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Nursing Home Negligence

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Elder Abuse & Neglect

The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, assisted living, or memory care facility is one of the most difficult a family will make. Every year thousands of families in Oregon must consider placing a parent or grandparent into a facility because they are unable to meet their loved one’s needs, whether due to cognitive issues or health conditions that require skilled care the family is unable to provide.

With our aging population, senior care is one of the fastest growing industries in Oregon and across the nation. Unfortunately, many of the facilities offering quality care simply do not deliver. Families often discover their loved ones have been injured in falls, or have suffered from pressure sores, dehydration, malnutrition and over-medication. Understaffing is common and inevitably leads to poor care since there are not enough caregivers to meet the residents’ needs for feeding, bathing, dressing, ambulating and using the bathroom. This lack of care can result in confinement to a wheelchair, incontinence, weight loss, urinary tract infections, significant pain and, in some cases, death.

Annually, in Oregon, there are more than 1,000 cases of elder abuse reported in licensed long-term care settings and more than 3,100 cases of elder abuse reported in the community. For every case that is reported, there many more that occur but are not reported because the elderly person has no loved ones to check on them. Abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities will only continue to rise if the owners, management and staff members are not held accountable.

The Dretke Law Firm will make every effort to resolve a claim of abuse or neglect without filing a legal action. We understand that lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming, and can be emotionally draining for the family of a loved one. However, lawsuits are often necessary because facilities refuse to accept responsibility for poor care.  If filing a lawsuit becomes necessary, The Dretke Law Firm will guide you through the entire process and will be readily available to answer your questions and address your concerns. Brian Dretke has tried well over 100 cases to Oregon juries, and as an Oregon State Circuit Court Judge, Brian presided over many more.

If you believe a loved one has been subjected to elder abuse in a nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility, you may have a valid legal claim. Call The Dretke Law Firm for a confidential consultation at no cost. Brian Dretke has extensive experience in nursing home litigation and has a proven track record of holding facilities responsible for the abuse and neglect of our most vulnerable Oregon residents.

RELATED TOPICS

Physical abuse: This type of elder abuse is caused by acts of violence such as striking, shaking, pinching, choking or shoving. It often occurs when staff expresses frustration by roughly handling the elderly while providing care. Signs of physical abuse are unexplained bruising, broken bones, skin tears and torn or bloody clothing.

Neglect: This is the most common form of elder abuse. It is the failure to provide the basic care necessary to maintain the health and safety of a resident and is often the result of understaffing in a facility. Signs of neglect are unwitnessed falls, medication errors, weight loss, dehydration, failing to reposition a resident who is bedbound, the development of pressure ulcers, and recurring urinary tract infections.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse includes sexual contact between staff and a resident, exposing residents to pictures or jokes of a sexual nature, and resident-to-resident sexual contact when one or both residents do not or cannot show consent.  Signs of sexual abuse are bleeding or bruising around the genital or anal area, bruising around the breasts, and bloody undergarments.

Wrongful Use of a Physical or Chemical Restraint: Examples of physical restraints are bed siderails, recliners or low sitting chairs from which a resident cannot get out of. They cannot be used without a thorough assessment and prescription from a licensed physician. They are never to be used for convenience of staff or as a means of discipline.  Chemical restraints are medications that sedate a resident. As with physical restraints, they are never to be used for the staff’s convenience.

If your loved one has shown any signs of abuse or neglect at the hands of a nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility, call The Dretke Law Firm for a confidential consultation at no cost.

The elderly population of Oregon is among our most vulnerable. Tragically, there are many cases in which the abuse or neglect in a nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility was so severe and went on for so long, that it resulted in the untimely death of the resident.  When questioned by the resident’s loved ones, facility staff often claim that the resident was in decline or that death was unavoidable under the circumstances. Such excuses are unacceptable. Facility staff have a legal and ethical obligation to provide their residents with “services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being of each resident.”

Common causes of death from abuse or neglect are falls resulting in hip fracture, medication errors, choking and/or aspiration of food, malnutrition, untreated infection, and the failure of staff to send an injured or sick resident to the hospital for emergency treatment. Only a close review of the resident’s records from the facility will reveal if there is evidence of abuse and neglect. Brian Dretke has extensive experience in wrongful death litigation and has a team of medical professionals to assist in evaluating records to establish a facility’s liability for a resident’s death.

If a loved one has died as a result of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility, call The Dretke Law Firm for a confidential consultation at no cost.

