Charleston Nursing Home Neglect Attorneys
South Carolina Lawyers Fight Elder Abuse
Many South Carolina families choose nursing home care for their elderly loved ones once they can no longer care for their physical needs and support at home. By placing your loved one in a nursing home facility, you entrust their care to this facility. The nursing home then owes a duty to provide excellent quality care to your loved one.
When a care facility fails to provide this duty of care, the impact on your loved one can be physically and emotionally devasting. Fragile elders often do not have the resiliency to recover from incidents of neglect or abuse.
At Steinberg Law Firm, our nursing home neglect lawyers fight to protect seniors and their families from the devastating consequences of neglect. If you suspect neglect, reach out to our experienced nursing home injury attorneys for a free consultation about your case.
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Federal regulations define neglect as the failure of a facility, its employees, or service providers to provide goods and services to a resident that are necessary to avoid physical harm, pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define neglect similarly. The CDC defines elder neglect as a failure to provide basic needs for an older adult, such as water, food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and medical care.
In one study, a focus group of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) provided several examples of behaviors they would describe as nursing home neglect. For example, negligence may occur if a nursing home resident:
- Does not receive necessary dental care or help with oral hygiene;
- Does not receive bathroom assistance or has to lie in soiled clothes or bedding after a bathroom mishap;
- Fails to receive necessary medical treatment, like medications, wound care, or physical therapy exercises;
- Does not receive necessary one-on-one assistance with bathing, eating, or drinking;
- Receives no help or inadequate help with standing, walking, or transferring (such as moving from the bed to a chair); and
- Does not receive immediate attention when they turn on a call light.
In each of these examples, nursing homes and their staff members fail to do that which residents need to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.
How is Neglect Different from Abuse?
Abuse and neglect both have a profound, negative impact on their victims. Abuse occurs when a perpetrator has power over the victim and uses it to harm them. Neglect occurs when the victim is dependent on another person for care that does not take place.
The terms “abuse” and “neglect” are often used in the same conversation about protecting victims.
- Abuse occurs when nursing homes or their staff take an action that causes physical, mental, financial, or emotional harm.
- Neglect occurs when nursing homes or their staff fail to take action to prevent or fix physical, mental, or emotional harm.
Not all neglect is an intentional act. Neglect also occurs when nursing homes are understaffed. A lack of staffing may result in an overall lack of care for nursing home residents, despite the best efforts of staff members.
Nursing Home Neglect Statistics
Neglect is, unfortunately, all too common among older adults in nursing home care. A 2019 study found that as many as 81 percent of nursing home residents experience neglect.
A lack of transparent discussion and adequate training among nursing home staff and leadership may lead to high neglect rates. A 2020 study of nursing home leaders’ understanding of abuse and neglect revealed that leaders had trouble talking about situations to their staff. This was due to managers’ lack of awareness of elder abuse and neglect. They stated that they did not have the knowledge and strategies to identify and adequately manage the abuse and neglect experienced at nursing homes.
Understaffing can often impact the quality of care. According to South Carolina law, non-licensed nursing staff-to-patient ratios must abide by the following:
– First Shift (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.): Nine residents to one staff member;
– Second Shift (3 p.m. to 11 p.m.): Thirteen residents to one staff member; and
– Third Shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.): Twenty-two residents to one member.
If management does not plan employee schedules effectively or staff members call off at the last moment, the remaining care team can become overworked and make serious mistakes.
Lack of training can also lead to neglect. In South Carolina, nurse aides register with the South Carolina Nurse Aide Registry. A non-registered nurse aide may work for up to four months if they are enrolled in a nurse aide training program or have recently completed a training program.
Nurse aides in South Carolina must have at least 16 hours of training in five subject areas:
- Infection control;
- Safety and emergency procedures;
- Communication and interpersonal skills;
- Respecting residents’ rights; and
- Promoting residents’ rights.
In an understaffed nursing home, nurse aides may be called upon to do many tasks; they may be inexperienced and untrained. For example, a nursing home aide may need to administer medications to a patient they have never worked with or are unfamiliar with the side effects of the medicine. Harm can result from the lack of proper training in this situation including administering the wrong medication, over-medicating, under-medicating, or administering at the wrong time or to the wrong patient.
Know The Signs of Nursing Home Neglect Infographic
What Are the Symptoms of Neglect?
Symptoms of neglect vary depending on the type of neglect that occurs. Family members should look out for the following warning signs and contact an experienced elder care neglect attorney as soon as possible.
Physical or medical neglect may cause various health problems or symptoms. Signs of physical or medical neglect might include:
- Frequent injuries caused by falls;
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers caused by lack of proper hygiene or not helping the older person relieve pressure by turning and propping their body position;
- Soiled clothes, dirty bedding, medical waste, or other unsanitary conditions;
- Malnutrition or dehydration;
- Signs that the older person isn’t receiving adequate pain management; and
- New or worsening medical conditions that go untreated.
