Defending The Elderly in Charleston
As the population of residents in nursing homes and other assisted care facilities rises, so does the chance that a resident may suffer an injury at a nursing home. Many nursing home injuries are accidental and cannot be avoided. However, too many injuries are the result of carelessness or intentional misconduct on the part of nursing home staff.
There is no excuse for any type of abuse in any long-term care facility. Anyone who engages in such behavior—as well as an employer that allows it—should be held fully accountable under the law. While a prosecutor can criminally charge someone with assault or the government can penalize a dangerous nursing home, this does little to compensate the victims who suffer serious physical and mental injuries due to abuse. Instead, the law gives victims the right to bring their own legal action in civil court to seek redress.
At the Hughey Law Firm, we have seen how seriously nursing home abuse can harm victims and their families in and around South Carolina. We stand up for victims of abuse, neglect, and other nursing home-related injuries, and we can advise you about your rights. If you would like to discuss a possible case, please call our office today for more information.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Instances of nursing home abuse can vary widely. No two cases are exactly the same; therefore, a legal professional should evaluate each situation on an individual basis. Nevertheless, the following types of nursing home abuse may result in an injury claim:
Physical abuse in nursing homes can occur at the hands of a caregiver or even another resident. If your loved one exhibits any of the following symptoms, you may have reason to suspect abuse.
- Unexplained broken bones, dislocations, or sprains;
- Bruising or welts on the body;
- Signs of restraint, such as bruising on the wrists;
- Broken eyeglasses;
- Refusal of a caregiver to leave you alone with your loved one;
- Unexplained burns;
- Evidence the resident is treating their injuries on their own;
- Traumatic hair loss;
- A delay in receiving medical care after an injury; and
- Trips to emergency rooms and multiple hospitalizations for injuries.
The elderly are often unable or unwilling to report bullying behaviors or to fight back if they’re being verbally attacked. Some forms of emotional abuse include blaming or scapegoating the victim, intimidation, ridicule, isolation from family or friends, yelling, or using other behavior toward the victim that seems threatening. The following symptoms may indicate your loved one is suffering emotional abuse at the nursing home.
- Avoiding eye contact;
- Low self esteem;
- Depressed, socially withdrawn, or hopeless;
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
- Not allowed to participate in events at the nursing home;
- Acute mood swings; and
- Engaging in self-injurious behavior.
Nursing home sexual abuse is the initiation of non-consensual physical or sexual contact with a resident, or with a resident who may not be capable of providing consent. Some types of elder sexual abuse include rape, unwanted touching, sexual photography, or forced nudity. The signs you should be wary of include:
- Unexplained STDs or infections;
- Bruising on the genital areas, thighs, or breasts;
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding;
- Clothing that is torn, stained, or covered in blood;
- Difficulty walking or sitting;
- Anxiety or fear around a caregiver; and
- Abrupt change in mood.
Nursing home neglect can have disastrous consequences for an elderly or disabled resident. A common reason for neglect in nursing homes is not having enough properly trained staff to meet the needs of the residents. Neglect may include:
- Failing to attend to the medical needs of a resident.
- Failing to meet the basic, daily needs of the resident, such as providing nutrition or equipment the resident needs for mobility.
- Failing to provide adequate assistance with the resident’s personal hygiene needs, such as bathing, brushing teeth, laundry, or a clean living space.
- Isolating the resident or repeatedly ignoring them.
Warning signs of neglect are often subtle and can go unrecognized for a time. Some signs that your loved one suffers from neglect at his or her nursing home include:
- Bed sores or frequent infections;
- Residents who are emotionally withdrawn or are agitated;
- Sudden weight loss, especially if the resident is unable to feed his- or herself;
- Frequent falls that have resulted in injuries;
- The presence of slippery floors, bad lighting, unsafe wheelchairs, or unsafe furniture in the resident’s room;
- Injuries requiring emergency treatment or hospitalization;
- Residents who wander out of the facility or to parts of the facility where they are not permitted to go; and
- Residents who appear heavily medicated or sedated.
Financial abuse can be committed by anyone who has contact with or control over a nursing home resident, including caregivers at the nursing home facility as well as family or friends who have been given power of attorney over the resident. Be on the lookout for these signs, which may indicate that your loved one is being financially abused:
- Unexplained transfer of assets or money to another individual.
- Abrupt changes in the resident’s estate planning.
- Frequent checks written to a caregiver.
- Sudden changes in banking, including frequent withdrawals.
- The resident’s personal belongings are missing.
- Reluctance by the resident to talk about financial matters that were once routine.
- The resident’s signature has been forged on financial documents.