With their knowledge, life history, and experience, our elders are entitled to respect and dignity. As our loved ones age and come to rely on the help of others to meet their daily needs, they should not be required to sacrifice that respect and dignity. Still, nursing home residents are too often treated disrespectfully because of their advanced age and inability to care for themselves. Our loved ones may suffer from dementia, may be incontinent, and may be unable to care for themselves, but that does not mean they should be warehoused and ignored. Every nursing home, assisted living, and memory care facility in Oregon must assure that all residents are aware of their rights. These rights mirror the protections outlined in the federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, which was passed with the objective of making sure residents of long-term care facilities receive the kind of quality care that allows them to achieve and maintain their best possible physical, mental and psychosocial well-being. These rights are:

  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • To be given informed choice and opportunity to select or refuse service
  • To participate in the development of their plan for care throughout their residency
  • To receive information about how the cost for the services they need are determined
  • To exercise individual rights, as long as they do not infringe on the rights or safety of others
  • To be free from neglect, financial exploitation, verbal, mental, physical or sexual abuse
  • To receive services in a manner that protects privacy and dignity
  • To have access to all of their records within 48 hours of requesting them
  • To have their medical and facility records kept confidential
  • To associate and communicate privately with anyone they choose, to send and receive personal mail unopened, and to have reasonable access to the private use of a telephone
  • To be free from physical restraints and inappropriate use of psychoactive medications
  • To manage their personal financial affairs unless legally restricted
  • To have access to, and participate in, social activities
  • To be encouraged and assisted to exercise rights as a citizen
  • To be free of any written contract or agreement language with the facility that purports to waive their rights or the facility’s liability for negligence
  • To voice grievances and suggest changes in policies and services to either staff or outside representatives without fear of retaliation
  • To be free of retaliation after they have exercised their legal rights
  • To have a safe and homelike environment
  • To be free of discrimination in regard to race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or religion
  • To receive proper notification if requested to move out of the facility, and to have the opportunity for an administrative hearing if such a request is made

Violation of these rights may be grounds for legal action. If you believe a loved one’s rights have been violated by a nursing home, assisted living, or memory care facility, call The Dretke Law Firm for a confidential consultation at no cost.

Choosing the right nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility for a loved one who is no longer able to provide for his or her own care can be a difficult decision. It is never easy to turn that important responsibility over to strangers. But there are a number of things you can do to ensure you make the best choice among your options.

  • Visit the facility with your loved one and share a meal. As part of the aging process the elderly tend to experience a reduction in their sense of smell and taste, and consequently lose their appetite. Since nutrition is so important in maintaining health as we age, it is essential that the food served in a facility is visually attractive and palatable.
  • Make several visits to the facility at different times of the day to see what the residents are doing and how attentive the caregivers are to their needs. If residents are congregated in common areas that is usually a good sign. Socializing is healthy. On the other hand, if common areas are usually empty that may indicate that residents are confined to their rooms with little or no stimulus. A good facility will have a calendar of events in which your loved one can participate. Visit during one of those events to see if they are well-attended and successful.
  • Be chatty. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask the nursing assistants and other staff if they work a lot of overtime and double shifts. If so, that could be a sign of understaffing, and understaffing has a direct and negative effect on resident care. Ask the Director of Nursing Services for the facility’s staff ratio (number of caregivers compared to number of residents). Be aware that an overworked staff will be overstressed and quality of care will inevitably suffer.
  • Find out what others think. One of the most effective ways to obtain a candid review of a facility is to ask the family of someone who is currently a resident. If you do not know the family of a current resident, stop by the facility on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon as those are common visiting days. Approach the family members, explain that you are considering placing your loved one in the facility, and ask if they are pleased with the care their loved one is receiving. This may put you a bit out of your comfort zone, but it is well worth the effort.

Do not enter into a contract with a facility without understanding what you are signing. Question the Facility Administrator about anything you do not understand. Ask a friend of family member to read over a contract before you sign it. Be wary of Arbitration Agreements. These agreements take away your right to bring a case before a court and jury if your loved one suffers an injury or dies as a result of abuse or neglect by the nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility. Instead, you will be required to try the case before a private arbitrator and the proceeding will be confidential rather than public. Further, these agreements also often limit the information you can obtain from the facility in order to prove your case of abuse or neglect.

USEFUL LINKS

One of the most useful tools for families seeking to learn more about a facility is this website by the Oregon Department of Human Services – Aging & People with Disabilities that gives you the ability to research every nursing home, assisted living, and memory care facility registered in the state of Oregon. By clicking on the “Facility Search” tab, you can find out the date, report number, and the type of violations (abuse or neglect) determined by DHS to have occurred. You can review the results of facility inspections and any deficiencies documented, as well as any notices by the state placing restrictions on the facility for licensing violations.

This is the Official U.S. Government site for Medicare and contains detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.

Print this form and use the Nursing Home Checklist when you visit a nursing home. Compare the results of each one you visit. This is a valuable tool in determining the best facility for your loved one.

This is the Abuse Reporting and Investigation Guide for Providers produced by the Oregon Department of Human Services. It helps providers understand the definitions of abuse and neglect, their reporting duties, how to report abuse, and the requirements for each type of facility related to reporting of abuse. It will give family members insight into the definitions of abuse and the steps facilities must take to protect their residents and report suspected abuse and neglect.

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