Choosing to move our aging loved ones into a nursing home is a common solution for many families across the nation. Others need to spend time in a nursing care facility for transitional care after a surgery, a heart attack, a stroke, or some other injury or condition with a long recovery time. When we have to spend time in short-term care or trust in a facility for the lifelong care of our elders, we expect above standard care which includes maintaining and safe environment and getting treated with respect and dignity.
Federal and state laws regarding nursing care facilities require yearly inspections to ensure facilities meet minimum standards for health safety, fire safety, and overall quality of care. In fact, the government will cut off a facility’s ability to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments if it continues to fail inspections.
In recent years, Heartland Health Care Center in Union, South Carolina, has received 14 health citations, including seven from the most recent inspection. An upward trend in the number of deficiencies over the last few years suggests care and conditions at Union’s Heartland Health Care Center may have worsened with time, which may have put residents at risk for injury and illness. Increased deficiencies during facility inspections often correlate with abuse and neglect, a constant worry for residents of nursing facilities across South Carolina.
Physical harm and injury is only one aspect of abuse and neglect. Victims also need to cope with the emotional trauma and financial losses related to the abuse and neglect, and recovery. If a family member or other loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at Heartland Health Care Center in Union, then you may have the right to take legal action for damages related to the injury on his or her behalf. The skilled legal team of nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Hughey Law Firm can help you hold the facility and its employees responsible for the harm they caused your loved. one. Contact us at (843) 881-8644 for a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case.
Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse in South Carolina
South Carolina law contains specific statutes to protect residents in nursing homes; most of which are found in the Omnibus Adult Protection Act, which also provides legal definitions of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- Physical abuse. Intentional physical harm of a resident or enabling another to physically harm a resident constitutes physical abuse under South Carolina law. Examples of physical abuse include hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking, sexual assault, using medication to control a resident, and overuse of restraints.
- Psychological abuse. Intentional threats towards a facility resident, whether physical or verbal, qualify as psychological abuse. Any actions or speech used to intimidate, humiliate, scare, or harass a resident, or any action which causes a resident to feel disoriented or confused, falls under the umbrella of psychological abuse.
- Neglect. A facility and caregivers have the legal obligation to provide residents with the care and services they need to maintain a safe and healthy existence. When the facility or caregivers don’t uphold this obligation, they are neglecting a resident. Neglect and abuse both have physical consequences. Yet, the major difference is that neglect isn’t always intentional and can include things such as withholding medicine, failing to provide proper supervision, and not giving residents access to required medical services. Other examples of neglect include withholding food and beverages, allowing residents to wear soiled clothing, and failing to help residents maintain good personal hygiene.
- Exploitation. South Carolina’s definition of exploitation focuses on financial abuse, specifically the unlawful use of a resident’s money, assets, or other personal property, without proper consent. Abusing a resident’s power of attorney or guardianship responsibilities also qualifies as exploitation, but elders in residential settings experience this kind of abuse more than those in nursing homes.
Deficiencies at Heartland Health Care Center in Union
With an understanding of South Carolina’s definitions of abuse and neglect, you will better understand how even some of the most minor deficiencies can lead to injury or harm for a loved one who resides at Heartland Health Care Center. Below are some of the details of the facility’s most recent published inspections. Inspectors found several deficiencies which include:
- Failure to provide needed care. One inspection revealed the facility failed to give needed injections to a resident because of difficulty in or around the injection site. At a later date, inspectors found a resident who had large scratch marks on one leg. The report states that the scratch marks were self-inflicted because the resident had dry skin which hadn’t been treated. Another resident hadn’t had their fingernails trimmed for a long time and had black matter caked under the nail.
- Unsafe food storage. A 2016 inspection revealed the facility was serving residents expired dairy products—milk and blue cheese dressing.
- Unsafe dining areas. In 2017, inspectors found dining areas with at least four wobbly or loose table tops, putting residents at risk for injury.
- Failure to provide access to dental service. The 2017 inspection also noted at least one resident had missing teeth and broken teeth. During an interview, the resident spoke of dental problems. Yet, Heartland Health Care Center had not arranged any dental service for the resident.
- Failure to provide full visual privacy. Residents have a right to privacy, but one inspection revealed the facility did provide this privacy to several residents whose privacy curtains were not long enough to extend around window beds.
- Failure to help resident into bed after a meal. Inspectors found that caregivers didn’t help a resident into bed who wanted to nap after a meal. In turn, the resident tried to get into bed and suffered a fall.
- Failure to provide proper training to nursing assistants. The law requires that each nursing assistant receives 12 hours of continuing education per year. In 2018, inspectors found none of the 41 nursing assistants employed by Heartland Health Care Center in Union had any continuing education.
- Failure to develop a vaccination plan. The facility either didn’t provide or didn’t keep quality records about whether or not patients were offered flu and pneumonia vaccines.
