A South Carolina man who was suspicious that nursing home staff might be abusing his 89-year-old mother hid a camera in her room to find out if his suspicions were correct.
It turns out that they were.
Investigators were already looking into the situation at the time, after a hospital alerted police about injuries the woman had suffered. Her son’s camera caught footage of two staff members “using physical force and psychological abuse” when the woman didn’t want to take a shower.
One of the facility’s staff members injured the woman while forcing her to take a shower against her will. Both women involved in the incident were charged with abuse of a vulnerable person and the one who caused the injury was arrested. The facility terminated both staff members, and police believed that the incident was isolated.
Twenty percent of the people who have ever lived to be 65 are alive today, and one in every eight Americans is currently 65 or older. An estimated 1.4 to 1.5 million Americans currently live in a nursing home and that number is likely to grow over the next decade as baby boomers age and begin to need more full-time care. If your family will face this transition in the near future, how do you go about selecting a nursing home? And is it true that nursing homes are always places where abuse occurs?
Read on for more information—and if your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect in South Carolina, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at the Hughey Law Firm can help you understand how to obtain compensation through a personal injury claim.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Abuse is not a standard state of affairs in all nursing homes. In fact, many nursing home facilities and the staff who work there are devoted to providing a safe place for seniors. However, nursing home abuse and neglect are major concerns across the nation.
Abuse is defined as the intentional infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, deprivation of care or services, or punishment that results in physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.
Neglect is defined as an intentional or unintentional failure to provide a person with the care and services necessary to ensure freedom from harm or pain, or a failure to react to a potentially dangerous situation resulting in harm or anxiety.
There are several types of nursing home abuse, including:
Physical abuse such as slapping, punching, pinching, or pushing, as well as the use of restraints to force a person to comply.
Mental abuse such as threats, intimidation, or belittling the resident to cause emotional pain.
Sexual abuse including rape, inappropriate touching, or forcing the resident to view pornography or watch others have sex.
Financial abuse, including inappropriate withdrawals from the elder’s bank account or adding someone to a deed or account without permission or to exploit the elder.
Neglect such as refusing to provide medication, medical care, nutrition, or other necessary provisions, failure to keep the resident clean and to provide a sanitary environment, failure to prevent pressure ulcers or falls in spite of known risk, abandonment of an elder in a public place, and failure to prevent the resident from wandering away from the facility.
Laws That Protect Nursing Home Residents
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law is a federal law granting nursing home residents certain rights and requiring any nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to uphold these provisions. The law grants nursing home residents the following rights:
The right to be fully informed about available services and the cost of these services.
The right to be provided with facility rules, including a copy of residents’ rights.
The right to be told in advance about plans for changing rooms or roommates.
The right to receive information in a language that the resident understands.
The right to receive appropriate assistance if the resident has a sensory impairment.
The right to complain or to file a complaint without fear of reprisal.
The right to request that the facility address grievances the resident presents.
The right to receive adequate and appropriate care.
The right to be informed about all changes in their own medical condition.
The right to participate in their own assessments, care plans, treatments, and discharge.
The right to refuse medication or treatment.
The right to refuse chemical or physical restraints.
The right to review their own medical record.
The right to private and unrestricted communication with anyone they choose.
The right to privacy and confidentiality regarding medical care, personal needs, and financial information.
The right to a 30 day notice of transfer or discharge that includes the reason for transfer or discharge, effective date, location to which the resident will be transferred, as well as the right to appeal that decision.
The right to be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity.
The right to be free from any mental or physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical or chemical restraints.
The right to self-determination.
The right to security of personal possessions.
The right to visits by the resident’s relatives, friends, and guests of their choosing.
The right to refuse visitors.
The right to make personal decisions about where and how to spend free time.
The right to reasonable accommodation of preferences and needs.
The right to choose a physician.
The right to participate in social activities both within and outside of the nursing home.
The right to organize and participate in a residents’ council.
The right to manage their own financial affairs.
In addition to federal requirements, South Carolina has mandatory reporting requirements. Those required by law to report suspected nursing home abuse and neglect are:
Other medical, mental health, or allied health professionals;
Christian Science practitioners;
Mental health or intellectual disability specialists;
Social or public assistance workers;
Staff or volunteers at an adult daycare or facility;
Law enforcement officers; and
Anyone with actual knowledge of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
The law requires any of the above-listed individuals to report suspected abuse within 24 hours or the next working day. An individual may make a report in writing, by telephone call, or in person. The information reported must include:
The vulnerable adult’s name or physical description if the reporter does not know the victim’s name;
The name and address of the vulnerable adult’s caregiver or any person who has or had permanent or long-term custody of the vulnerable adult; and
A description of the facts and circumstances leading to the report.
