It’s one of the most emotionally-charged discussions families will have: telling a loved one that they should no longer be living alone, and would be better off in an assisted living facility. When faced with such a life-changing transition, many seniors feel threatened, frustrated and even frightened at the prospect of losing their independence.
While many aging parents may continue to lead a healthy, productive life well into their 70’s and 80’s, others may struggle with the most basic of daily tasks. No one looks forward to placing their parent or loved one in a residential living facility, but there are times when this is the best option for their safety, wellbeing and ongoing medical needs.
7 signs it might be time for assisted living
The decision to move a family member into a nursing home or assisted living facility may be based on a number of factors ranging from dementia-induced impairment to problems with mobility, incontinence or hygiene.
The following examples are early warning signs that it may be time to explore assisted care living.
- They fall more frequently and are having difficulty getting around the home, i.e. climbing stairs.
- Increased difficulty managing normal daily activities like getting dressed, bathing, shopping, washing laundry and cleaning the house
- Changes in personal hygiene become obvious, whether they forgot to shower or now find it too difficult to bathe or brush their teeth
- They rarely leave the house and have few active friendships. Be wary of social isolation, which can be dangerous for the infirm and elderly.
- They show increased signs of cognitive decline — forgetting things more frequently, becoming easily confused or getting lost in their own communities. Dementia is a progressive disease that only worsens with time.
- Their health is deteriorating and they have chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s or COPD that will soon require round-the-clock care
- Emergency situations are becoming increasingly common, whether they forgot to turn the stove off and triggered the the fire alarm, crashed their car, or forgot to take their heart medication
Nursing home abuse attorney in Louisiana
Assisted living centers and nursing homes can provide quality care to aging elders who are no longer able to lead an independent life. However, statistics on abuse, neglect and exploitation in these facilities are incredibly disheartening. According to recent reports, an estimated 10 percent of all seniors experience some form of elder abuse every year in the United States.
Due to cognitive decline, many of these victims are unable to communicate the harm sustained, which is why it’s important for family members to take an active role in monitoring their loved one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. In the event neglect or wrongdoing has occurred and a family member or loved one is mistreated, nursing home caregivers, facility owners and other staff may be held liable in court.
Bart Bernard is a highly skilled nursing home abuse lawyer who represents clients throughout southern Louisiana, including Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles. If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, we encourage you to reach out for a free and confidential consultation by dialing 1-888-GET-BART.
Additional Resources on When Assisted Living Should be Considered:
- Caring.com, 11 Signs It Might Be Time for Assisted Living https://www.caring.com/articles/signs-its-time-for-assisted-living
- US News, Decide if a Nursing Home Is Necessary http://health.usnews.com/health-news/best-nursing-homes/articles/2009/03/11/figure-out-whether-a-nursing-home-is-needed
- Focus on the Family, When a Nursing Home Must Be Considered http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/life-transitions/becoming-your-loved-ones-caregiver/when-a-nursing-home-has-to-be-considered
A recent, in-depth investigation by CNN has revealed that America’s seniors are facing an even greater threat than most would have ever suspected in the form of rampant abuse in nursing home facilities nationwide. Examination of voluminous federal and state-level records, interviews with regulatory officials, advocates and the families of victims has presented a devastating picture of failed oversight, unspeakable offenses and profound neglect of the duty owed to those whose well-being has been entrusted to so-called professionals.
Major gaps in reporting of nursing home abuse
After detailing a series of particularly horrific incidents involving the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of nursing home residents, the CNN report draws much-needed attention to the fact that no exhaustive national clearing house of data exists concerning the true number of such events occurring in elder care facilities annually. State investigators are typically the ones to delve into allegations of this type of mistreatment, though a lack of uniformity in how such claims are treated and resolved has made it extremely difficult to quantify the actual scope of the problem on a national level. The CNN study did find, however, that the facilities themselves contribute greatly to this problematic lack of transparency, with over 500 of them having been censured for not properly exploring and reporting allegations of abuse to the relevant authorities or screening prospective employees for troubling past histories.
Aging population boosts demand for quality nursing home care
With medical advances and greater emphasis on healthy lifestyles making it possible for Americans to live longer lifespans than ever before, the need for quality residential elder care facilities is virtually certain to grow in the coming decades. The National Study of Long-Term Care Providers recently put the number of existing licensed nursing home beds in the United States at 1.8 million, a total expected to rise in the near future. While a majority of nursing homes do provide seniors with the dedicated, caring attention they deserve, far too many others are characterized by abhorrent patterns of neglect, abuse and unaccountability to residents and their families.
