Nursing homes are necessary and important to the healthcare needs of the elderly, as many families are simply unable to meet those needs on their own. Families should be able to trust that the nursing home will provide their loved ones with excellent care. And many nursing homes do provide a safe and positive environment for their patients. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Nursing homes, like any business, deserve to turn a profit for their owners. But not at the expense of safety or quality care, and negligence in these facilities often a byproduct of cost-cutting efforts. Sometimes, cost-cutting results in negligent hiring or poor training and can even result in the abuse of patients. Sadly, the patients themselves may be reluctant or unable to report incidents of abuse and neglect out of fear or embarrassment, or sheer inability to communicate. As such, families of patients must remain vigilant.
If a nursing home has injured a patient, whether intentionally or as a result of negligence, it can be held liable for damages. To prove negligence, a victim or their family must demonstrate that: (1) the nursing home breached a duty of care; (2) the patient’s injury was caused by that breach; and (3) the injury was caused by the nursing home or someone employed there. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer in New Jersey can locate the right medical experts to testify about proper treatment or practice in a given situation and explain how the nursing home failed to live up to these standards. Most, but not all ,cases require expert testimony. In some rare situations, the abuse or neglect is so obvious that it would be apparent to a judge or jury without the need for expert testimony. However, most cases, such as those involving medication errors or medical malpractice, require or will benefit from the testimony of a knowledgeable expert.
Some of the more common situations in nursing home abuse cases include the following:
Breach of Statutory or Regulatory Rights. In many states, including New Jersey, there are statutes or regulations that establish the minimum standard of care a nursing home must provide. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help determine whether the nursing home responsible for a resident’s injuries breached one of these rules. Even if they did not break any specific law, the nursing home may still be held liable for damages in many situations.
Inadequate Training. Nursing home staff should be thoroughly and adequately trained. Not only should they be trained at the start of their employment, but training should be regular and ongoing to keep employees up to date on all the latest safety regulations.
Medication Errors. A medication error is a mistake that occurs while preparing or administering medicine. In most nursing homes, medication is administered when a staff member or nurse completes a “med pass,” the dispensing of medication to a patient as ordered by the physician. In certain states, unlicensed nursing staff members are permitted to administer the medication. Common mistakes include crushing or cutting pills that should not be cut, inadequate fluids or food with medication or antacids, failure to properly mix medications, improper administration of eye drops, improper administration of medications to be used with enteral nutritional formulas (ENFs), improper use of inhalers, and allowing patients to swallow sublingual tablets.
Negligent Hiring. Shockingly, many nursing homes employ at least one individual with a prior history of criminal conviction. Sometimes, nursing homes cut corners when hiring in order to reduce costs. Negligent hiring can lead to patient abuse, theft of patient’s property, sexual abuse and other tragic, preventable harms.
Third-Party Responsibility. Over 4 million elderly people are victimized by psychological or physical abuse or neglect every year. In some cases, nursing home staff members, outside contractors, food vendors, or manufacturers of medical equipment and supplies may be held liable instead of or in addition to the nursing home.
Under staffing. Many nursing homes are severely understaffed, which can result in neglect and other problems, such as medication errors, bedsores, abnormal patient weight loss, or intentional abuse due to an overworked employee losing their cool.