Every year, South Carolina families hire nursing homes to supervise the long-term care of their elderly relatives. Putting a loved one in a nursing facility is not an easy decision. Families believe these homes can meet their loved one’s medical, emotional, and social needs better than they can. Unfortunately, they may have misplaced their trust. Many people don’t realize that serious dangers, like elder abuse, may await seniors admitted into nursing homes.
The Centers for Disease Control report elder abuse as a significant problem. The federal agency defines elder abuse as an intentional action or failed response that endangers the lives of senior citizens. It also violates their trust. Elder abuse can involve physical, sexual, or emotional trauma. More than 2 million cases of elder abuse take place every year. A National Institutes of Health study discovered abused senior citizens face a 300% higher risk of death.
An AARP study reports that South Carolina’s older population will grow by 101% by 2032. This age group has an increased risk for chronic illness that requires long-term nursing care. The World Health Organization also predicts that elder abuse incidents are likely to increase. A WHO study found:
- Caretakers harmed one in six people 60 years and older in community settings.
- Elder abuse rates are higher in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
- Two out of three nursing home staff members admitted they abused senior citizens in their care.
- Senior abuse leads to long-term physical and psychological injuries.
The Hughey Law Firm Can Handle Your Nursing Home Abuse Case
Negligent nursing homes should be accountable for substandard patient care. Was your loved one injured or abused in a nursing home? You’ll need a strong legal team in your corner to fight for justice. Retain the Hughey Law Firm to argue your case. Our Columbia, South Carolina, nursing home abuse attorneys have helped many patients and their families get justice, and serve our clients with passion, dedication, and aggressive pursuit of justice.
Some successful nursing home abuse cases we’ve handled include:
Group home abuse and neglect case ($750,000) – A Hughey client suffered repeated physical assaults at a facility. During one serious attack, our client suffered a fractured eye socket; in a second incident, caretakers didn’t offer immediate help when he choked on food, depriving his brain of oxygen. He later passed away. Our firm obtained a settlement of $750,000 on behalf of the victim’s family.
The Estate of Helen Rigdon v. Bell Senior Living, Inc. ($500,000) – Chris Rigdon promised his grandfather, Orie, that he’d take care of his grandmother, Helen after Orie passed. Rigdon selected the Ashley River Plantation Retirement Community to care for his grandmother’s ongoing medical needs, including dementia.
The nursing home’s staff doctors completed an initial physical assessment, and diagnosed Helen with dysphasia, hypertension, and muscle weakness. They determined his grandmother had a high risk of developing pressure sores, and in 2009, prescribed a prevention protocol. They also ordered weekly assessments of Helen’s cognitive and functional abilities. Unfortunately, the nursing home staff did not follow the prescribed health regimen. An Ashley nurse noted Helen had developed bedsores, while her condition continued to decline.
Rigdon promptly transferred his grandmother to Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, where doctors diagnosed her with malnutrition, infected bed sores, hip wounds, and severe dehydration. Helen later died.
The Hughey Law Firm represented Helen’s estate against her former nursing home, and secured $500,000 for her family.
Hospital and nursing home negligence ($350,000) – A hospitalized client developed several pressure sores. Medical staff released him to a nursing home, where staff members failed to treat his bedsores. The patient’s wounds deteriorated to Stage IV and became seriously infected. Our legal team promptly secured a $350,000 settlement for our clients.
These cases illustrate what can happen when careless or malicious caregivers are given power over our loved ones. They also illustrate, however, what an experienced legal team can do to ensure your loved one is protected, and hold bad actors accountable when they breach their duty to care for our elders. While every case is different and it’s impossible to guarantee a particular outcome, our history of aggressively pursuing abusive caregivers shows our team’s dedication to defending the rights of our elders.
How Do Nursing Homes Abuse Elderly Patients?
Nursing home staff can harm older patients in many ways. According to the National Council on Aging, social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease) make senior citizens particularly vulnerable to elder abuse. Common forms of abuse senior citizens may experience at these facilities can include:
- Physical abuse – The caretaker inflicts physical injuries on the elderly person.
- Emotional abuse – The worker uses verbal abuse and intimidation to threaten an older person. According to WHO, 33.4 percent of nursing home residents reported emotional abuse.