Facilities are barred from developing policies that interfere with mandatory reporting requirements. Failing to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or imprisonment for up to one year. In emergencies that pose an imminent risk of harm to the resident, immediately make the report to law enforcement.
Reasons to Suspect Abuse
These red flags may indicate possible nursing home abuse:
Unexplained injuries, particularly if they require hospitalization;
Bruising, particularly on a nursing home resident’s wrists, which may indicate that they have been subject to unlawful restraint, or on their genitalia, which may indicate that they have been subject to sexual abuse;
Behavioral changes, including agitation or withdrawal;
Falls, fractures, head injuries, or increased or worsening pressure ulcers;
Malnutrition or dehydration;
Reluctance to speak in the presence of staff members;
Any staff member’s refusal to allow the resident to be alone with visitors;
Soiled or dirty clothing, or the appearance that the vulnerable adult has not been bathed;
Symptoms that indicate the resident may have been over- or under-medicated;
Staff who appear frantic or a staff-to-resident ratio that appears inadequate to handle residents’ needs;
High staff turnover, especially in key positions such as the director or the heads of nursing, nutrition, or social services;
A resident who is uncomfortable around certain staff members or who states that they do not want to be cared for by a specific staff member; and
Unanswered call lights.
How to Choose a Nursing Home
Selecting a nursing home is an important decision, as it will have an enormous impact on your loved one’s safety and quality of life. Some questions you should ask when you are considering moving your loved one to a nursing home include:
What is the ratio of staff to residents? Before you ask this question, ensure that you’ve done your own research by taking a look at the facility’s page on the Medicare website.
What is your staff turnover rate? Consistent staffing helps to ensure quality care and allows your loved one the comfort of knowing their caretakers.
How long do nurses and assistants spend with each resident each day?
What services do you offer? If your loved one has specific issues that require specialized care, make sure that the facility you choose can provide that care adequately.
How do you prevent pressure ulcers? This is a particularly important question if your loved one is bed-bound or has diminished mobility.
How does your facility avoid infections and the spread of infectious diseases?
What happens if I run out of money? Nursing home evictions can and do happen. You need to know, before choosing a facility, what the policies are about payment among the facilities you’re considering.
How do you promote diversity so that all residents feel comfortable and included?
What is your policy on mood-altering medication and the use of chemical restraints?
What kind of food do you serve?
What is your policy regarding cultural dietary needs and individual food preferences?
Do you accommodate special diets?
Can residents eat when they want?
What sort of activities do you offer to keep residents engaged?
Does the facility have a resident or family advisory council?
Is there reliable transportation available so that residents can attend activities and events outside of the facility?
Do residents have the opportunity to spend time outdoors?
When selecting a facility, it is important to know what may indicate that the facility is not a safe or appropriate choice for your loved one. These red flags include:
Loud noises. Well-organized facilities will maintain a calming environment for residents. Loud noises can often increase agitation in elderly adults.
Disrespect. Do the staff members know the residents’ names? Do they speak to residents with respect? Do you witness warm interactions between residents and staff? If the answers to these questions are no, this is a major red flag regarding the quality of care your loved one might receive at this facility.
Absent administrators. Is the facility administrator accessible and available to answer questions?
A lack of choices. Federal law states that residents have the right to choose what they want to wear and what to do in their free time. Beware of facilities that don’t advertise the types of activities available to residents and where you don’t see residents freely engaging in activities during your tour.
Visiting hours. If the facility you’re considering has set visitation hours, this will inhibit your ability to freely visit your loved one, as well as inhibiting your loved one’s ability to have guests any time they choose.
An unsafe neighborhood. While most elderly individuals in nursing homes spend the majority of their time indoors, they also enjoy outdoor activities from time to time. Look for a place that offers secure outdoor space for your loved one to enjoy.
Misaligned values. Your values and goals for your loved one’s care must align with what the facility you choose offers. Ask the administration how the facility approaches important aspects of care such as end of life care or goals for maintaining residents’ functional abilities.
With all the research you do and questions you ask, you may still find when touring a facility that “something feels off.” Trust your gut when it comes to making this decision. If something doesn’t seem right with the facility, it probably isn’t.
If you would like more information about specific location or compare compliance ratings between nursing homes check out some of our other pages:
The majority of families do not have the resources or skills required for caring for an aging loved one at home. Work responsibilities and the costs associated with at-home care simply prevent most families from providing adequate care. One common solution for families struggling to manage at-home care for aging loved ones is to arrange for their placement in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.
Although the decision to place a family member in a care facility is always difficult, it is often the only option for most families. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide a certain standard of care for residents. Caregivers have a duty to treat residents with kindness, dignity, and respect.
Throughout South Carolina, the dedicated staff at many exceptional nursing home facilities provide outstanding care for people’s loved ones. However, incidents of nursing home neglect are unfortunately quite common. Caregivers who act negligently and carelessly when providing care to residents may cause significant physical, emotional, and financial harm.
