How to prove nursing home negligence?

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Apr 01,2022

Nursing homes should be a trusted source of comfort for the elderly and their families. Unfortunately, at times, they violate that trust, and as a result, our elderly suffer from negligence. But how can you prove nursing home negligence? Even for the adult children of the elderly, the billing methods may be opaque and difficult to follow, care protocols can seem haphazard, and it may be tough to connect with transitory or elusive staff. Due to problems like overcrowding, understaffing, and stress, the opportunity for abuse, neglect, and fraud abound.

Know the Signs of Elder Abuse

It’s hard to know how to prove nursing home negligence even if you think you’ve detected it. And there are many types of elder abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual, abandonment, financial, and neglect. Financial abuse can include various forms of exploitation and financial or insurance fraud. The NIH’s National Institute on Aging says to watch for these signs of elder abuse, some of which may apply to nursing home situations: 

  • They seem depressed, confused, or withdrawn. 
  • They are isolated from friends and family. 
  • They have unexplained bruises, burns, or scars. 
  • They appear dirty, underfed, dehydrated, over-or under-medicated, or not receiving care for medical problems. 
  • They have bed sores or other preventable conditions. 
  • You have noticed recent changes in banking or spending patterns.

Negligence in nursing homes can also take the form of prescription drug errors, including:

  • Prescribing the wrong drug or wrong dosage/frequency. 
  • Prescribing a drug that interacts poorly with other medications being taken. 
  • Not providing guidance with medication or monitoring its effects.
  • Prescribing medication that doesn’t account for the resident’s physical condition.

As our elderly population increases, the stress on the system rises. The global population of persons aged 60+ will increase from 900 million in 2015 to more than two billion in 2050. In a 2021 World Health Organization study, two out of three nursing home or long-term care facility employees reported having committed some form of abuse in the past year. The study also found emerging evidence abuse rose during the pandemic.

If you think you’ve detected abuse, there are several actions you should take, including contacting law enforcement. “Daily Caregiving,” a Senior Care advocacy resource, recommends taking the following six steps if you suspect elder abuse at a nursing home or long-term care facility:

  1. Talk with other families. They might have seen similar injuries or witnessed rough behavior. 
  2. Report your concerns. File a formal report with a facility administrator or owner. 
  3. Install a camera in their room. This may not be allowed in your facility, which can hinder care in some instances. 
  4. Visit regularly. Visit regularly and, as much as possible, engage with staff, so they know you and who you are visiting. 
  5. Move to another senior care community. If you fear for your elderly loved one’s immediate safety, move them to safer circumstances. 
  6. Document everything and report it to the proper authorities. In Indiana, you should consider contacting a local aging services agency, Adult Protective Services (APS), or the police.

Adult Protective Services and Law Enforcement

Indiana is a mandatory report state. If you suspect your loved one has suffered from neglect, battery, or exploitation, you must report it to APS or law enforcement. There are three qualities of an endangered adult in Indiana:

  1. The individual must be at least 18 years of age. 
  2.  They must be incapable by reason because of mental illness, intellectual disability, dementia, habitual drunkenness, excessive drug use, or other physical or mental incapacities, of managing or directing the management of the individual’s property or providing self-care; and
  3. Harmed or threatened with harm as a result of:
    1. Neglect
    2. Battery; or
    3. Exploitation of the individual’s personal services or property.

Can I Sue for Nursing Home Negligence?

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are in a relationship with their patient residents. As part of that nursing home/patient relationship, they must provide a standard of care by law. If they fail to deliver that standard of care and their resident is harmed physically, emotionally, or even financially, there may be a legal case for a negligence case. A simple explanation for determining if you have a potential claim is to consult the “four Ds” of medical negligence:

  1. Duty of care. Did the medical provider owe a duty commitment to the patient? In other words, was there a relationship?
  2. Dereliction of that duty. Did the medical provider violate the standard of care? Did they commit malpractice?  
  3. Direct causation. If so, did that negligence cause (or contribute to) damages?   
  4. Damages. If so, can you prove those damages (medical bills, lost wages, funeral & burial costs, e.g.) incurred by the negligence?

Favorable nursing home lawsuit settlements are often an outcome that often results from careful fact-finding, meticulous record-keeping, and teamwork. You can assist your attorney by maintaining records of any correspondence with the facility. If you can visit your loved one regularly, keep a journal with times and dates of all care. If you monitor a suspected case of ongoing abuse, you are the first line of defense for your loved one. Lawsuits can take many months or even several years.

How can you prove nursing home negligence? As you can see, it takes diligence as family members. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like a mountain of work and navigating complex bureaucracies. An experienced attorney can help you seek justice. Contact an attorney knowledgeable in Indiana malpractice laws and experienced in successfully defending medical negligence, nursing home negligence, and malpractice cases. It’s helpful to find a legal team backed by healthcare experts because these cases are often complex, contentious, and lean upon expert testimony.