When the people we love get older we want to make sure that they have the best quality of life. Since we often lack the time and ability to take care of our loved ones ourselves, we often turn to nursing homes for help. When our loved ones move into a nursing home, we trust that they will be well cared for and safe. Unfortunately, nursing homes abuse is very real in California. In fact, reports of abuse have increased in recent years. Some blame poor oversight while others blame greedy nursing home companies.
Has your loved one has experienced abuse in a nursing home? If so, it is important for you to understand your legal rights. Filing a lawsuit can help you recover compensation for your loved one’s harm while holding a negligent nursing home accountable.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse can be broadly defined to mean conduct or behavior that harms an elderly resident. This harm can be physical, emotional, or even financial. In California, there are actually many different types of nursing home abuse.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse involves the harmful touching of a nursing home resident. A nursing home resident who experiences physical abuse will experience a physical injury and/or pain. Examples of physical abuse can include:
- Sexual abuse, and
- The use of excessive restraints.
Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse can be just as devastating as physical abuse. This type of abuse occurs when a nursing home subjects a resident to behavior that is likely to result in psychological trauma (e.g., anxiety, depression, fear). Examples of emotional abuse can include:
- Using derogatory slurs and phrases
- Intimidation, and
Abandonment: Abandonment occurs when a nursing home or caretaker deserts an individual it was entrusted to care for. Abandonment is much more common when we trust individual caretakers or family members to watch out for our loved ones.
Neglect: Neglect is perhaps the most frequently reported form of nursing home abuse in California. Neglect occurs when a nursing home fails to provide adequate care and aid to a resident. Examples of neglect can include failing to:
- Provide adequate food and nutrition
- Ensure residents receive appropriate medications
- Bathe or assist residents with personal hygiene
- Protect residents from safety and health hazards, or
- Provide adequate medical and mental health care.
Financial Abuse: Nursing home residents are actually at an increased risk of experiencing financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs when a nursing home exploits a resident’s money, property, or assets without consent. Examples of financial abuse can include:
- Staff members stealing cash and/or property from a resident
- Staff or administration making purchases using a resident’s credit card or bank account
- Forging a resident’s signature on personal checks, and
- Forcing or fraudulently convicting residents to sign a new will or legal documents.
What are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
There are two primary signs of nursing home abuse: physical and emotional.
Physical signs of abuse include:
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Bed sores
- Extreme and unexpected weight loss
- Limited mobility, and
- Complaints of pain.
Emotional signs of nursing home abuse include:
- Unexplained bouts of anger or rage
- Agitation, and
These signs will not always mean that your loved one is experiencing abuse. However, it is important to speak with your loved one and the individuals in charge of their care if you do notice any physical or behavioral changes.
What Can I Do If I Recognize Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is both a criminal and civil offense in California. The first thing you should do is report the abuse to local authorities. The next thing you should do is consider filing a personal injury lawsuit for damages. In California, anyone who assumes responsibility for the care of your elderly loved one may be liable for injuries.
In most cases, individuals or entities whose willful conduct or negligent behavior causes your loved one to suffer harm will be liable. This could include nursing home companies, administrators, nurses, caretakers, and other staff. Regulatory and government agencies in charge of oversight may also be responsible for any harm your elderly loved one suffers.
What Damages Can I Get If I File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
Nursing home abuse can be devastating for you and your family. Fortunately, you have the right to file a lawsuit for damages. Money will not undo the abuse, but it can help to alleviate some of the financial stress you experience. In California, you will likely be able to request both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages help to compensate for your financial costs. Non-economic damages help you with more personal and intimate harms.
Commonly awarded damages in nursing home abuse lawsuits include those for:
- Medical bills (both present and future)
- Pain and suffering, and
- Emotional distress.
If your loved one suffered abuse that was willful, fraudulent, or malicious, you may also be entitled to an award of punitive damages. These are intended to punish the abuser and are paid in addition to other damages.
Nursing home abuse can be traumatic for your loved one and your family. Do you want to learn more about how you can file a personal injury lawsuit? Contact an experienced California nursing home abuse attorney at Citywide Law Group – citywidelaw.com. They will help you understand your rights and answer any questions you have. You can also check out our guide on finding a good personal injury lawyer in California.