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Nursing Home Residents' Rights Month

Nursing home abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins announce that October is officially recognized as Residents’ Rights Month. The rights of long-term care facility residents (including those in assisted living, retirement communities, and sub-acute units) are guaranteed by the 1987 federal Nursing Home Reform Act, which includes a Residents’ Bill of Rights among its provisions.

In 1986, at the request of Congress, a study was conducted into the prevalence of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The results of this study were abysmal, leading to sweeping changes in the industry and the Nursing Home Reform Act. The Act’s basic objectives are to ensure high-quality, consistent care for our nation’s elderly for their mental, emotional, physical, and psychosocial well-being.

Most care administered in nursing homes is paid for by the federal government though Medicare and Medicaid (58%), which means that most nursing home must accept these services to stay in business. The Nursing Home Reform Act requires facilities certified to accept Medicare and Medicaid to adhere with all aspects of the law, including the Bill of Rights, which can be found here.

This month provides elderly residents numerous opportunities to have their opinions and stories heard, through initiatives like the Resident’s Voice Challenge, which encourages elders to consider and respond to four questions through writing or art of any type.

Elder abuse and neglect is becoming an increasingly public issue and recognized as an important problem, particularly due to the rapidly growing aging population. Experts predict that by 2025, the global population of people aged 60 and older will more than double, reaching about 1.2 billion. In the United States, though the threat of nursing home abuse and neglect is widely acknowledged, the prevalence of it remains in every state.

One survey found that over 35% of nursing home employees reported having witnessed at least one incident of elder abuse in the past year, and a staggering 40% stated that they themselves had psychologically abused residents. Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, psychological, financial, and sexual; nursing home negligence, though not as malicious as abuse, can be just as devastating.

Even relatively minor acts of abuse or negligence, such as failing to regularly shift a bed-ridden patients’ position, can cause serious, permanent, even fatal damage. Within institutions like nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there are several factors that make abuse and neglect more likely to occur. These may include overworked or understaffed employees, policies that reflect the interests of the institution rather than individual patients, and cognitive disorder diagnoses.

Families of loved ones in nursing homes, especially those that demonstrate the above-mentioned characteristics, must keep an eye out for signs of abuse and neglect. Symptoms may include frequent visits to the ER, worsened chronic conditions (such as diabetes), differing stories between caregivers and residents, delays in medical attention for injury or illness, and implausible or extremely vague explanations for injuries or illnesses.

Advocacy groups like the Consumer Voice and AARP heavily emphasize the importance of speaking out because that is the only way abuse, neglect and mistreatment will be exposed and fixed. Their goal, which should be shared nationally, is to encourage residents to be educated about elder abuse and contact appropriate officials when suspicious incidents occur.

Incidents that lead to significant injury or wrongful death are often brought to court, with lawsuit filed against the negligent caregiver or facility responsible for the injured residents’ care. Speaking out against suspected abuse is important because, sadly, facility owners and operators only enact change when they are forced to, meaning through legal action. They are often required to hire more staff, improve staff hiring and training, and change facility policies to reflect the needs of the residents rather than the owner’s pursuit of profit.

Nursing home negligence lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have over two decades of experience working in this field, and understand the complexities and sensitive nature of each case. If you or a loved one was seriously injured at a nursing home, you have important legal rights, and may wish to speak to a skilled attorney regarding your legal rights. Our firm offers free, no-obligation consultations to potential clients in all 50 states.