Commonly Asked Questions About Georgia Nursing Home Abuse and Injuries


November 29, 2013

When family members entrust elderly loved ones to the care of a Georgia nursing home, they justifiably assume that their loved one will receive appropriate care to meet their loved one's needs and that the staff will not subject the loved one to abuse. Unfortunately, these reasonable expectations are sometimes left unfulfilled when nursing homes elect to place profits above quality of care. Nursing homes in Atlanta or the surrounding areas of Georgia may fail to provide adequate staffing levels or otherwise fail to implement appropriate policies for elderly residents who suffer from age-related cognitive limitations caused by Alzheimer's disease or dementia or physical limitations that make them prone to falls. In such scenarios, the nursing home may be liable for injuries or wrongful death caused by its failure to provide adequate care and supervision.

Our experienced Georgia nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys have provided answers to frequently asked questions we receive from families of seniors who have suffered injury, severe neglect or some form of abuse in a long-term nursing facility. While we invite you to review the information below in this blog post, the best way to get answers to more specific questions if a loved one has been a victim of abuse is to speak with one of our experienced Atlanta nursing home injury attorneys.

How serious is the risk that my loved one could be a victim of nursing home abuse?

While it is difficult to contemplate the notion that the abuse and neglect of elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities is fairly common, there is a wealth of evidence to support this conclusion. One study found that there were nearly 21,000 complaints of exploitation, abuse and severe neglect filed against nursing homes and related facilities in a single year according to the National Center for Elder Abuse. Despite this high number of complaints about substandard care and harm to seniors, a study published in The Gerontologist journal found that only about seven percent of all seniors who are subject to abuse, neglect or exploitation actually bring the misconduct to the attention of authorities.

Why do injuries and wrongful death resulting from poor care, inadequate supervision and abuse occur in nursing homes?

While there are many factors that contribute to the high rate of mistreatment to seniors in skilled nursing facilities, the focus on increasing revenue by operating with fewer or less expensive staff members is the most significant cause of these tragic incidents. According to documents from the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 9 in 10 nursing homes operate with staffing levels that are insufficient to meet the needs of their residents.

If my loved one is in a fairly costly private facility, I presume that I do not need to worry about these types of issues?

The assumption that private for-profit facilities are superior to public or non-profit nursing homes is not necessarily accurate despite the fact it may have some truth in other segments of the health care industry where more expensive insurance often means superior care. A report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that the prevalence of substandard care was almost a third higher in private for-profit nursing homes than public facilities. Nursing home facilities run by government entities as well as non-profit agencies often benefit from substantial amounts of public funds so that they may have a financial advantage in providing care to residents. Many non-profit nursing homes are run by public service organizations or religious entities through which they have access to volunteers.

What should I look for when searching for a long-term residential care facility for my elderly family member?

The key when selecting a nursing home facility is to do your homework, which can be aided greatly by consulting online sources. The website Medicare.gov provides a detailed comparison of nursing homes. The website provides ratings, comparisons and detailed findings from inspections of nursing homes during the prior three years. The screening process should also involve multiple drop-in visits to the facility so that you can observe staffing levels, cleanliness, staff response time and meals. Families may also wish to interview the administrator of the facility regarding the following issues:

  • Minimum and typical staffing levels maintained by the facility

  • Special protocols for those that are susceptible to falls

  • Pre-employment screening of nursing aids

  • Procedures for preventing wandering or elopement, such as tracking systems and door alarms

  • Policies for ensuring nutrition, hydration and hygiene

  • Criminal background checks conducted of staff and residents

  • Procedures for ensuring rotation or movement of those who are bed ridden or wheelchair bound

  • Grievance procedures in the event of concerns

While this does not constitute a complete list of the issues that should be discussed with the administrator in the nursing home facility, it provides some examples of the types of issues that can lead to accidents, abuse and neglect. If you have friends, neighbors or co-workers with a loved one in a nursing home, personal referrals to a nursing home can be helpful. Sometimes it is even possible to speak to family members of current residents at the nursing home you are considering about their loved one's experience in the facility.

What types of nursing home neglect, abuse and injuries commonly comprise claims of improper care in Georgia?

  • Malnutrition and dehydration
• Assaults and physical attacks

  • Broken bones, fractures and head injuries because of lack of procedures to prevent falls, inadequate monitoring or unsafe condition of the premises

  • Bed sores

  • Infections from failure to treat pressure sores or illnesses

  • Wrongful death

  • Sexual assaults and rape

  • Financial abuse

  • Injuries caused by inappropriate physical or chemical restraint

  • Improper medication or failure to administer required medication

  • Emotional abuse because of isolation, verbal threats, intimidation, etc.

What are some of the warning sign family members should look for if they are worried about the potential abuse of their love one?