- A caregiver who begins referring to a resident as his or her “best friend.”
- The explanations about the resident’s finances seem implausible.
Healthcare fraud is common in nursing homes and is harmful to residents, as it involves the medications and services that residents either need and aren’t getting, or should not be receiving but are anyway. Nursing facilities commit healthcare fraud to increase profits, at the expense of residents and the general public. Three common categories of healthcare fraud are:
- Phantom billing: When a facility bills a health insurance carrier for services or devices that are unneeded or are undelivered.
- False billing: Where a resident provides his or her health insurance information for the purposes of billing for non-existent services in exchange for some type of compensation.
- Upcoding and upbilling: Increasing the billable amount for services by using a code that requires further services or tests.
Some signs that your loved one’s facility may be committing healthcare fraud include:
- Evidence that a resident is receiving too much or too little medication, which can indicate that fraudulent practices involving phantom billing, in which the medication was undelivered, or false billing, in which the resident receives a prescription for something he or she doesn’t use or need.
- Receiving duplicate bills for the same devices or services.
- Lack of adequate training for the staff, which removes the checks and balances needed to prevent healthcare fraud.
- Insufficient amount of staff to care for the residents, which could result in careless billing practices and the attempt to increase profits through fraudulent means.
- Evidence that the resident hasn’t received the care he or she has been billed for.
No matter what type of nursing home abuse took place, it can seriously diminish a victim’s quality of life and even put someone in life-threatening conditions. Ideally preventing abuse would be optimal but no nursing home resident should have to worry about any type of abuse or intentional injuries—and the Hughey Law Firm will stand up for the rights of your loved one.
Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
In South Carolina and beyond, people turn to nursing homes to provide care for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves and may be in their final years of life. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect in nursing home facilities happens and goes under-reported. Often, family members are not even aware that abuse or neglect is taking place. Here are some signs to look for if you suspect your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.
- Cuts, bruises, broken bones, and other injuries that are in different stages of healing
- Changes in personality, such as acting more withdrawn
- Regression to childlike behavior
- Fearfulness of staff members or a particular staff member
- Fearfulness of physical contact
- Soiled or bloodstained clothing, under clothes, or bedding
- Not being allowed to visit your loved one without a staff member present
- Marks on wrists or ankles that may indicate the use of restraints
One particular cause for concern should be the discovery of serious bedsores on your loved one. Bedsores—also known as pressure ulcers—are painful injuries that develop on the skin when someone stays in one position for too long. The conditions of many nursing home residents may confine them to wheelchairs or beds and, therefore, bedsores may be inevitable. However, staff should fully treat those bedsores to reduce pain and escalation of the condition.
If your loved one is able to move around, bedsores may indicate that the staff has unnecessarily restrained your loved one to a bed or chair. In addition, if bedsores are allowed to worsen, it may be a sign that your loved one is not receiving necessary medical care—and may suffer injuries from neglect or abuse.
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you believe that a loved one has suffered injuries due to abuse or neglect, your next step should depend on the circumstances at hand. If you think your loved one is in danger of further serious and imminent harm, report the injuries to the authorities and remove your loved one from the facility as soon as possible. If the signs of abuse or neglect are less serious, you may want to discuss the matter with the doctors or administration at the nursing home.
In either case, always contact a skilled nursing home injury law firm like the Hughey Law Firm to discuss the best course of action. We can help you stand up for your loved one’s rights to proper treatment, health, and safety—and we help our clients obtain compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
What Laws Protect South Carolina Nursing Home Residents?
South Carolina law provides a clear definition of physical abuse, neglect, psychological abuse, and exploitation in the Omnibus Adult Protection Act, which protects vulnerable adults who live in a residential home, nursing care facilities, and assisted living facilities.
According to U.S. News & World Report, 191 nursing homes are located in South Carolina. Of those facilities, only 27 received a top overall rating for quality and performance. The vast majority of the state’s nursing homes fall short of providing above-average care. What laws are in place to protect South Carolina residents? Here is an overview.
Licensing Requirements for Nursing Facilities
South Carolina’s Code of Regulations requires that it’s nursing home facilities to comply with federal Medicare/Medicaid standards. The requirements for compliance include:
- The facility can only provide care, treatment, and services that it is capable of and has been permitted by the Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide.
- Facilities must not exceed the bed capacity that the Department has licensed them to accommodate.
- Licensed facilities may be inspected or investigated by the Department at any time in order to ensure that they are compliant with regulations.
- Violations of licensing requirements are identified at Class I, II, or III. Class I violations are those in which the Department determines that there are imminent dangers to the health and safety of facility residents. Class II violations are those which present potentially negative impacts on the health and safety of residents. Class III violations are those that the Department finds are not in the best interest of the facility or its residents.
