A nursing home is often the best place for an elderly loved one to be. They should be safe there, receiving 24/7 care and assistance with daily activities. Nonetheless, leaving them in the care of others may cause you to worry about the potential for nursing home accidents and neglect that could lead to injuries or even death.
The statistics are frightening. Among Washington’s 202 nursing homes from 2017 through 2020, more than 10,720 deficiencies were found during federal inspections resulting in fines in excess of $6.7 million.
I am proud to help clients in Seattle and western Washington whose loved ones have suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home. If you believe you or your loved one has been a victim, contact me at The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III to schedule a free consultation.
Among those the Washington State Vulnerable Adult Statute aims to protect are adults 60 years of age and older who are functionally, mentally, or physically unable to care for themselves or those adults who are developmentally disabled. The statute seeks to protect people living in nursing homes or other facilities or those who receive care from agencies or aides in their homes. The statute is designed to protect adults who are at the mercy of their caregivers.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 was passed to ensure that nursing home residents would receive care that would allow them to achieve or maintain the best possible physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. To that end, nursing homes are required to provide certain services to all residents, including nursing, rehabilitation, pharmaceutical, dietary, and social services. Nursing homes must also adhere to a Residents’ Bill of Rights which guarantees:
The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
The right to freedom from physical restraints
The right to privacy
The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
The right to participate in resident and family groups
The right to be treated with dignity
The right to exercise self-determination
The right to communicate freely
The right to participate in the review of one's care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility
The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal
Nursing homes are required by law to deliver a quality of care to residents that include providing adequate medical, personal care, and maintenance. If their failure to do so results in physical or mental injury to residents or in the deterioration of a resident’s physical or mental condition, that constitutes neglect.
Nursing home staff, from aides and assistants to licensed practical nurses and registered nurses, provide most of the care to nursing home residents. Federal and state laws require specific education, training, and certification for nurses at all levels, as well as minimum staffing levels to ensure proper quality of care. Washington State currently requires a minimum of 3.4 hours per day of direct care, including activities of daily living, nursing, and care planning. Insufficient staffing can lead to serious consequences for residents, including but not limited to:
Inadequate supervision that could lead to falls and other accidents
Failure to administer medications as prescribed or medication errors
Failure to provide medical assistance to residents suffering from falls, health emergencies, and other incidents
Failure to maintain the facility in a manner that keeps it free from hazards
Evidence of nursing home abuse and neglect can be obvious or difficult to discern. There are many signs of accidents such as falls, bruises, and broken bones. Malnutrition, dehydration, unclean conditions, wandering, and over-medication are other signs to look out for when you are visiting a loved one. You should also listen to what they tell you and take complaints seriously. In busy nursing homes struggling to maintain adequate staff levels, residents can often go unheard.
As a protective measure, residents have the right to install electronic devices in their rooms, including “granny cams,” if they have written consent from roommates and have notified the nursing home. The facility is not allowed to access the device or recordings without your written consent.
By law, anyone who contributed to any abuse or neglect is liable and can be named in a civil suit. That includes physicians, nurses, ancillary staff, management, and owners. Each of them is responsible for ensuring that residents are cared for via proper training and certification of staff, complying with staffing requirements, and delivering the mandated standard of care.
Claims stemming from nursing home accidents and neglect are complex and difficult to prove. They often require medical and witness testimony to corroborate how injuries were caused. Because these matters are complicated, you need an attorney knowledgeable in federal and state nursing home laws and experienced in proving injury and wrongful death claims.
Before I started representing clients and their families in personal injury, negligence, and wrongful death claims, I defended doctors, nurses, and healthcare facilities against such claims. I understand how those who have been negligent try to escape being held accountable for the harm their negligence has caused others. I give voice to families and their loved ones when others refuse to hear them.
At The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III, I am proud to represent individuals and families throughout Seattle and other communities in western Washington, including Puget Sound, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett. If you believe your loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence, you can take legal action now. Call today to schedule a free consultation.