Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Lawyer
As our loved ones age, and we plan for their care, turning to a nursing care facility remains a common solution for most. Some nursing care facilities also serve as transitional care for rehabilitation after surgery, stroke, or an injury requiring extensive recovery. Regardless of the reason for entering a long-term care facility, we expect our loved ones to receive exceptional care that includes treating them with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, you may need a South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyer.
Federal and state laws governing standards for long-term care facilities require regular inspections to ensure that they comply with minimums for health safety, fire safety, and overall quality of care. In recent years, Charleston’s White Oak Manor has received 19 health citations, including 11 from the most recent inspection. This startling number suggests that conditions and care at White Oak Manor are worsening over time, putting residents at risk for harm or injury. Poor health conditions at a facility often coincide with neglect and abuse, an unfortunate correlation for those who live in poor-quality nursing homes.
The impact of nursing home abuse or neglect goes far beyond the physical or emotional injury of a resident. Victims face long-term psychological struggles as well as economic losses related to injury, treatment, and recovery. If a member of your family or other loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at White Oak Manor in Charleston, South Carolina, the law entitles you to seek compensation for damages on his or her behalf. The experienced team of nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Hughey Law can help you hold those who harmed your loved one accountable for their actions. Contact us at (843) 881-8644 for a free consultation and to learn how we can assist your loved one after he or she has suffered harm.
Defining Resident Abuse and Neglect in South Carolina
Taking legal action against a nursing care facility requires you to understand South Carolina’s laws that protect residents in long-term care facilities. South Carolina’s Omnibus Adult Protection Act contains specifics about protections for residents, including definitions of abuse, exploitation, and neglect, which are:
- Physical abuse is the intentional harm of a resident as a result of direct action or the failure to take action. Allowing another person to abuse a resident also falls under this definition. Some examples include hitting, kicking, slapping, pinching, sexual assault, misusing medication, and restraining residents beyond what is reasonable.
- Psychological abuse is intentional verbal or physical threats toward a resident. This also includes actions and words used to harass or intimidate a resident, causing them to feel humiliated, scared, confused, or experience any other negative feeling.
- Neglect refers to scenarios where a facility or caregiver fails to provide the care, goods, and services that a resident needs to remain safe and healthy. Neglect does not have to be intentional, and it includes withholding food and drink, withholding medicine, inadequate supervision, and not providing access to required medical services. Failing to provide residents with clean clothes and help them maintain proper hygiene is also neglectful.
- Exploitation is sometimes also referred to as financial abuse. Although exploitation can include a wide variety of activities that harm a resident, South Carolina’s definition focuses on improper or illegal use of personal property, including money and assets, without consent. Abusing a person’s power of attorney or guardianship is also exploitation, but this occurs more often in residential settings than nursing care facilities.
Citations at White Oak Manor in Charleston
The Hughey Law Firm has successfully pursued claims against this facility.
Now that you have some background on South Carolina’s definitions of abuse and neglect, we want to share the details of some of White Oak Manor’s most recent citations from its most recent published inspection (2018). You can also view how they compare to other nursing home in the nation but some of their citations include:
- Resident was allowed to self-administer medication. Standards of care do allow a facility resident to administer his or her own medication, but he or she must undergo an assessment to determine if self-administration is safe. Inspectors found more than one resident self-administering meds who had not been assessed for safety.
- Failure to discuss serious situations that impact the resident. The inspection revealed two out of eleven residents reviewed for nutrition had suffered a startling amount of weight loss. White Oak Manor was cited for not immediately informing the resident, the resident’s doctor, and a family member of the drastic weight loss that occurred.
- Failure to meet quality standards. This citation occurred because a nurse delivered medication on rounds to a patient while he or she was lying at a 25-degree angle. This normally isn’t an issue, but this resident had restrictions in his or her medical record that required all food, liquids, and medication to be delivered while the resident sits at a 90-degree angle to avoid problems with aspiration.
- Failure to provide appropriate care to maintain or improve range of motion and/or mobility. The inspection found that caregivers failed to provide restorative services to more than one resident, which refers to range of motion exercises used to improve flexibility and mobility for residents.
- Medication errors. Passing a Department of Health and Human Services inspection without a citation requires a facility to have less than a five percent rate for medication errors. During the most recent inspection, White Oak Manor’s medication error rate was almost 10 percent.
- Failure to provide appropriate mealtime assistance and devices. Caregivers are required to provide assistance during meals, which also includes providing adaptive devices so that residents can feed themselves. This citation revolved around caregivers’ failure to provide Kennedy cups and weighted utensils to residents who were supposed to have them.
- Unsafe food preparation and storage. The inspection provides two full pages of notes regarding improper food preparation, storage, and cleanliness. Some highlights include a collection of dust on the wall behind the cooking surface, six unclean vents directly above where food is plated, paint peeling above the rack where pans are stored, black dust above the dining room doorway and on walls, soiled and greasy can opener base, black specks of a mysterious black substance above the dishwasher, the wall by the beverage area soiled with food debris, dirty floors, lack of marking open dates on food containers in the refrigerator, and much more.
