Nursing home abuse on the rise

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

New York City residents who have a relative living in a nursing home may be concerned with the rising rates of serious abuse in those facilities around the country. A study conducted by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee found that 30 percent of nursing homes were cited for nearly 9,000 such incidents over a two-year period.

The abuse was serious enough to place residents at risk for death or serious injury, or cause physical harm in 1,601 cases. Some common issues were inadequate hygiene and sanitation, preventable accidents, malnutrition, dehydration, insufficient medical care and untreated bedsores. The report documented incidents in which residents were kicked, choked, punched or slapped by other residents or staff members. Injuries to residents included lacerations and broken bones. The report indicated that the percentage of nursing homes receiving citations for violations has risen each year since 1996.

Families who believe that a relative has been abused in a nursing home may seek legal recourse, including filing a personal injury claim against the facility responsible for the abuse. In addition, to receiving compensation for the abuse, individuals may help make nursing homes safer by raising awareness and placing pressure on nursing homes through legal action.

A elder law attorney with a background in nursing home abuse cases can evaluate an incident to determine whether there is a valid case. Depending on the circumstances, the attorney may recommend either negotiation or litigation to resolve the case. Most cases are settled through the negotiation process, but some may end up in court. For example, if the nursing home is unwilling to pay compensation for an injury to a patient that was caused by abuse, it may be necessary to have the case proceed to litigation.

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