Nursing Home Abuse


Nursing Home Abuse

What is Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect?

In a recent 3-year period, statistics reported by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee cited abuse within about 35% of the country’s nursing homes. This accounted for about 10,000 incidents, with some 1,500 grave enough to result in injuries to residents.

This confirms that some nursing homes do not provide seniors with the appropriate care and human dignity to which they are entitled. As a result, this population benefits from those who work to preserve their legal rights and protect them from abuse within their place of residence. Despite the existence of laws stipulating proper care of nursing home residents, noncompliance still runs rampant in some situations.

Nursing Home Resident’s Rights

When the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, nursing home residents were guaranteed certain rights. In Texas, there are rights for residents of nursing homes, which require nursing homes to meet minimum federal requirements. Texas law also requires nursing homes to be responsive and adequate to the needs of its citizens, assure that new health care services and facilities are efficiently and effectively used, continue to meet high quality standards, and assure that all residents receive humane, courteous, and dignified treatment.

As referenced from policies of the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 242.404, nursing home residents have the following rights:

  • To photograph, video, and otherwise document any injury or medical condition sustained by the resident
  • To review and/or receive a copy of the resident’s entire nursing home chart;
  • To be provided services that attains or maintains the resident’s highest practicable physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being;
  • To be free from abuse and neglect as defined by law;
  • To be provided safe, decent, and clean conditions;
  • To be treated with courtesy, consideration, and respect;
  • To not be subject to discrimination based on age, race, religion, sex, nationality, or disability and to be allowed to practice the resident’s own religious beliefs;
  • To be provided privacy, including privacy during visits and telephone calls;
  • To be able to complain about the institution and or organize or participate in any program that presents residents’ concerns to the administrator of the institution;
  • To have information about the resident in the possession of the institution maintained as confidential;
  • To retain the services of a physician the resident chooses, at the resident’s own expense or through a health care plan, and to have a physician explain to the resident, in language that the resident understands, the resident’s complete medical condition, the recommended treatment, and the expected results of the treatment;
  • To be allowed to participate in developing a plan of care, to refuse treatment, and to refuse to participate in experimental research;
  • To be provided a written statement or admission agreement describing the services provided by the institution and the related charges;
  • To manage the resident’s own finances or to delegate that responsibility to another person;
  • To have access to money and property that the resident has deposited with the institution and to an accounting of the resident’s money and property that are deposited with the institution and of all financial transactions made with or on behalf of the resident;
  • To keep and use personal property, secure from theft or loss;
  • To not be relocated within the institution, except in accordance with nursing home regulations;
  • To receive visitors;
  • To receive unopened mail and to receive assistance in reading or writing correspondence;
  • To participate in activities inside and outside the institution;
  • To wear the resident’s own clothes;
  • To discharge himself or herself from the institution unless the resident is an adjudicated mentally incompetent;
  • To not be discharged from the institution except as provided in nursing home regulations;
  • To be free from any physical or chemical restraints imposed for the purposes of discipline or convenience, and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms;
  • To be given assistance, when needed, in dressing, grooming and maintaining body hygiene;
  • To notify the family or guardian immediately of any accident, sudden illness, disease, unexplained absence, or anything unusual involving the resident;
  • To be free from willful abuse or neglect as defined by law;
  • To be treated with consideration, respect and full recognition of the resident’s dignity and individuality; and
  • To have the right to the use and quiet enjoyment of the resident’s personal room, or, in the case of multiple occupancy, that part of such resident’s room designated for such resident’s personal use. To this end, a resident shall have the right to close the door to such resident’s room if the resident wishes, >unless the physician or registered nurse, for medical reasons, orders the door to remain ajar or fully open.

Nursing Home Requirements

A nursing home must conduct an initial comprehensive assessment of each resident and reassessments as needed if there is a significant change in the condition of the resident. From this assessment, a plan of care must be developed that specifies the necessary care that the resident must be provided. The facility must have sufficient nursing personnel to provide all the necessary care to each resident in accordance with the assessment and plan of care. Assessments, plans of care and the actual care provided are all required to be documented in the resident’s clinical record. Almost every aspect of a nursing home’s operation, including resident care, is covered under state and federal regulations. Therefore, when a nursing home willfully refuses to provide the required care resulting in injury and/or death of a resident, the nursing home may have violated federal and state laws which may constitute fraud if the resident’s care was being reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid.

What to Do If You Suspect Abuse

If you have observed what you believe to be signs of abuse or neglect of a nursing home resident, the matter should be investigated immediately. Any observable injuries or conditions should be photographed immediately before the condition or injuries disappear. After proper documentation of the injuries or conditions, the matter should then be brought to the immediate attention of an attorney.

What We Are Entitled To as Damages

Attorneys can file law suits against nursing homes and their agents who are responsible for the neglect and/or abuse. In most cases, the family and/or elderly victim will be entitled to recover damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish and wrongful death. Under certain circumstances, the family and/or elderly victim may also be entitled to seek punitive damages as a result of malice and/or fraudulent conduct.

Common Signs of Abuse & Neglect

Signs of nursing home abuse are not always clear, and many times the symptoms are not recognized until it’s too late. Although there are many different signs of nursing home abuse, some of the more common signs of abuse are as follows:

Abuse Includes:

  • Development of bed sores or ulcers
  • Excessive and/or rapid weight loss
  • Broken bones and/or unexplained falls
  • Fecal and/or urine odors or stains
  • Open wounds, cuts, bruises, or welts
  • Fleas or lice on the resident(s)
  • Unexplained or unexpected death
  • Injuries resulting from a restraint or lack of a restraint
  • Abnormally pale complexion and/or other health problems

    Neglect Includes:

  • Failure to assist in personal hygiene
  • Failure to provide appropriate food, clothing, or shelter
  • Failure to provide appropriate medical care
  • Failure to protect from health and safety hazards
  • Failure to prevent or treat malnutrition and dehydration

    Don’t Delay! Call Us Now Before Time Runs Out!

    If you and/or a family member have suffered serious or fatal injuries due to nursing home neglect or abuse, you and/or the family member may be eligible to file a claim. However, persons seeking to preserve any potential legal claims should contact an attorney promptly because Texas has mandatory time periods (“Statute of Limitations”) in which a lawsuit must be filed.

    For reliable advice, consult one of the lawyers at the Houston law firm of Joel A. Gordon & Associates. The attorneys in our firm understand the complexity of the damages caused by nursing home abuse or neglect, and we will hire the necessary financial experts to help prove the case. Call our firm promptly for a free consultation with one of our legal counselors.