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Nursing Home and Elder Abuse FAQ

If your loved one has been the victim of abuse at a nursing home, you may be considering filing a lawsuit against those who are responsible for the harm. This page addresses some of the frequently asked questions our firm comes across in cases involving abuse of the elderly.

WHAT IS NURSING ABUSE AND NEGLECT?

The CDC defines abuse of the elderly as “[a]n intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.”

WHAT TYPES OF ELDER ABUSE AND NEGLECT ARE THERE?

Nursing home abuse and neglect include but are not limited to physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, bedsores, falls, medication errors, and financial exploitation.

HOW PREVALENT IS NURSING HOME ABUSE?

The National Council on Aging estimates that about 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or older are subject to abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse similarly states that about 10% of the elderly population has been the victim of some form of elder abuse. Other estimates of abuse put the mark at as many as 5 million elderly people being abused each year. A majority of the time, the person abusing the victim is a family member.

In general, nursing home abuse is severely underreported. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) states that just one in four cases of such abuse is reported. A study of nursing home abuse in New York stated that the “incidence rate in New York State . . . was nearly 24 times greater than the number of cases referred to social service, law enforcement or legal authorities who have the capacity as well as the responsibility to assist older adult victims.” This means that for every single case that was reported, the study estimated that another 24 were not.

WHAT IS PHYSICAL ABUSE AND WHAT ARE THE SIGNS MY LOVED ONE HAS BEEN MISTREATED?

The CDC defines physical abuse as “[t]he intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death.” This type of abuse includes actions such as striking, hitting, or beating a nursing home resident. It also includes burning, pushing, shaking, scratching, kicking, pinching, hair pulling, using restraints inappropriately, physical punishments, and withholding medication or other inappropriate use of a medication.

The signs of physical abuse may include visible injuries like burn marks, bruises, abrasions, broken bones, fractured bones, or pressure marks. In addition to the physical markers of abuse, an elder who has been the victim of abuse may also exhibit behavioral signs such as “anger, fear, anxiety, nervousness or depression.” In addition, they may become apathetic, avoid eye contact, or cringe away from physical contact. A nursing home resident who has been the victim of physical abuse may also become withdrawn, startle easily and have difficulty sleeping. Another sign could be if their caretaker refuses to let them have visitors or refuses to leave the resident alone with any visitors.

WHAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE AND WHAT ARE THE SIGNS MY LOVED ONE HAS BEEN SUBJECT TO THIS TYPE OF ABUSE?

NCOA guidance states that sexual abuse can be defined as “touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.” Those who are at greater risk for abuse are cognitively impaired, physically disabled, isolated, or without a support system. In addition, women are more frequently the victims of sexual abuse.

There are a number of warning signs that a nursing home resident has been subject to sexual abuse. These signs can include pain, irritation, bruising or bleeding in the genital region or anal region, bruising on the inner thighs, or underclothing that is bloody, stained, or has been torn. A resident who has been sexually abused may have a difficult time walking around or sitting, have contracted an STD, or exhibit behavioral changes.

Learn more about elder sexual abuse.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT MY LOVED ONE IS BEING ABUSED?

If you suspect your loved one is being abused by someone, it is important to take action and get them help. If your loved one is in immediate danger, call the police. If there is not an imminent threat, then you can contact the state Adult Protective Services on behalf of your loved one to report the suspected abuse.

You may wish to visit the website for New York’s Adult Protective Services.

CAN MY LOVED ONE FILE A LAWSUIT IF THEY HAVE BEEN ABUSED IN A NURSING HOME?

If your loved one has been the victim of abuse at a nursing home, then they can file a lawsuit in order to recover damages for the injuries sustained. The specific legal claims that your loved one will bring against the abusive parties will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. These claims could include, but are not limited to, negligence, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, assault, or battery.

In addition, in New York, nursing home residents have certain rights. The Department of Public Health has determined you have the right to:

  • Dignity, respect and a comfortable living environment
  • Quality of care and treatment without discrimination
  • Freedom of choice to make your own, independent decisions
  • The safeguard of your property and money
  • Safeguards in admission transfer and discharge
  • Privacy in communications
  • Participate in organizations and activities of your choice
  • An easy-to-use and responsive complaint procedure
  • Exercise all of your rights without fear of reprisals

If those rights are violated, the individual may bring a claim under the state’s Public Health Law. This law states that “[a]ny residential health care facility that deprives any patient of said facility of any right or benefit, as hereinafter defined, shall be liable to said patient for injuries suffered as a result of said deprivation, except as hereinafter provided” (N.Y. Pub. Heath Law §).

HOW MUCH IS A NURSING HOME ABUSE CASE WORTH IN NEW YORK CITY?

If you decide to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, it’s reasonable that you might consider how much your case could be worth. To estimate that number, there are a number of factors to bear in mind, including the cost of the economic and punitive damages, the strength of a plaintiff’s argument, how much the defendant can reasonably pay, and what plaintiffs in similar cases have been awarded. Ultimately, however, it will be difficult to consider the full value of your case without consulting an expert nursing home abuse lawyer.

These elements will help you estimate the amount of money to which you may be entitled:

  • Medical expenses: The type of injury your loved one sustained—as well as its severity—will play a role in the amount of money you’re owed from the at-fault party. Ultimately, this dollar value is determined by looking at the current and future medical expenses accrued from the damages sustained at the nursing home. This can include costs from hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation, prescription medication, physical therapy, and doctor visits.
  • Property damages: Some instances of nursing home abuse include thievery or destruction of property. Any such damage can be covered.
  • Punitive damages: If the at-fault individual caused your loved one’s injuries out of malice or with extremely reckless behavior, you may be entitled to punitive damages. This type of compensation aims to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing and to discourage others from committing similar acts.
  • Pain and suffering: These non-economic damages are harder to determine but aim to reimburse the victim for any emotional damage, psychological abuse, anxiety, fear, PTSD, and mental scarring resulting from the abuse and negligence. To establish the monetary value of such damages, expert lawyers and third-party experts will work together to estimate and propose a fair assessment.

Though each nursing home abuse case has a unique set of factors that alter how much it’s worth, you may be able to get a better sense of the value of your case by looking at a recent Health Affairs report that determined that the average nursing home abuse case recovers $406,000 in damages per claim. Ultimately, an expert nursing home abuse attorney will best be able to provide you with an accurate dollar amount based on the circumstances of your case.

Contact a New York Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If you or a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, either through neglect in a nursing home or another type of negligent care, please do not hesitate to contact the law firm of Dalli & Marino, LLP. Our attorneys have extensive experience in the entire discipline and in cases and the law surrounding bedsores. We are dedicated to helping our clients recover just compensation for their injuries. You can call our office today at (888) 465-8790 or complete our online form.