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Frequently Asked Questions

Nursing home neglect and elder abuse traumatize not only the victim, but also the victim’s family and loved ones. Dealing with the consequences of staff members’ negligence or abuse is stressful and emotionally draining, and raise concerns about what steps should be taken to protect the victims.

The following questions and answers provide an overview of the issues confronting victims and their relatives and friends:

1. What causes nursing home neglect and elder abuse?

Nursing home negligence and elder abuse include injuries to the elder’s psychological, medical and physical well-being. Multiple factors may contribute to the staff’s inability to maintain a caring, safe environment that honors the individuality and dignity of each resident. For example, the patient may have been treated improperly or assaulted by a staff person about whom the facility did not perform proper background checks. Or, the facility may have employed an inadequate number of workers and, as a result, patients did not receive proper care. In addition, if nursing home staff were not qualified to perform the care they were providing, or were not properly trained, a patient could receive sub-standard care, and suffer a variety of injuries.

2. What is the legal definition of “nursing home neglect”?

There are three elements a claim of nursing home neglect:

First, the nursing home must have a duty to the resident. When a nursing home accepts your loved one as a resident, the nursing home has a duty to provide adequate, appropriate care within a reasonable time and to avoid causing any injuries as a result of its actions or its inaction. When the nursing home staff fails to meet this standard of care, the nursing home breaches its duty to the resident.

Second, this breach of duty must be the cause of an injury to the patient. Additionally, the breach must be a proximate cause of the injury. When an action is the proximate cause, this means that the injury is of the type that would be reasonably foreseeable as a result of the staff’s negligence.

Third, the victim must have suffered damages as a result of the injury. Damages, including pain and suffering, compensate the victim for the cost of medical care necessitated as well as his or her pain and suffering.

3. What if the nursing home made inappropriate decisions about the elder’s possessions or funds?

Nursing home negligence and elder abuse include more than injuries to the patients psychological, medical and physical well-being. Elder abuse includes the exploitation of the elder’s resources, such as taking funds or property without the elder’s consent.

4. How do I know if my relative or friend is a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse?

The most direct way to know is to ask your loved one about his or her experiences in the facility. Many victims believe, however, that they should not disclose their experiences of abuse or neglect because they are scared that the nursing home staff may retaliate. Other victims may feel too humiliated to disclose the abuse or other inappropriate conduct.

Not every resident is capable of providing a direct answer because the patient’s physician or mental limitations may interfere with his or her to remember and to communicate events. For example, if the facility’s staff does not provide adequate medical care or fails to give needed medication, a victim’s ability to perceive, remember and communicate wrongful acts may be impaired.

You should therefore look for signs of nursing home negligence and elder abuse, including:

  • Changes in demeanor suggesting fear, anxiety, sadness, shame and other negative emotions.
  • Changes in cognitive ability or alertness. Examples include oversedation and a lack of human interaction, which can cause changes in a victim’s ability to understand and to interact.
  • Physical injuries, such as bruises, cuts, and other abrasions.
  • Signs and reports of physical pain, because not every injury from abuse or neglect is visible.

5. What can I do to protect my family members and other loved ones who are residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities?

Knowing the rights of residents in Pennsylvania nursing homes and similar facilities can help you to spot nursing home neglect and elder abuse quickly. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has listed the rights of nursing home and long-term care facility residents here.

Additionally, you can help loved ones in a nursing home or long-term care facility by knowing the basic protocol that staff should observe. The federal government has specified the standard of care that nursing home residents should receive in the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. This law requires a nursing home to provide care that allows all residents of any age or ability to “attain and maintain [their] highest practicable physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being.” Pennsylvania has incorporated this standard of care in the Health Care Facilities Act of 1979.

When the staff of a facility is not honoring the rights of residents or properly observing the standard of care, speak to management after making a note of the staff member’s name and the time, date and nature of the wrongful incident.

More specifically, you can protect your loved ones and relatives by being consistent in these habits:

  • Be present in the resident’s life. Make yourself known to staff members. Ask questions of staff when an issue presents itself.
  • Be aware of the resident’s physical condition, personality, mood, self-care, and cognitive functioning so that you can effectively note changes from visit to visit.
  • Look for blood on clothing and linens.
  • Be especially concerned if staff does not allow your visit with the resident, or if there is a delay in allowing you access to the resident. Note the resident’s reactions to specific staff members.
  • Report the suspected abuse or neglect to management. Obtain copies of any complaints or letters.
  • Consult our attorneys if you believe your loved one has been injured through elder abuse or the negligence of the nursing home staff.

6. What happens when I contact an attorney?

Every situation involving elder abuse or nursing home neglect is unique. Our attorneys assess each potential case for liability and damages. We will collect your information and investigate your claim to determine if we can handle your case.

7. What can I expect to recover from my case?

Our attorneys can give you an answer after gathering information about the patient’s injuries. By conducting a thorough investigation, our attorneys will evaluate the case and explain the damages to which the patient may be entitled.

8. How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?

There is no fee to hire our firm. We do not charge clients until we have obtained a recovery.

Our attorneys are committed to fighting nursing home neglect and malpractice. If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home malpractice or elder neglect, please contact us.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after a nursing home to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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