- Sexual abuse – The perpetrator forces unwanted sexual contact upon a senior citizen who cannot provide consent. The abuser fondles, gropes, or has sexual intercourse with the victim. Every year, 1.9 percent of seniors report sexual assaults.
- Financial exploitation – Every year, elder financial fraud costs older Americans $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion. The nursing staff member misuses or withholds the monetary resources of a senior. Approximately 13.9 percent of elderly adults at nursing homes reported financial fraud. Most senior citizens under-report financial exploitation.
- Forced internment – The caretaker isolates or restrains an elderly person for non-medical reasons.
- Passive neglect – A caretaker ignores the elderly person’s needs, including food, shelter, medicine, or clothing.
Common Nursing Home Injuries
Careless or malicious caregivers can inflict lasting physical and emotional pain, often endangering seniors’ lives. Common injuries nursing home patients experience include:
- Sepsis resulting from open bedsores and untreated wounds;
- Medication errors;
- Falls due to accidents or poor supervision; and
- Failure to report the patient’s condition.
Who Is at Fault in a Nursing Home Abuse Case?
Most facilities ask elderly patients to sign a contract before they’re admitted. These documents usually give nursing homes some legal protection. Yet, it also requires the company to meet its contractual obligations. They must provide quality care for patients. Several areas where a nursing home may be liable in an elder abuse case may include:
Negligent hiring and retention – The nursing home has legal liability for company workers—like nurses—that injure a patient. The facility should screen employees before they’re hired to supervise any patients. Some employers fail to do the following when hiring staff members:
- Screen their candidate’s personal references and past employment.
- Confirm their educational background.
- Finish a drug screening.
- Perform a criminal background check.
- Check their driving records.
Negligent supervision and care – Nursing home staff members can abuse an older person through neglect. For example, some nursing home facilities assign too many patients per staff member. Overloading their nurses impacts the quality of care senior citizens receive. Usually, only the most urgent cases draw staff attention. Patients with chronic, serious conditions often go ignored. Staff members can forget to care for patients’ physical needs.
Negligent maintenance of the premises – Nursing homes can prevent many accidents by eliminating hazards. Facilities who don’t maintain the property properly put both guests and patients at risk. Some seniors have fallen and sustained serious injuries due to these dangers.
Failing to maintain health and safety policies – There are state and federal laws nursing homes must follow to ensure the safety of patients. The companies may be liable if they don’t uphold these health codes.
Criminal intent – Nursing home staff can harm your loved one through physical or sexual abuse. They can also commit financial fraud. These acts may require the criminal justice system’s involvement, and actors can face fines or jail time in addition to civil liability.
Damages Families Can Recover from Nursing Homes
There are several types of damages a plaintiff may plead when a nursing home fails to live up to their duties, including:
- General damages – Typically non-economic damages, these damages compensate for emotional, physical, and mental harm. Additionally, general damage awards also consider how the injuries will affect the quality of life for the victim.
- Special damages – These awards typically cover present and future medical bills incurred due to the injuries, or other economic losses.
- Punitive damages – These damages are usually restricted to cases of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct, with the aim of deterring the actor from engaging in the same behavior in the future.
How Nursing Homes Try to Avoid Liability
Elder abuse is rampant throughout the United States. Many nursing homes prefer to restructure their businesses or rely on extensive defense teams rather than solve problematic issues. For example, they may form Single Purpose Enterprises (SPE) to protect their businesses by shielding management companies and corporate owners from liability. Some companies use SPEs for legitimate purposes. For example, a business may form an SPE to take out a bank loan. Others, however, may use a business structure for nefarious reasons. Nursing homes can use SPEs to help their management team escape personal and financial liability in elder abuse lawsuits.
Hire an experienced nursing home abuse attorney that knows how bad actors try to avoid liability.
How Much Will a Lawyer Cost?
The Hughey Law Firm offers free consultations to our clients, and handles all cases on a contingency basis; this means we don’t collect any fees upfront. We’ll collect our fees only as a portion of any successful judgment or settlement you receive.
Hire a Legal Team You Can Trust
Has a Columbia, South Carolina, nursing home harmed your loved one? The Hughey Law Firm can help. Our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys are committed to defending the rights of elders and their families, and can help you hold bad actors accountable. Schedule a free case evaluation today at (843) 881-8644, or contact us online.