South Carolinians frequently entrust nursing homes to care for their elderly or sick relatives. Families often tour facilities, ask administrators targeted questions, and interrogate caregivers to find the best home for their loved ones and ensure that the chosen facility treats them with compassion, dignity, and respect. Unfortunately, these efforts are sometimes not enough to shield loved ones from nursing home abuse.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse is on the rise; in fact, one out of every six seniors has experienced some form of abuse. WHO predicts that levels of elder abuse will continue to rise as the world’s elderly population expands. According to AARP, South Carolina’s population of individuals age 85 and older will increase 101 percent from 2012 to 2032.
A 2018 WalletHub study concluded that South Carolina has the nation’s least effective protections against elder abuse; the organization ranked South Carolina last among all U.S. states in its most recent ranking. According to the study, South Carolina spends the least amount of money on protections for elders, and it also has the highest rates of elder abuse, gross neglect, and exploitation complaints in the country.
Elder abuse can kill seniors. A National Institutes of Health study concluded that abused elders have a 300 percent higher risk of dying than those who do not suffer from abuse.
Did your loved one suffer from abuse while residing at a nursing home or other long-term care facility? We know that families often feel betrayed when a trusted caregiver harms their loved ones. If your loved one has experienced nursing home abuse, you should consult an experienced legal team. The Hughey Law Firm will fight for your family. The experienced nursing home attorneys in our Florence office can help you seek justice. Call the Hughey Law Firm today at (843) 881-8644 or contact us online.
We Are Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys With a Track Record of Success
Senior citizens deserve quality care in their golden years. Sadly, nursing home caregivers often neglect their elderly patients. Elder abuse can leave patients with physical and psychological wounds. If one of your loved ones has experienced nursing home abuse, you’ll need an experienced legal team to litigate your case.
The Hughey Law Firm can help you seek justice. Many professionals throughout South Carolina refer individuals who need assistance with nursing home abuse cases to our firm. Lead attorney Nathan Hughey has represented patients and their families in these types of cases for several decades. He has argued before the South Carolina Supreme Court, and he is also licensed to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Trust our experienced Florence nursing home abuse attorneys to handle your case. Some of our past success includes:
- Assisted living facility case ($875,000) – A client suffered a wheelchair accident at an assisted living facility, resulting in a broken neck and pelvis. We fought hard for the client and settled the case out of court for $875,000.
- Nursing home neglect case ($500,000) – Our client developed Stage IV pressure sores while staying at a long-term care facility. The Hughey Law Firm introduced strong evidence during proceedings that proved the nursing home’s negligence, and we secured a damages award of $500,000.
- Hospital and nursing home negligence ($350,000) – Our client developed numerous pressure sores while in the hospital. The medical staff released the patient to a nursing home where the bed sores worsened and became infected. The Hughey Law Firm helped settle the case for $350,000.
- Nursing home injury case ($280,000) – Our client suffered a broken hip while under the care of a nursing home. The Hughey Law Firm proved that the staff’s negligence caused our client’s injury. We secured $280,000 in compensation for the client.
- Nursing home neglect leads to pressure sores ($275,000) – Our client’s health deteriorated while under the care of a nursing home facility, and the patient sustained late-stage bed sores. We settled the case for $275,000.
While we cannot guarantee specific results or outcomes in any particular case, the above examples represent some of our past success. We work hard to secure compensation for all of our clients.
What Is Elder Abuse?
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released an elder justice roadmap, a comprehensive report covering America’s elder abuse problem. Researchers for the study found high rates of poor care, neglect, and preventable adverse events in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The organization defines elder abuse to involve several issues, including:
- It is the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse of an elderly patient.
- These actions include neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation.
- This abuse can occur in any setting like homes and long-term care facilities.
- It is often an elderly individual’s guardian who is engaging in the abuse. Despite an expectation of trust in a guardian relationship, perpetrators can be family members, spouses, and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) groups elder abuse into six different categories:
- Psychological abuse. Caregivers may take out their anger by verbally abusing elderly patients. According to a WHO study, approximately 11.6 percent of seniors aged 60 and older suffer from psychological abuse.
- Physical abuse. Individuals—whether caregivers, family members, or other residents of a long-term care facility—may inflict physical injuries and pain upon an elderly person. According to the WHO study, almost 2.6 percent of seniors experience physical abuse every year.
- Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of the elderly is rare, but it does occur. Approximately 0.9 percent of seniors experience sexual abuse. Caretakers may force patients to engage in sexual acts. Sexual abuse crimes usually occur because of opportunism, and many cases involve a caregiver wanting to exercise power and control over a patient.
- Forced confinement. This type of abuse involves a caregiver who isolates an elderly individual when not medically necessary.
- Passive neglect. If caregivers fail to provide a dependent person with basic needs, including food, shelter, and clothing, they have participated in passive neglect. Just one instance of neglect can have profound impacts on nursing home patients. Around 4.2 percent of seniors experienced passive neglect each year.