- The facility is required to develop policies and procedures which ensures that residents do not develop pressure wounds unless a medical condition makes those wounds unavoidable; addresses how it will be handled if the resident wanders away from the facility; controls the use of physical restraints, and safeguards the confidentiality of the resident’s medical records.
Requirements for Facility Staff
South Carolina law provides requirements for the staff members of a nursing facility, as well. Those requirements include:
- All staff members who have direct contact with residents must undergo a criminal background check as part of the hiring process. They may not have prior convictions for child or adult abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. Additionally, they cannot have convictions for sexual assault, physical abuse, or crimes where the victim is a resident at a nursing facility.
- Staff members must be able to render services to residents in a gentle and understanding manner.
- Staff must have sufficient education to render the care and services that the job requires and a working knowledge of the state and federal regulations that are applicable to their scope of work.
- Staff members must not have an addiction to a psychoactive substance that would impair their ability to perform the tasks required for their positions.
- There must be an adequate number of direct care staff to maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial health and safety of its residents.
- The facility must have a physician serving as medical director.
- One licensed nurse should be on staff and present for each shift. If the facility accommodates more than 44 residents, two nurses will be required for each shift.
South Carolina’s Bill of Rights for Nursing Home Residents
South Carolina has a Bill of Rights for Residents of Long Term Care Facilities, which was passed in 1985 by the General Assembly for the sake of ensuring that nursing home residents are placed in the least restrictive environment possible and that their dignity is preserved. Some of the provisions of the Bill of Rights include:
- A written and oral explanation to each resident of a long term care facility, or their personal representative, of the resident’s rights, the facility’s procedure for grievances, and how this procedure will be enforced. This must be provided before or at the time of admission.
- The resident must be provided a written explanation at the time of admission of available services and related charges, and the facility’s adopted refund policy. Residents must also be notified in writing if there are any changes to services or policies.
- The right to choose a personal attending physician and to participate in the planning of his or her care, treatment, and changes in treatment. The resident must also be fully informed of any changes in care or treatment that may affect their well-being.
- The right to receive from their physician a complete and current description of their diagnosis and prognosis in terms that they can understand.
- The right to refuse to participate in medical research.
- Facility-instigated transfers to other facilities may only take place for medical reasons, to protect the welfare of the resident or of other residents at the facility, or for non-payment. Unless the resident’s health and safety are endangered, the facility must provide at least 30 days notice of transfers. Residents must also be given written notice if they’re being moved to a different room or will be receiving a new roommate.
- The resident or their personal representative will manage their finances unless the facility has been delegated in writing to carry out this task.
- The resident has the right to be free of physical or mental abuse, or of the use of chemical or physical restraints unless the restraints are ordered by a physician.
- The right to safely store personal possessions and to expect confidentiality from nursing home staff in regards to personal possessions and medical records.
- The right to be treated with respect and dignity and to be ensured privacy during treatment and personal care.
- The right to be assured that he or she will not be required to perform services unless they are part of a therapeutic plan for the patient.
- The right of the resident’s family members and friends to have immediate access to the resident unless the resident chooses to deny access.
- The right to choose which social, religious, or community activities he or she wishes to participate in, unless the desired activity is medically contraindicated.
- Married residents must be permitted to share a room unless the physician has provided a reason within the resident’s medical record as to why they should not.
- The right to be provided treatment without regard to sex, race, religion, color, national origin, or source of payment.
- The ability to exercise rights provided by this law without fear of retaliation from facility staff.
If your loved one has been abused or neglected at a South Carolina nursing facility, we can help you to understand your legal options and may even be able to help you obtain compensation.
A Committed Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Help
If you suspect nursing home abuse, it can be difficult to know where to turn. If you are in the Charleston area, you should not hesitate to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm. We can evaluate your case, so please call (843) 881-8644 or contact us online for a free consultation today.
Additional Charleston Nursing Home Abuse Practice Areas:
- Nursing Home Injuries: Dehydration / Malnutrition
- Nursing Home Sexual Assault
- Pressure Sores & Bed Sores
- Slip and Fall
- Elderly Health Care Law
Learn More About Your Nursing Home:
- Life Care Center of Hilton Head
- NHC HealthCare, Anderson
- Heartland Health and Rehabilitation Care Center, Hanahan
- Heartland Health Car Center, Greenville East
- Trident Medical Center
- White Oak Manor
- Heartland of West Ashley Rehab and Nursing Center
- Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Health Care Center
- Life Care Center of Charleston
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