When your elderly family member moves into a nursing home, they should expect high-quality care and appropriate medical treatment. Unfortunately, that does not always occur, and patients often experience serious physical and mental injuries, whether they are at a facility with a sterling reputation or one with a history of problematic behavior.
Resident rights are protected by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act. If your loved one has suffered from any form of nursing home neglect or abuse, you should work with an experienced attorney to hold the responsible parties accountable and pursue justified compensation for the harm that was done.
Some common forms of nursing home negligence include:
DISREGARD OF RESIDENT PREFERENCES
A nursing home is not the military, where a person’s life is controlled by their superiors. When someone lives in a senior care facility, their rights to independence remain intact. An assisted living facility should still feel like home. Federal law states a resident has the right to choose “activities, schedules or health care consistent with his or her interests, assessments, and plans for care.” Most nursing homes work to protect these rights, but others still lag behind, and they may be liable for the emotional or physical harm done if a resident’s needs are not met.
IMPROPER USE OF RESTRAINTS
Any device that secures a resident in a stationary position can only be used in the treatment of a medical condition, and never as punishment or for the convenience of nursing home staff. Because of this, some facilities operate restraint-free. Restricting a resident’s ability to move can cause both physical and psychological harm, and even death. If wandering is a concern, it should be curtailed through the use of electronic and increased staff monitoring, rather than physical restraints.
IMPROPER USE OF MEDICATION
Behavior-modifying medicines can be used to treat diagnosed medical conditions, but not for disciplinary purposes or for staff convenience. These medications must be prescribed by the resident’s doctor and approved by the resident or their official representative. A person has the right to refuse medication if they feel it is unnecessary, premature, or excessive. Use of medications to restrain or control patients is a serious form of nursing home abuse.
RESTRICTIONS ON VISITING HOURS
A nursing facility is supposed to feel like home, and residents should have the ability to choose when they receive visitors. A facility may not place restrictions on visits from family members or friends. If the resident shares a living space, federal guidelines recommend they host late-night guests in a common area, like a dining room or lounge.
Written by Marcel Sager, an experienced New York Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney and the founder of Goldberg Sager & Associates in Brooklyn, New York. Attorney Sager is a Featured Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, and he and his law firm are listed on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the Issues of Aging.