Elder abuse estimates indicate need for vigilance
The National Council on Aging has suggested that no less than 1 in every 10 Americans aged 60 or older has been subjected to one type of elder abuse or another, but that only 1 of every 14 such cases will be reported to law enforcement or other supervisory authorities. As a result, friends, relatives and others who are close to elderly individuals must take it upon themselves to stay vigilant and attuned to the signs of possible abuse, particularly in residential care environments. Some of the critical hallmarks for which to watch include:
- Unexplained decline in hygiene
- Sudden weight loss
- Bruising or scratches
- Uncharacteristic agitation or aggressiveness
- Withdrawal from personal relationships or favorite hobbies
It is especially important for loved ones to investigate the circumstances surrounding the appearance of one or more of the above symptoms, largely because nursing home residents may already be in the throes of mental or communicative decline and unable to express concerns for themselves. Anytime abuse is suspected, it is crucial that further inquiry be conducted as soon as possible, and the help of an experienced elder law attorney can often prove invaluable.
Unwavering advocacy for Louisiana’s seniors
If you believe that someone you love may have been victimized in a care facility, nursing home abuse attorney Bart Bernard stands ready to zealously assert your family’s rights, seek justice and pursue full accountability from those responsible. Whether by assisting in the filing of a complaint with the Health Standards Section of the Louisiana Department of Health or initiating a civil lawsuit against an unscrupulous nursing home operator, our firm is prepared to offer the aggressive advocacy the circumstances require. To discuss the facts of your case contact us today in Lafayette or in Baton Rouge.
Additional “nursing home neglect & abuse” resources
- CNN, Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/
- Louisiana Department of Health, Complaints, http://dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/254
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Elder Abuse Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/features/elderabuse/
- National Council on Aging, Elder Abuse Facts, https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Long-Term Care Providers and Services Users in the United States, Data From the National Study of Long-Term Care Providers, 2013-2014, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_038.pdf
Historically, federal-funded nursing homes have forced patients and their relatives to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements prior to admission. By signing these documents, patients and their families were giving up their right to sue in the event of negligence, abuse or other harm committed by staff.
Under the previous system of private arbitration, claims of wrongful death, elder abuse, financial exploitation and sexual harassment never saw a courtroom, essentially stripping the basic rights afforded to patients and their families.
A new rule, passed by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), promises to give new protections to more than 1.5 million nursing home residents and their families. In late September of this year, the agency banned the enforcement of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Now, when a claim arises, residents or their families will have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit, although voluntary arbitration is still available.
Improvements in care, safety & consumer protections
With this new decision, the CMS has restored a fundamental right of nursing home residents throughout the nation – their day in court. The rule is part of a larger, over-arching transformation of policy and procedures in assisted living centers. As part of an effort to set high standards of quality care and safety for elders in these facilities, the CMS is reevaluating staff competency and skill sets in nursing homes, re-vamping its infection and control program, and enhancing training on caring with seniors with dementia.
Considering that elder abuse rates are on the rise, many advocates are applauding these new rules, which mark the first comprehensive update to CMS policy in more than 25 years.
The new policy, which is slated to go into effect this month, has not been welcomed by the nursing home industry. Critics argue that arbitration clauses have saved the government millions of dollars in legal fees, and that by allowing lawsuits to be filed, funds may dwindle forcing some facilities to shut down.
Legal remedies for nursing home abuse
Many families, who are already under pressure to find a suitable facility for an elder loved one, do not read the fine print when signing nursing home admission forms. Unfortunately, under the previous clauses, victims were not able to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions, and many were forced to settle privately for unfair amounts. Research has shown that claims settled through arbitration generally receive 35 percent lower payouts compared to those litigated in court.
Louisiana elder abuse attorney Bart Bernard assists families whose loved ones have been mistreated or abused in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you suspect substandard care or neglect, speak with an attorney who can evaluate the case and determine if you have a right to compensation. For a free legal consult, please call today.
- NPR, New Rule Preserves Patients’ Rights To Sue Nursing Homes In Court http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/29/495918132/new-rule-preserves-patients-rights-to-sue-nursing-homes-in-court
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, CMS finalizes improvements in care, safety, and consumer protections for long-term care facility residents https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2016-Press-releases-items/2016-09-28.html