The nursing home was held responsible when it failed to notice a patient leaving the premise in a wheelchair. Because of this supervisory failure, the patient was subsequently struck and killed by a pick-up truck.
    • The nursing home was found responsible when a patient ran away from the facility and the establishment failed to activate the alarm system. The patient was exposed to cold temperatures because he wandered off dressed in only his pajamas; this exposure may have contributed to his heart attack and resultant death.
    • The nursing home was held responsible for failure to administer proper medications to patients.
    • The nursing home was held responsible for abuse when an employee struck a resident with Alzheimer’s disease.

    Since March 2020, the spike in deaths related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in nursing homes has prompted a rise in wrongful death claims, according to the American Bar Association. By August 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) imposed more than $15 million in fines against 3,400 nursing homes across the United States for non-compliance with infection control requirements.

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    Some states, including New Jersey, passed immunity laws shielding nursing homes from certain types of negligence claims arising from COVID-19. The legal landscape regarding infectious disease liability continues to evolve. It is important for families to contact an experienced nursing home negligence lawyer if they have any questions about the latest regulations regarding the quality of care provided to their loved ones in a nursing home.

    How Do I Know if I Have a Case Against a Nursing Home?

    Families may have a case if a relative has died or sustained a serious injury under questionable circumstances in a nursing home. However, medical facilities cannot guarantee successful medical results. The following is needed to have a claim against a nursing home:

    • The existence of a duty of proper care owed to the resident or patient
    • The standard of care the nursing home should have followed
    • The actual care and treatment of the patient
    • The failure of the nursing home to follow the standard of care
    • Injury or death to the patient or resident
    • The causal relationship between the nursing home’s breach of duty and the patient’s death or injury

    It is not always easy to determine that a patient’s death or injury was directly caused by the nursing home’s breach of duty. Many nursing home residents are at risk for developing medical problems. At the same time, their frailty makes them vulnerable to neglect and abuse because they may not be able to get out of bed, feed themselves, or call for help. Friends and family of nursing home residents should be aware of the signs of possible abuse or neglect so they can intervene on their loved one’s behalf, if needed.

    What are the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse?

    Some signs of nursing home abuse are obvious, such as broken bones or bruises. However, other signs may be more subtle and develop over time. If nursing home staff intentionally cause residents harm, withhold medication, or neglect cries for food or assistance, it may be considered abuse. Signs to look for include the following:

    • Bedsores
    • Broken bones, dislocated shoulders, or fractures
    • Broken eyeglasses
    • Bruises
    • Confusion or increased agitation
    • Dehydration, manifested by cracked lips
    • Fear of speaking in front of nursing home staff
    • Inability to get out of bed
    • Infections
    • Sedation that is not medically necessary
    • Unexplained death
    • Unusual weight loss

    One of the most common and dangerous symptoms of nursing home negligence is the presence of bedsores, which are also known as pressure ulcers. At least one in 10 nursing home residents in the United States develop bedsores, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Bedsores can be fatal if not treated, and they can easily develop if a patient does not receive help getting out of bed or turning over.

    Which Federal Laws Protect Nursing Home Residents?

    In 1986, a major study was published on the widespread abuse of nursing home residents across the United States. In response to this, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA), which is intended to guarantee a standard of care to all residents of nursing homes that received Medicare or Medicaid payments. Today, nursing homes must provide residents with written notice of their rights and protections under the law, which include the following:

    • Freedom from abuse and neglect
    • Access to proper medical care
    • Freedom from physical or chemical restraints when not medically necessary
    • Protection against involuntary transfer or discharge
    • Freedom to spend time with visitors
    • Privacy and property
    • Freedom to file complaints without retribution

    Despite this law, nursing home negligence is still happening in the United States. Approximately 70 percent of U.S. nursing homes are for-profit institutions, and patient advocacy groups suggest that this may lead to operating short-staffed. In fact, studies suggest that more than half of the nursing homes in the United States are understaffed.

    What Should I Do if I Suspect Nursing Home Negligence?

