Sometimes, people reach a point in their lives where they desire or may benefit from 24/7 care. Nursing homes exist for circumstances like these. They are supposed to be safe places for people who need continuous care to live and enjoy their lives. The people who live in nursing homes (and their loved ones) expect and deserve high-quality care.
The unfortunate truth is that, sometimes, good care is not provided in nursing homes. Abuse and neglect can and does occur inside Boston's nursing home walls. Moreover, this abuse could be hidden in such a way that the victim or their friends and family cannot know what is happening.
If that happens to you or a loved one, give Dolman Law Group a call. We know how to investigate allegations of neglect and abuse—and our Boston nursing home negligence lawyers know how to hold even the biggest corporations accountable for the harm they cause to the residents in their care.
Dolman Law Group: Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers in Boston
Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Attorneys in Boston
If you or someone you love has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you do not need to fight for justice alone. The team at Dolman Law Group is here to help.
Our skilled Boston personal injury attorneys work diligently to help our Boston clients pursue the justice and compensation that they deserve.
We understand how traumatic and life-changing neglect or abuse in a nursing home can be. We respect your loved ones, help educate and empower you throughout the legal process, and don't charge attorney fees unless your case wins or settles.
Reach out to our team today to find out more about how you may benefit from legal representation. Remember: nobody deserves to suffer abuse or neglect. The effects of this abuse could linger for many years to come, causing physical, financial, and emotional harm.
What Is Nursing Home Neglect in Boston?
Nursing Home Neglect Defined
Nursing home neglect is any neglect that occurs when nursing home staff fail to care for patients. At times, this failure can lead to aggressive or deviant behavior on the part of people in the facility or those who are passing through.
When someone works at a nursing home, they accept that they owe patients a duty of care. That means that they are obligated to care for residents and attend to their needs.
When they do not do so, they engage in neglect.
- Nursing home neglect frequently occurs when nursing homes are understaffed and cannot supervise or care for patients.
- Nursing home neglect also commonly happens because of improper staff training; sometimes training is not adequate, sometimes it's misleading, and sometimes it doesn't exist.
- Nursing homes may not be laid out properly, leading to the intentional or unintentional isolation of an abuse victim.
- There are vendors, part-time employees, visitors, and other residents who may perpetrate the abuse.
A Definition of Elder Abuse
There is also a definition of the term “elder abuse.” The CDC offers a definition: the intentional act (or failure to act) by a caregiver…that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. Remember, however, that there are times when elder abuse is almost passive in its scope. One party may be perpetrating the abuse while others are simply not paying close attention. It happens way too often:
- The National Center on Elder Abuse has shared statistics that indicate roughly 95 percent of nursing home residents either see or experience neglect
- Over 15 percent of elder abuse claims center on neglect
- According to the World Health Organization, one in six people over the age of 60 experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year
- Two in three staff reported that they have committed abuse in the past year according to the same WHO study
- As rapidly aging populations increase, elder abuse is likely to increase as nursing homes and assisted living facilities are inundated with new residents for which they may not be prepared
- Rates of elder abuse, once again found by the WHO, are increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic
I thought Boston nursing homes were supposed to be safe spaces for the elderly?
You're right. A nursing home should be the safest and most beneficial place to be for someone elderly who needs care. Moreover, friends and family should feel as though they can trust that their elderly loved ones will be safe when they stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
With that said, all too many nursing homes outright fail to provide proper care. Nursing home negligence and abuse are much more common than most people would ever believe. Many elderly people suffer injury—and even death—because of neglect and abuse in nursing homes.
The Nursing Home Reform Act
What Is the Nursing Home Reform Act?
The Nursing Home Reform Act is a law to help protect nursing home residents across the entire country. Signed into law in 1987, the NHRA created a list of federal standards by which nursing homes would be judged. The law helped increase staffing at nursing homes, especially considering elder abuse often occurs when facilities are understaffed.
It lays out nursing home residents' rights:
- Freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
- Freedom from physical restraints
- Accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
- Participate in resident and family groups
- Be treated with dignity
- Exercise self-determination
- Communicate freely
- Participate in the review of ones' care plan AND to be fully informed in advance about changes in care, treatment, and changes of status in the facility
- Voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal
The Nursing Home Reform Act also lays out certain rules about how nursing homes should operate. They need to:
- Maintain enough staff to provide appropriate care
- Develop comprehensive care plans for every patient
- Ensure that every patient receives adequate nutrition
- Make sure that each resident receives proper vision and hearing treatment to maintain their senses
- Prevent patients from developing bedsores
- Offer dietary services
- Offer pharmaceutical services
- Offer social services
- Offer appropriate nursing services
- Offer rehabilitation services
- Complete periodic assessments for all patients
- Create comprehensive care plans for all patients
- Keep a full-time social worker on-hand if the home has more than 12 beds
Boston Nursing Homes Must Keep the Residents from Wandering
One unfortunately common occurrence of neglect we see in our practice is elopement or wandering. This is when a nursing home resident leaves the facility without the knowledge of the staff. In this situation, the resident can get hurt or victimized by someone with the intent to do harm.