Hughey Law Firm has helped many, many clients when this has happened. Staff at some of the state’s highest-rated nursing homes have made serious errors, and Hughey Law Firm has won negligence and abuse cases against them. In fact, other lawyers in the state frequently refer nursing home abuse or neglect cases to us because of our reputation and results.
If you suspect your aging loved one has sustained illness or injury due to caregivers’ actions or failure to act, first, you should ensure they are safe from further harm first and foremost. Consult our experienced South Carolina nursing home negligence attorneys to learn about the next steps for you and the elder you love.
We have developed this guide to provide answers to some frequently asked questions about South Carolina nursing home negligence. Until you have the opportunity to consult with an attorney, read on to learn more about taking action against nursing home negligence.
What is nursing home negligence in South Carolina?
Nursing home negligence is a broad classification of the actions and failures of a nursing home and it’s caregivers that lead to illness, injury, or death for residents. Examples of situations that could give rise to a South Carolina nursing home negligence lawsuit include:
Abuse of residents including physical, mental, verbal and financial abuse.
Failure to provide healthy meals and adequate water for residents.
Failure to provide assistance with daily hygiene or provide residents with related items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and clean clothing.
Failure to supervise residents.
Failure to report or intervene with others who neglect or abuse nursing home residents.
Taking money or valuables from residents.
Poor training of new nursing assistants and other staff members.
Failure to properly screen and perform background checks on caregivers.
Failure to listen or act on complaints from residents.
Failure to provide access to needed medical or dental care.
Failure to maintain a clean and safe environment for residents, risking exposure to potentially fatal illnesses and disease.
What is the relationship between nursing home negligence, neglect, and abuse in South Carolina?
Nursing home negligence isn’t always the direct cause of injuries or illnesses experienced by residents. In fact, many times nursing home negligence is the proximate, or indirect, cause of abuse and neglect caused to residents. Nursing home abuse and neglect are typically a consequence of the negligent management of the nursing home facility itself.
For example, nursing homes typically require staff to assist each resident with daily hygiene and personal care routines. Inadequate training, understaffing, and poorly supervised staff may act negligently if they fail to brush a resident’s teeth or assist them with bathing.
If a caregiver doesn’t provide adequate care for a resident, he or she is neglecting them, which could lead to dental issues such as mouth sores, infections, cavities, or bed sores. However, if the administrative staff fails to ensure products and resources are available for caregivers, staff may find themselves unable to care for residents as they deserve. In this example, the nursing home’s management’s negligence prevents staff from providing care, ultimately leading to the neglect of the resident.
Consider an example involving a caregiver who physically abuses a resident. It’s highly likely a court will find the caregiver acted negligently, which would deem them financially liable for the resident’s injuries. However, the facility itself may also remain liable for a resident’s injuries if they discover the caregiver had previously been fired from two other nursing home facilities.
The facility may be liable for its own negligence in hiring unqualified staff without performing a background check. In this example, the facility’s administrative staff’s failure to perform a thorough background check indirectly led to the resident’s abuse.
What constitutes neglect and abuse in South Carolina?
South Carolina’s Omnibus Adult Protection Act outlines requirements that the state’s nursing homes must follow and provides legal definitions of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Physical abuse. Caregivers and other nursing home staff, who intentionally cause physical harm to a resident will likely be held liable for abuse and neglect. Caregivers who encourage others to harm a resident or fail to intervene when another harms a resident, are also guilty of physical abuse. Actions that may be considered physical abuse include the improper administration of medication, excessive use of restraints, slapping, hitting, or sexual assault.
Psychological abuse. Verbal threats of physical harm are the most common type of psychological abuse, including any language someone uses to bully, humiliate, or harass a resident. Other types of psychological abuse involve threats of harm, ignoring residents’ needs or requests, or intentionally isolating residents from others.
Neglect. Under South Carolina law, many actions may constitute nursing home neglect—both unintentional actions, as well as purposeful actions. Distinguishing between abuse and neglect is sometimes difficult because neglect is actually a form of abuse. The state defines neglect as the failure to provide the care, goods, and services a resident needs to maintain their health and safety. Specific examples include withholding medicine, withholding food and water, inadequate supervision, and failure to adjust a resident’s positioning in bed. A caregiver’s failure to assist residents in maintaining personal hygiene also constitutes neglect.
Exploitation. Often referred to as financial abuse, exploitation can include several actions that cause harm to nursing home residents. Under South Carolina law, exploitation is the illegal use of a resident’s personal property without consent. Personal property includes money, as well as other tangible and intangible assets. Someone who abuses guardianship responsibilities and power of attorney is also guilty of exploitation; however, these situations occur more frequently when we care for aging loved ones at home.
How soon do I need to take action for South Carolina nursing home negligence?