Signs of Nursing Care Facility Abuse and Neglect
Although White Oak Manor has received numerous citations for its quality of care and sanitation, this doesn’t mean your loved one has suffered physical or emotional harm or sustained injuries from abuse or neglect. Yet, these inspection reports should concern you to the extent that you should keep your eyes and ears open when you visit your loved one. If you suspect or know your loved one or another White Oak Manor resident has been abused or neglected, or you suspect ongoing issues, you need to immediately call the Long Term Care Ombudsman from the South Carolina Department on Aging at 1-800-868-9095. The ombudsman will start an investigation into your complaint.
In some situations, you might not be certain of neglect or abuse, and your loved one likely won’t share information with you. Many residents don’t complain about conditions or abuse because they fear retaliation. You can watch for the following signs of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. They don’t absolutely guarantee that your loved one is suffering, but these signs should warrant explanation and/or action.
Physical signs of nursing home abuse or neglect are easiest to see, so you can stop abuse and hold caregivers accountable. Some common visible signs include:
- Bruises, wounds, welts, cuts, burns—especially those which cannot be explained
- Abnormally pale skin
- Signs of malnutrition and dehydration, such as rapid and excessive weight loss, sunken cheeks, and sunken eyes
- Signs of poor hygiene, such as soiled or foul-smelling clothing, strong body odor, consistent bad breath, and dirt or debris under fingernails
Behavioral signs of nursing home abuse or neglect are much harder to notice. If your loved one has been physically abused, you might not see the physical signs. Also, some abusers rely on verbal and emotional abuse, which can sometimes be more damaging than physical abuse. In some cases, these non-physical symptoms might indicate other emotional struggles besides abuse or neglect. Behavioral signs are especially relevant when they dramatically differ from the way your loved one usually acts or feels. Some examples include:
- Confusion and disorientation about who they are or where they are located
- Excessive fear about little things
- Excessive anxiety about leaving a room, speaking with others, and other normal things that are part of a daily routine
- Withdrawal from normal daily activities
- Increased antisocial behavior
- Stories about bruises or marks that don’t seem right
- Hesitation to speak to you openly, especially when nursing home staff or caregivers are present
- Speaking about dying or suicide
- Onset of depression or increased depression and associated symptoms
Signs of financial exploitation can be simple to spot if you know where to look. If you monitor and control your loved one’s finances, the following things might indicate financial abuse or exploitation:
- You might notice missing personal property, including cash, jewelry, checks, or other valuable items.
- You might notice abnormal charges on debit or credit cards.
- You might receive a notice in the mail about a change in address on one or more of your loved one’s financial accounts.
- If you monitor your loved one’s credit, you might notice a change in his or her credit score if someone opened accounts under his or her name and social security number.
Recovering Damages After Abuse or Neglect in a Nursing Care Facility
If you choose to take legal action against White Oak Manor on behalf of your loved one because of harm that he or she suffered from neglect or abuse, a settlement or verdict in favor of the plaintiff might result in compensation for some or all of the following damages:
- Costs of medical treatment related to neglect or abuse, including ambulance service, hospitalization, rehabilitative services, prescription medication, diagnostic imaging, and other testing
- Costs for assistive devices for recovery, such as wheelchairs, canes, or walkers
- Costs associated with transferring your loved one to a facility that provides a higher standard of care
- Costs for future medical treatment if abuse or neglect led to a permanent condition or disability
- Costs for counseling or therapy for the emotional distress caused by the trauma of abuse
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Punitive damages when the facility’s or employee’s actions constitute intentional harm or if the facility tried to fraudulently cover up the abuse or neglect
If your loved one died as a consequence of injuries related to abuse or neglect at White Oak Manor, you might be able to sue for damages in a wrongful death suit, depending on your relationship with the deceased. Eligible family members might recover some of the above damages, in addition to funeral costs and burial expenses. Surviving family members sometimes also receive non-economic damages. A skilled nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer will advise you on what types of damages might apply to your situation.
Let Hughey Law Hold Parties Accountable Who Have Harmed Your Loved One
Whether your loved one is permanently residing in a nursing home or only temporarily visiting for rehabilitation, he or she deserves the best possible care. Trusted caregivers aren’t supposed to exploit, abuse, or neglect residents. Those who do must be stopped. When you take legal action against an abuser, you also help prevent other residents from falling victim to the same caregiver or facility in the future.
If White Oak Manor in Charleston or one of its employees has harmed your loved one, purposefully or on accident, we are here to help you advocate for your loved one. Contact one of our experienced long-term care abuse and neglect attorneys at Hughey Law at (843) 881-8644, or contact us online to discuss suspected abuse or neglect at White Oak Manor in Charleston. We accept nursing home abuse and neglect cases on contingency, only collecting attorney fees from any compensation that we secure for your loved one in the form of a settlement or court-awarded damages. You don’t have to worry about paying fees upfront or out-of-pocket to protect yourself or your loved one.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
171 Church Street, Suite 330
Charleston, SC 29401