There are many signs that might be present if an elderly nursing home resident is being abused or neglected. Sometimes abuse or neglect will manifest itself in terms of changes in behavior or mood while in other cases there may actually be physical signs. When residents with Alzheimer's, dementia or other mental disabilities are the victims of abuse or neglect, they may face limits on their ability to comprehend what is happening or to communicate the inappropriate conduct or deficient practices to family. In situations like these, you might want to pay attention to the following signs of potential mistreatment:

  • Broken bones, fractures, sprains or other forms of physical injury

  • Ligature marks on the wrists and ankles that might indicate physical restraint

  • Refusal of a caregiver to permit you to be alone with your loved one

  • Sudden dramatic weight loss

  • Injuries caused by elopement or wandering

  • Drastic changes in mood or temperament

  • Clogged breathing tubes

  • Lack of hygiene or soiled clothes

  • Bruises, welts or scars

  • Burns

  • Choking

  • Underclothing that is bloody, stained or torn

  • Bed sores or other physical injuries that are not being treated

These are a few of the types of potential warning signs to which a family member may want to pay close attention. If your loved one has declining mental abilities, he or she is especially vulnerable to abuse so extra vigilance is appropriate.

Why do staff members engage in abusive or neglectful behavior?

Most of the day to day care provided in nursing homes is performed by nursing aids. Wage levels for these positions are fairly low so facilities are not always staffed with especially skilled workers. If the facility also cuts costs by offering little or no training or supervision, elderly residents may be the victim of nursing home staff members that are simply not trained adequately. It is also important to realize that working in a nursing home can be an extremely high stress environment which can make workers subject to frustration and anger when compounded by chronic understaffing. This frustration can result in staff members lashing out at residents. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 57 percent of nursing aids that work in skilled nursing facilities admit to either witnessing or committing some form of abuse or neglect of residents.

Will there need to be a trial to obtain compensation for the neglect or abuse of my loved one?

While there have been some substantial verdicts across the U.S. in nursing home abuse cases, most personal injury claims including those involving nursing home abuse or neglect settle without the need for trial. Our Atlanta nursing home injury attorneys build a compelling case for our clients so that we create an incentive for insurance carriers to settle the case rather than risk an adverse judgment at trial.

Should I remove my loved one from a nursing home if we are pursuing a legal claim against the facility?

While you should seek legal advice from an experienced Georgia nursing home abuse and neglect attorney before making this type of decision, the general rule is that your loved one should not remain in the facility. There are two potential issues created if a senior remains in the facility. The first issue is the obvious risk of "retribution" imposed by staff or administrators for pursuing your family member's legal rights. The other issue is that the claim that the facility provided inadequate care or permitted abuse of a resident may seem less credible if a family continues to trust the nursing home with the care of their loved one.

Can a nursing home resident pursue a legal claim if another resident caused his or her injuries in a physical attack or sexual assault?

The nursing home may be liable for injuries committed by one resident against another. These types of cases may be highly fact sensitive but if a nursing home knows or should know that a particular resident poses a potential danger to others because of a criminal record, past aggressive or sexually inappropriate conduct or other evidence, the nursing home may be liable if it fails to properly supervise the resident or take other actions to prevent a physical or sexual assault.

If many nursing home incidents involve staffing issues, how do nursing homes avoid having these issues detected during state inspections?

There have been a number of large nursing home verdicts where evidence was presented that the facility "staffed up" during inspections then would reduce staff to typical levels during other periods.

How is the financial value of a nursing home abuse or neglect legal claim determined?

Our Georgia nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys consider a wide range of factors when estimating the value of a nursing home abuse or neglect legal claim. We will look at prior cases involving similar conduct and injuries and consider a number of other factors, such as:

  • Severity of injury

  • Medical bills and rehabilitation expenses

  • The degree to which fault is apparent

  • Impact on one's marital relationship

  • Limitations on quality of life and activities following injury

  • The egregiousness of the conduct by the nursing home

  • Severity of pain and suffering

  • Duration of incapacity caused by injury

These are some of the types of facts that will impact the value of a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit or settlement. Because no two cases are precisely the same, it is impossible to guarantee any particular result in a nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuit. However, we carefully analyze the facts and review prior cases to provide estimates regarding the potential value of a claim.

Is there a reason to contact an attorney if we have not yet decided to pursue a legal claim in court?

Elder abuse and neglect is a serious issue so there are methods to assert your loved one's legal rights and to investigate potential abuse. Our experienced Atlanta nursing home abuse attorneys can discuss your options, such as grievance procedures, complaints with the state and/or a a legal claim and lawsuit. We understand that your priority is the safety and security of your loved one so we are available to discuss how to protect your elderly loved one.

Put Our 30 years of Legal Experience to Work For You!

While we have tried to answer many of the general questions we receive about nursing home abuse and neglect, our experienced nursing home injury lawyers at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.