Psychological or emotional neglect can also cause harm. Signs of psychological or emotional neglect may include:
- Emotional distress, anger, agitation, or fear;
- Emotional or social withdrawal or shutting down;
- A loved one who has nothing to discuss when asked what activities they’ve done recently or what friends they made;
- The appearance of new or more pronounced self-soothing behaviors such as rocking, sucking, or biting;
- Refusal to get out of bed or a change in eating habits;
- Comments that express despair or worthlessness; and
- Indications that a mental or emotional condition usually controlled by medication is not maintained due to inadequate treatment.
Environmental neglect can raise concerns about the safe and sanitary conditions that all nursing home residents need. Unsafe environmental conditions include:
- Obvious safety hazards such as missing or broken handrails, torn carpet, broken floor tiles, sharp edges, and poor lighting;
- Improper safety measures, such as a lack of safety belts for transfers between wheelchairs, broken or missing wheelchairs, walkers, and other equipment;
- Lack of supervision for residents who need help with prescriptions, eating, or moving;
- Broken call buttons that are used for direct patient-nurse contact;
- Spillage of food or human waste, standing water, or unpleasant smells, such as mold; and,
- Unsanitary personal belongings and care items, such as soiled bedding, dirty clothes, or dirty dishes.
Licensed nurses, registered nurses, and certified nursing assistants must provide continuous daily attention to elderly residents. Lack of attention may fail to meet residents’ needs, which can cause serious harm.
How Do I Prove a Family Member is Being Neglected?
Loved ones can take several steps to help gather information. If you suspect that your elderly family member or loved one is suffering neglect in a nursing home:
- Get in the habit of taking notes. Every time you talk to a nursing home staff member, write down the date and time, what you talked about, and what you were told or promised. Similarly, when you visit your loved one, take the time to note the date and time, their mood, and any other signs you notice that cause you to suspect neglect.
- Speak up. It’s harder for nursing home staff to conceal neglect if family members point it out. If you see something, bring it up to the team. Write down what they promised to do.
- Reach out to trusted medical providers. Your loved one’s doctor can help diagnose and treat new or worsening problems. For medical emergencies, don’t hesitate to call 911. Get copies of all medical records to give to an attorney.
- Visit often and at different times. If you are not able to do so, try to arrange for others to visit your loved one on a regular basis and provide their assessment to you.
- Contact an experienced nursing home neglect attorney. These cases are complex and require the skill and knowledge that comes from experience. Be sure your attorney has handled these types of cases.
What Happens in a Nursing Home Neglect Case
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from the neglect of a nursing home, speak to a Charleston nursing home neglect lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you gather evidence, understand the law, and choose the next steps for you and your loved one.
When you reach out to our team of lawyers, we will begin by asking you to describe what’s going on. During this conversation, ask any questions you have – not only about your loved one’s condition but also about the legal process.
While in some cases, the best outcome is to simply move your loved one to a better and more caring facility, the unfortunate reality is that residents are often compromised, and their condition may worsen. Neglect often starts a chain reaction that sends a resident’s health on a downward spiral. In these situations, filing a legal claim against the nursing home is perhaps the only way a resident and their family can obtain justice for the nursing home’s wrongdoing.
If you decide to file a claim against a nursing home, it does not mean that you and your loved one will need to testify at trial. The vast majority of these cases settle without the need for a trial. In part, this is because nursing homes do not want to risk losing at trial and receiving an unknown judgment against them. Many facilities are open to a pre-trial settlement once a case’s merits have been established.
However, it should be noted that insurance companies will aggressively defend against claims of neglect, often citing preexisting conditions or blaming the victim. Having an experienced nursing home neglect attorney on your side is critical to your case.
At the Steinberg Law Firm, we take a practical approach to nursing home neglect lawsuits. We start by listening to your concerns and structuring our representation accordingly. Our Charleston nursing home lawyers are here for you and your family and will help you pursue the best possible outcome for your case.
Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Neglect Charleston Lawyer Today
Neglect is defined as a lack of care, help, and support. When you focus on your loved one, you shine a light into the darkness of neglect – and you can help banish it from your loved one’s life. An experienced South Carolina nursing home neglect lawyer at the Steinberg Law Firm can help.
At the Steinberg Law Firm, we are committed to getting the victims of nursing home neglect and others who have been injured secure the financial compensation they deserve. If a loved one has suffered from nursing home neglect, we can help fight to protect them and bring an end to the suffering they, and possibly others, have experienced. Contact us today by calling (843) 720-2800.
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