    If someone has reason to believe that their loved one in a nursing home has been abused or neglected, they should report it immediately to the nursing home administrator, head nurse, and medical director. If the resident is in immediate danger, 911 should be called. A family member should document the condition and record subsequent medical treatment provided. An experienced lawyer can be contacted to obtain professional advice regarding next steps. There are numerous federal and state laws regulating nursing homes, and it is imperative for victims and their families to understand their rights under the law.

    New Jersey Nursing Home Staffing Requirements

    In 2021, New Jersey enacted a law raising the requirements for staffing in nursing homes andestablished the following staff-to-resident ratios in New Jersey nursing homes:

    • One certified nursing assistant (CNA) to every eight residents during day shifts
    • One direct-care staff member (RN, LPN, or CNA) to every 10 residents during the evening
    • One direct-care staff member to every 14 residents during the night

    To address low wages and lack of training, the bill also established a task force to evaluate wages, benefits, and training opportunities for nursing home workers.

    How Do Pennsylvania Laws Protect Nursing Home Residents?

    Nursing homes are inspected annually by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to protect the health and well-being of residents. Pennsylvania law requiress:

    • There must be at least one registered nurse on duty per 20 residents.
    • There must be a medical director on staff who is a licensed physician.
    • The medical director must develop an overall plan of care for each resident.
    • The medical director is responsible for reviewing any accident or incident that may occur.

    In addition, the law requires nursing homes to have written orders from a physician before using any type of restraint. The law also prohibits abuse, which is described as follows:

    • Verbal abuse. Spoken or written words or gestures that willfully include disparaging and derogatory terms to residents or their families, including threats of harm or intent to frighten.
    • Sexual abuse. This includes sexual assault, harassment, and coercion.
    • Physical abuse. Examples of physical abuse include hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, and any type of corporal punishment.
    • Mental abuse. This may take the form of humiliation, harassment, or threats of deprivation.
    • Involuntary seclusion. Separating a resident from other residents or confining residents to their room against their will may constitute involuntary seclusion. Emergency separation from other residents may be permitted if needed to reduce a resident’s agitation.
    • Neglect. Depriving of goods or services that a resident needs to maintain physical or mental health is considered neglect.

    Why is Nursing Home Negligence Still Prevalent Today?

    Although federal and state laws set standards of care and dictate schedules for compliance monitoring, nursing home negligence has not yet been eliminated. The tragic deaths of thousands of nursing home residents because of COVID-19 have put a spotlight on the lack of care in many long-term care facilities. When the pandemic hit, underpaid and overworked staff were unable to contain the disease. According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the lack of staffing and supplies is all too common in nursing homes today. The NEJM asserts that this is largely due to the way in which long-term care is funded.

    Medicare pays only for temporary after-hospital stays; Medicaid or a patient’s own private funds must be used to pay for long-term stays, resulting in fewer long-term residents. Experts believe that nursing homes are being squeezed even further during the pandemic, using up their funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits, and other supplies to contain COVID-19 outbreaks. This diverts nursing home resources from paying for adequate staffing and training. Unfortunately, it is likely that nursing home abuse and neglect will continue to be a problem because of overworked, underpaid staff.

    Why Should I Hire a Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer?

    Nursing homes that receive Medicaid and Medicare payments for care of residents must comply with federal and state laws. If a family has a loved one who has been subjected to abuse or neglect, they have the right to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit against the nursing home that violated the law. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of injury. If families are thinking about proceeding with a lawsuit, they should contact us immediately.

    How has Galfand Berger LLP Helped Nursing Home Neglect Victims in the Past?

    Galfand Berger LLP has experience winning nursing home negligence cases, including for the family of a resident in an assisted living facility who was left unattended while bathing and drowned in the tub. Galfand Berger LLP coordinated a thorough investigation, and an autopsy revealed that the resident likely tried to get out of the tub when she slipped and fell. She subsequently hit her head and drowned. The absence of staff and the lack of a hand bar in the tub or other safety features prevented her from getting out safely. Galfand Berger LLP settled the lawsuit for the family for a confidential amount.

    Philadelphia Nursing Home Negligence Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Nursing Home Residents

    If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home negligence, contact the Philadelphia nursing home negligence lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. We are experienced in advocating for victims of nursing home negligence, and we are happy to review your case and give you the assistance you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.