Nursing Home Neglect May Be Related to Staff Drug Abuse

January 11, 2019 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Nursing Home Neglect May Be Related to Staff Drug Abuse

Nursing Home Staff Drug Abuse Consequences for Residents

Nursing home residents constitute a particularly vulnerable population. Whether suffering from mental or physical infirmity, they rely on nursing home staff to provide them with food, medicine, and other daily necessities. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect is an all too common feature of some nursing homes, and staff drug abuse can only compound the problems. If a nursing home or other long-term care facility neglected or abused your loved one, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation at (727) 451-6900.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Family and friends often isolate nursing home residents. Even when family and friends stay in regular contact, residents may feel afraid to complain about substandard treatment out of fear that staff will retaliate or that friends and family won't believe them. Nevertheless, look for these common signs of nursing home neglect the next time you visit a loved one at a care facility:
  • Sudden loss of weight for unexplained reasons
  • Bad personal hygiene
  • Unkept surroundings, such as soiled bed sheets and unswept floors
  • Illnesses falls, or injuries (especially when you haven't received notification about them)
  • An attack by another nursing home resident
  • Wandering away from the nursing home
  • Medication not given in a timely manner
If you see any of these problems, talk to the facility's staff, who should investigate. Follow any formal complaint process in place. And meet with a nursing home attorney who can discuss your options and investigate further, if necessary. Remember—better safe than sorry. Any nursing home might occasionally fall into chaos, and accidents take place in even the best-run facilities. But you'll never know if your loved one's fall resulted from a truly unavoidable accident or more systematic neglect unless you follow up and state your concerns.

Nursing Home Staff Drug Use—A Very Real Problem

Most nursing home employees work hard and strive to provide quality care to their patients. But some staff can become careless and neglect patients, particularly when they suffer from drug addiction. Like other healthcare facilities, nursing homes are full of prescription drugs, and staff has easy access to them. Nursing homes stock narcotics such as morphine, Percocet, and Dilaudid. If staff begin using these drugs, their subsequent addictions can lead to patient neglect. The American Nurses Association believes that about 10 percent of nurses suffer from drug addiction—the same addiction rate of the U.S. population at large. Thus, the same addition rate may hold for the facility's other non-nursing staff. When under the influence of drugs, nurses and other employees react slower, lack focus, and may become listless or disengaged from their jobs. If they suffer from withdrawal symptoms, they may behave erratically or put others at risk.

How Does Staff Drug Abuse Harm Nursing Home Residents?

The effects of drug abuse are often quite debilitating for those that are addicted but when it comes to those around them, the damage can sometimes be just as bad. The staff of nursing homes are expected to provide a professional level of care that ensures the safety of the residents. When nursing home staff are addicted they are much more likely to neglect their duties. This neglect can range from lax supervision of residents, failure to provide help when needed, missed medication administration, malnutrition of residents, dehydration of residents, and failure to provide medical assistance when needed. Nursing home residents that have become addicted to medication also are increasingly likely to develop abusive behaviors towards residents. Their behavior can easily switch to hostile towards residents at the drop of a hat. Residents can suffer physical abuse from staff that are emotionally compromised by the effects of drug addiction in the form of physical abuse or even sexual abuse. Desperation to fuel addiction can cause staff to steal medication from residents or sometimes blackmail them for medication by threatening abuse.

How Nursing Homes Are Legally Responsible

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have a duty to provide reasonable care to their residents, and they can't shirk this responsibility by blaming their employees. A nursing home must adequately supervise its staff, and it must not negligently hire unqualified employees. Anyone who actively abuses drugs is certainly unqualified to work with vulnerable residents. Nursing homes can meet their legal obligations to provide reasonable care by running criminal background checks on all of their new hires as part of the hiring process. By doing so, they can catch whether police have ever arrested perspective employees for drug possession and avoid hiring those people. However, nursing homes that fail to perform background checks have engaged in negligent hiring practices. A long-term care facility should also perform drug screenings before hiring. Any applicant who currently uses drugs presents a serious risk for continuing to use drugs while working at the nursing home. And this drug use can lead directly to your loved one being neglected.

Negligent Hiring of Nursing Home Staff

To hold nursing homes responsible for negligent hiring, you'll need to argue that they should have properly investigated potential hires but didn't. In particular, you'll need to show:
  • The nursing home was required to investigate the applicant but failed to do so
  • A proper investigation would have revealed the applicant's unsuitability
  • A nursing home that knew or should have known about the information hired the employee anyway, placing residents at unreasonable risk
You'll need to argue that the nursing home should have foreseen that staff using drugs at the time of hire would result in harm to the residents. Given the number of painkillers and other drugs in nursing homes, an attorney can usually help you meet this burden without difficulty.

Nursing Home Negligent Supervision

Even after performing background checks, a nursing home remains responsible for adequately supervising its staff. This means that a nursing home has a duty to investigate, reprimand, or discharge any employees whom they know are showing up to work high or abusing drugs while on the job. Employers are also legally responsible when they should have reasonably known that an employee is abusing drugs. In other words, a nursing home can't hide its head in the sand like an ostrich. If you see staff members who appear intoxicated or high—or if you suspect that painkillers or other drugs are missing from your loved one's room—notify the facility's management. They will have a duty to investigate and take appropriate action. If they don't, you may file a legal claim for negligent supervision against the facility.

Contact a Clearwater, Florida, Nursing Home Attorney Today

Nursing home residents deserve competent care, and you must hold facilities responsible for failing to supervise their staff. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we help neglected nursing home residents get the compensation they deserve. Our lawyers are happy to sit down with you to discuss the details of your case and offer some options as to how you can take legal action. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has extensive experience in handling cases of nursing home abuse and neglect and understands the sensitivity of the matter and how damaging nursing home abuse and neglect can be. Consider our attorneys as your legal representatives in your nursing home abuse claim. We will give you the personal attention one would expect from smaller firms with the resources and results of a large firm. Call us today for a free consultation at (727) 451-6900 or complete this online contact form.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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