Nursing Home Malpractice And Neglect

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Millions of senior citizens rely on assisted living facilities or nursing homes in this country. Sadly, over 30 percent of these facilities have admitted to some form of malpractice or neglect. Federal government officials have taken active roles to eliminate these types of behaviors. Since the late 1980s, legislatures have established new laws to regulate nursing home conduct, making sure that all employees fall into compliance. Even with new mandated regulations, nursing homes are still flocked with lawsuits related to malpractice and neglect.

What Is Malpractice?
Nursing home malpractice is a type of negligence that occurs as a result of a lack of professional conduct. Medical neglect takes place when residents are not provided with services necessary to treat medical ailments. Possible warning signs of medical neglect include extreme weight loss (a sign of malnutrition), pressure sores that appear in their last stages and have worsened over time, failure to contact family members in the event of an emergency, and any other health issues that are left untreated. Other non-medical related claims are classified as neglect because of their emotional, psychological, and physical consequences on the individual. Frequently placing an elder in isolation, leaving him or her in unsanitary conditions, or providing care that is considered below standards are all examples of neglect and malpractice.

What Are the Causes of Nursing Home Malpractice and Neglect?
Non-profit, assisted living facilities and nursing homes are difficult to come across because raising funds is nearly impossible for these establishments, particularly in times of economic distress. When a nursing home relies on funds received from residents, complications can occur. These institutions focus too heavily on profits rather than providing sufficient care to seniors. As a result, nursing homes are understaffed with unqualified employees, housing facilities are overcrowded, and seniors suffer from physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuses that go unnoticed.

All too often, families of nursing home residents fall victim to deceitful practices. In efforts to conserve money, nursing homes add "responsible party" clauses to their admissions papers. Unsuspecting individuals sign these papers, assuming that they are serving as primary contacts in case of emergencies. In reality, nursing homes are holding family members liable for additional charges incurred at later dates. According to federal regulations, nursing homes cannot force individuals to pay additional charges if they are not outlined in the initial admissions documents. Including this clause in the document is a tricky way to guarantee expenses are paid.

Malpractice and neglect is often a result of discrimination. Many senior citizens rely on Medicare and Medicaid for medical insurance coverage. However, these services have their limits, and most nursing homes receive only limited reimbursement amounts. Sometimes residents are covered for the first one hundred days in the facility, but still must come up with co-payments and other fees. Rather than losing business, nursing homes must provide payment plans and other financial opportunities for families. Nevertheless, employees tend to overlook individuals covered under these insurance programs, seeing them as less important than other patients. Federal laws prohibit these behaviors, but instances of discrimination have continued to manifest.

Intentional abuse cases are brought to the surface as a result of poorly trained staff, lack of background checks, and understaffed facilities. Organizations that are based around profits must make cuts in order generate revenue. Nursing homes employ inexperienced, poorly trained individuals to care for seniors. According to a case study conducted by Federal Department of Health and Senior Services in the year 2000, over 56 percent of nursing homes fall below licensed staffing requirements mandated by law. Nursing homes must be equipped with accurate staff-resident ratios to ensure that all needs are taken care of. The desire to increase funds has resulted in establishments that are overcrowded and understaffed.

Nursing home facilities must also limit training and hiring expenses. The hiring process must be as efficient as possible, and training is provided in a similar manner. Consequently, employees are responsible for tasks with which they have no experience, and individuals with criminal records are hired, risking the safety and well being of residents. Accidents are inevitable because employees lack the experience needed to handle certain situations. Elders must suffer from abuses because administrators refuse to adhere to federal guidelines.

What Should You Do?
If you have reason to believe that malpractice, neglect, or any other form of abuse is taking place within an assisted living facility, your first step is to locate an attorney who is most qualified to take on your case. Elder abuse and neglect attorneys specialize in nursing home cases, and are sure to guide you through all investigation and litigation processes. During these trying times, one should not be forced to take legal action alone. Yet, justice must prevail, and senior citizens need strong advocates to defend them. Contacting an attorney is a necessary step to ensure that your family member\'s rights are upheld.

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