Recognizing Neglect and Abuse in a Nursing Home
Although Heartland Health Care Center has been found deficient as described above, that does not necessarily mean residents there have been abused, neglected, or suffered physical or emotional injuries. Yet, knowing the details of these inspections should motivate you to pay close attention when you visit a loved one in the facility. If you suspect or know your family member or another Heartland Health Care Center resident has been abused or neglected, or you suspect ongoing malfeasance, call the Long Term Care Ombudsman from the South Carolina Department on Aging at 1-800-868-9095 as soon as possible to file a complaint. The ombudsman will initiate an investigation into the complaint and ensure residents are not being mistreated.
Nursing home abuse and neglect sometimes go unreported by residents of South Carolina nursing facilities because they fear retaliation. Your loved one might not always tell you if they have been treated poorly. This means you have to be diligent about watching for signs of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Some signs and symptoms might be caused by something else, so they don’t automatically indicate abuse or neglect. Yet, if you notice any of the following you should investigate further.
Physical injuries caused by abuse or neglect are the easiest to notice. Sometimes accidents happen, but if you see any of the following visible signs, you should report them immediately to ensure your loved one is getting proper care and treatment.
- Unexplained bruising, cuts, burns, welts, scratches, and other marks on the skin
- Ghostly pale skin
- Rapid and/or extreme weight loss
- Sunken cheeks
- Sunken eyes
- Odorous clothing
- Strong body odor
- Regular bad breath
- Dirty fingernails
Noticing behavioral signs of nursing home abuse and neglect is much more difficult. You might not see physical signs of neglect and behavioral symptoms might indicate other mental health issues a resident is experiencing. While it’s not foolproof, a good rule of thumb is to consider how your loved one’s behavior differs from their norm. For example, if your loved one struggles with depression, symptoms of depression such as withdrawal and sleeping a lot might not indicate abuse or neglect. Yet, when a loved one isn’t normally depressed, these symptoms can indicate something much more serious is going on.
Some examples of behavioral signs to watch for include:
- Confusion about identity and location
- Excessive worry about small things
- Excessive anxiety about interacting with others and other normal daily activities
- Increased antisocial behavior
- Withdrawal from regular activities
- Obviously false stories about bruises or other marks on the body
- Unwillingness or hesitation to speak openly when you visit, especially in the presence of nursing home staff
- Talking about mortality, death, and suicide
Financial Abuse Signs
In most cases, financial abuse leaves a paper trail which makes it easy to spot, if you know what to look for. If you are responsible for your family member’s finances, look for the following things which might indicate financial exploitation or abuse:
- Missing money, jewelry, checks, valuables, or other personal property
- Abnormal charges on credit cards and debit cards
- Email or snail mail notices about a change in address in one or more account
- Changes in your loved one’s credit score
Seeking Compensation After Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
If you choose to take legal action against a South Carolina nursing facility for damages on behalf of a loved one because of injuries sustained as a result of abuse or neglect, a verdict in favor of the plaintiff or a settlement might lead to compensation for some or all of the following economic and non-economic costs:
- Medical treatment related to abuse or neglect including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stay, rehabilitation, medication, X-rays, and follow-up visits
- Assistive devices to aid in recovery like walkers, canes, and wheelchairs
- Transferring your family member to another facility which provides better care
- Future medical treatment when neglect or abuse leads to a permanent disability or lifelong condition
- Psychological counseling or therapy for the emotional trauma of being abused or neglected
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental pain and suffering
- Punitive damages when intentional harm, gross negligence, or fraud is involved
If a family member died as a result of injuries related to neglect or abuse at Heartland Health Care Center in Union, or any other nursing facility in South Carolina, you might have the right to file a wrongful death suit. South Carolina law permits survivors to sue for damages depending on their relationship with the deceased. In addition to recovering some of the previously listed damages, surviving family members might also recover funeral costs, and expenses for burial or cremation.
A qualified nursing home abuse and neglect attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your family and which damages might apply to your circumstances. Look at the Hughey Law Firm’s results to get an idea of what they can do for you.
Hughey Law Advocates for Your Loved One’s Rights
Your loved one deserves the best care possible when residing at a nursing care facility, even if only for short-term rehabilitation. Facilities and their employees should never abuse or neglect residents. Those who do must face consequences. When you report abuse and neglect and hold wrongdoers accountable, you also help protect other residents from falling victim to the same situation in the future.
If you believe that Heartland Health Care Center in Union or one of its staff members has acted in a manner that injured your loved one, accidentally or willfully, contact Hughey Law Firm today to speak with one of our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys. You can reach us by phone at (843) 881-8644 or you can email us by clicking here.
We accept personal injury cases, including nursing home neglect and abuse cases, on a contingency fee basis, which means we deduct attorney fees and costs from any compensation we secure for your family member in the form of a settlement or court-awarded damages. You never have to worry about paying attorney fees or any costs upfront.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
1311 Chuck Dawley Blvd. | Suite 201
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464