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations allows an injured person or their family members to file a claim within three years of the date of their loved one’s injury. The time period required by the statute of limitations may vary based on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident.
The law provides an exception referred to as the delayed discovery rule. Under South Carolina’s delayed discovery rule, the three-year statute of limitations begins to run from the time the resident reports or someone on their behalf discovers the abuse. Many residents fail to report instances of abuse or neglect because they fear they may face retaliation from the very caregivers that are causing them harm.
If nursing home abuse and neglect contribute to causing a resident’s death, eligible surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim within three years of the decedent’s death. A wrongful death claim allows certain family members of the decedent to seek damages related to their loss. In rare cases, nursing homes and businesses can share liability in a nursing home negligence lawsuit when defective products are involved. For example, a resident may sustain injuries when a caregiver transfers them from a bed to a wheelchair. If the lift mechanism malfunctions or the wheelchair breaks due to a product defect, the nursing home may be liable.
When nursing home equipment causes injury, the nursing home may be deemed liable because they have a duty to inspect the machinery they use to ensure it is safe. Should a resident be injured by an equipment malfunction or defect, the nursing home has a duty to provide them with immediate and adequate medical treatment.
In the instance of a manufacturing defect causing an injury, residents or their representatives may file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer within three years of the injury. When fault for nursing home accidents and injuries is unclear, an attorney can advise injured parties of their options for moving forward with a claim.
What do I do if my loved one is suffering abuse or neglect in a South Carolina nursing home?
If the nursing home resident you love has suffered exploitation and no physical injury, you should contact the local police as soon as possible. After, you should consider consulting with an experienced South Carolina nursing home negligence attorney. Our experienced South Carolina nursing home attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to.
Unfortunately, physical abuse and neglect are far more prevalent in nursing homes than financial abuse. If you suspect the elder you love has suffered or is suffering abuse or neglect, the first step is to ensure your loved one’s safety. Then you should devise a plan to hold relevant parties accountable for their actions or failures. Of course, negligent caregivers must be held accountable for the harm they cause. However, holding facilities responsible will also prevent other residents from suffering the same abuse and neglect in the future.
Here are some tips to assist families in protecting their loved ones and holding negligent caregivers responsible:
If a nursing home resident is in immediate physical danger, call 9-1-1 immediately. Law enforcement will respond to the scene, take statements, and initiate the criminal investigation process.
If you suspect your loved one is believed to be suffering abuse and neglect, but there does not seem to be any immediate danger, you should report your concerns to the nursing home’s administrative staff. It’s best to talk to someone on the phone and subsequently send a follow up email so that you have a written, documented record of expressing your concerns. Keep meticulous records of all correspondence between you and the nursing home.
Keep a journal to record all conversations you have with your loved one and those who provide them care. If possible, take photos of visible injuries and any dangerous conditions that led to illness or injury. Additionally, keep all financial statements, documents, and receipts that may serve as proof of financial abuse.
Maintain a file of all medical bills and expenses associated with treatment and mental health services related to the victim’s illness or injury. These can be requested in either physical or electronic format from the healthcare provider.
Arrange to visit other facilities and make plans to transfer your loved one. Once you know that your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect from nursing home negligence, you will want to place them in another facility that offers better care.
Consulting our experienced South Carolina nursing home negligence attorneys. We can guide you through the claims process.
What compensation can my loved one receive as a victim of South Carolina nursing home negligence?
South Carolina nursing home residents, or someone on their behalf, may be entitled to seek compensation from those who caused illness, injury, or death. Depending on the circumstances that led to your loved one’s injuries, an attorney may file a claim against the nursing home, their insurance company, and those individuals who directly caused harm. An attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your family’s specific situation.
If you reach a settlement with the defense or the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, you may receive compensation for:
Medical expenses, including emergency room visits, hospitalization, diagnostic scans and tests, rehabilitation, physical therapy, medications, and mental health services to cope with the emotional trauma of the injury.
Expenses of transferring to another nursing care facility.
Estimated future medical expenses when nursing home negligence leads to permanent disability or illness that requires long-term treatment.
Damages for physical pain and suffering.
Damages for emotional pain and suffering.
Punitive damages when nursing care facilities and their caregivers intentionally harm residents or when a case involves gross negligence.
If the elder you love was harmed as a result of nursing home negligence, our experienced South Carolina nursing home negligence attorneys can help you decide upon the best course of action for you and your family.
Call Hughey Law Firm’s South Carolina Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys Today
If your loved one suffered from abuse or neglect at a nursing home in South Carolina, we can talk to you about the process for obtaining compensation. Contact us for a consultation. You can reach the Hughey Law Firm’s nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at (843) 881-8644 or through our confidential contact page.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
1311 Chuck Dawley Blvd. | Suite 201
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464