- Willful deprivation. This type of abuse involves when a facility doesn’t provide adequate medical care, medications, food, therapeutic devices, or physical assistance to patients. Willful deprivation places a person at emotional, mental, and physical risk.
- Financial exploitation. This type of abuse involves defrauding or stealing goods or property from elderly patients. For example, care workers may trick nursing home residents to sign over their bank account information or to execute a power of attorney. On average, guardians of elderly individuals exploit 6.8 percent of seniors in their care.
According to NCEA, family members of abused elders may miss signs of abuse due to a lack of awareness or training. Furthermore, some elderly individuals are reluctant to report abuse due to fear of retaliation. They may also lack the cognitive or physical ability to ask for help.
Abuse Leaves Lasting Injuries on Vulnerable Patients
Patients may suffer both physical and emotional injuries while residing in a long-term care facility. Here are eleven common instances of elder abuse that patients may experience:
- Head injuries
- Dental problems
- Late-stage bed sores
- Sepsis from untreated wounds
- Untreated wounds
- Medication errors
- Preventable falls
- Failure to have his or her condition properly monitored
- Worsening symptoms in Alzheimer’s and diabetes patients.
The Role of Negligence in Florence Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Nursing homes have a duty to care for patients who live in their facilities. Generally, they have a contractual agreement that outlines their duty of care, which should require that they provide elderly residents with housing, meals, and medical services. Other mandatory tasks may include rehabilitation therapy and the supervision of ongoing health conditions.
- Poor supervision and medical neglect of patients. Some facilities lack adequate personnel, making it impossible to properly care for every patient’s needs. This often results in hospitals assigning more patients to one nurse than he or she can safely supervise. The medical staff may prioritize the pressing needs of some patients at the expense of caring for the needs of healthier seniors. Aides may forget to change the positions of bed-bound persons. This type of neglect can result in bedsores, sepsis, and death.
- Ignores health and safety standards. Nursing homes must abide by certain standards and policies meant to ensure patient safety. Facilities may be liable for a patient’s neglect if their staff fails to follow all state and federal laws.
- Poor hiring and retention practices. Facilities have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that elderly residents remain safe. For example, administrators must hire licensed professionals with clean records; they should check employee references, conduct thorough background screenings, and require drug tests. Unfortunately, some nursing homes skip crucial screenings when hiring new workers. Employee retention is another area in which nursing homes often struggle, possibly because of a failure to implement policies meant to entice skilled employees to remain at the facility.
- Intentional abuse of patients. A National Institutes of Health research study found elder abuse is prevalent in nursing homes. Researchers randomly sampled 452 adults with elderly relatives age 65 years and older. Almost 24.3 percent of respondents reported at least one case of intentional nursing home abuse. These incidents can lead to both physical and emotional injuries.
- Negligent training of staff. Health care standards change, so workers should receive professional training every year to ensure that they continue to provide all patients with quality care. Staff members must learn about new medical and residential care techniques.
- Failure to keep premises safe. Nursing homes must keep their premises safe and hazard-free, as required by South Carolina law.
Injured Individuals Can Seek Damages
South Carolina law permits litigants to sue for damages in nursing home abuse cases. Claimants can collect different awards depending on whether they win in court, including:
- Special damages – Covers medical bills related to patients’ injuries.
- General damages – Address pain and suffering, including emotional, physical, and psychological harm.
- Punitive damages – Patients and families can ask for punitive damages in rare instances where a nursing home staff member inflicts willful abuse.
Nursing Homes Restructure to Avoid Financial Liability
Nursing homes promise quality patient care. However, these facilities realize that elder abuse is prevalent within their industry and often restructure their companies to avoid facing any legal liability. For example, they may form single purpose enterprises (SPEs) to protect their management companies.
Most businesses use SPEs for financial purposes. Nursing homes use SPEs to limit their liability under the law. These facilities and their management companies may face liability if they:
- Know that their policies are harmful to patients.
- Have policies that endanger patients’ lives.
- Have owners who decide patient-related matters.
- Have leadership personnel who also supervise the staff members.
Nursing homes often attempt to reduce their legal liability in abuse cases. If one of your loved ones has suffered from nursing home abuse and you want to seek justice, you should contact an experienced attorney. At the Hughey Law Firm, we have veteran nursing home abuse attorneys that can answer your questions and provide you with legal guidance. Our firm handles cases on a contingency basis, which means we only collect fees from your settlement if we win your case.
How to Report Cases of Nursing Home Abuse
South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control has a Complaint Program Agency that investigates nursing home abuse claims. Families who suspect nursing home abuse can call the agency’s hotline at (803) 545-4284. You can also file a complaint online. After reporting the abuse, contact our legal team as soon as possible so that we can begin an investigation.
Hire a Trusted Legal Team to Fight for You
Did a negligent nursing home or assisted living facility harm your loved one in the Florence, South Carolina, area? Contact us immediately to determine your eligibility to file a personal injury claim. Our veteran nursing home abuse lawyers can help you seek justice. Call the Hughey Law Firm at (843) 881-8644, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation and to discuss the details of your case.