Your loved one should not have the opportunity to do this. Every facility should have security measures in place to prevent this from occurring. Your loved one could have left out an unlocked side door and fell, breaking their leg.
In a situation where abuse is present, your loved one might not get appropriate treatment for this injury. The staff might verbally berate your loved one instead, blaming them for the injury.
Your family could secure damages if your loved one experienced anything similar to the anecdote above.
Boston Nursing Homes Must Maintain Records of the Care They Provide
Nursing homes are federally mandated to document assessments, care plans, care provided, and so on. State laws require this, too. If the documentation is ever incomplete or inaccurate, it may constitute a breach of the law. A circumstance such as this may point to an issue that could lead to elder abuse.
While you may not have hard evidence of elder abuse, you may want to reach out to an attorney to discuss where your elderly loved one's nursing home is lacking. If you have questions or concerns about a nursing home's documentation of your loved one's care, a nursing home neglect and abuse attorney at Dolman Law Group can help you.
Assessment and Care Plans in Boston Nursing Homes
The term “assessment and care plan” may sound familiar to you if you already have experience with a loved one in a nursing home. These documents are required under the Nursing Home Reform Act.
- Within two weeks of admission to a nursing home, it's required for residents to undergo an assessment. The assessment is designed to help the nursing home determine each individual's needs, interests, and strengths.
- If someone is a Medicare resident, this assessment must occur within seven days of admission.
- The assessment is used to help plan the care and services a patient receives.
- Assessments must be reviewed annually or if a patient's condition improves or changes.
Assessment and care plans are very detailed. They include details about which members of nursing home staff are responsible for completing certain tasks or providing care. An assessment and care plan even details when care and services should be given.
These plans are completed within seven days of a patients' intake assessment finalization.
Psychological and Emotional Abuse in Boston Nursing Homes
Psychological and emotional abuse are often present in cases of nursing home neglect. Nursing home staff can cause psychological trauma in a resident. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it's important to keep in contact with them and watch for potential signs of emotional or psychological abuse. Examples of these signs include:
- Acting upset
- Being easy to agitate or upset
- Becoming withdrawn
- Making reports of abuse, threats, insults, etc.
- Unusual behavior like biting or sucking
- Sudden personality changes
Physical Signs of Neglect in Boston Nursing Homes
How can I tell someone is being neglected in a Boston nursing home?
Consider that not every instance of nursing home abuse or neglect causes visible signs. Just because you don't see the signs of abuse or neglect, it doesn't mean that the abuse or neglect is not occurring. Always keep a watchful eye for problematic behavior from nursing home faculty and always speak honestly with your loved one about their circumstances in the home.
In cases where a person does begin to show signs of nursing home neglect, he or she may display:
- Poor personal hygiene
- Behavioral changes
- Unsanitary or unclean conditions
- Unexplained injuries
- Rapid weight loss
- Pressure or bed sores
If you notice signs like these in your loved one, it's important to act swiftly to protect their health. You can work with authorities and a nursing home negligence lawyer to fight for compensation after damages caused by neglect.
Pressure Sores Due to Boston Nursing Home Neglect
When someone elderly has restricted mobility, they may develop pressure sores when they can't move from bed for extended lengths of time. Our nerves usually tell our bodies when we need to move if we lay like this, but if someone older in a bed cannot move, they could develop a pressure sore in as little as one to two hours.
Pressure sores are totally preventable. They are also treatable with proper care. If your loved one has suffered pressure or bedsores due to nursing home negligence, medical care can help.
Pressure sores can also come from sitting in chairs or on other hard surfaces. In fact, these pressure sores happen even faster than pressure sores that occur in beds.
Five Types of Boston Nursing Home Abuse
What kinds of nursing home abuse are there?
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect occurs when nursing home staff do not offer adequate services and care to nursing home residents. Services can refer to medical services, social services, etc.
Neglect is common in nursing homes. This is due to the persistent issue of understaffing; most nursing homes don't have enough staff to adequately care for patients.
Some of the signs of neglect in nursing homes include:
- Unsanitary conditions
- Under- or malnourishment
- Improperly administered medications
When nursing home neglect occurs, its impact on nursing home residents is profound. People suffer both physical and emotional damage when they suffer neglect. Many times, a person who has seen or experienced neglect in a nursing home will display behavioral shifts.
Nursing Home Physical Abuse
We all understand what physical abuse looks like, but did you know that the physical abuse you hear about in day-to-day life can also happen inside of nursing homes? Sometimes, nursing home staff abuse residents on a physical level. Hitting, kicking, slapping, punching, cutting, and other forms of physical abuse are all clearly forbidden by law, and create terrible scenarios for nursing home residents.
If someone lives in a nursing home where physical abuse is occurring, their safety is in jeopardy. This is especially true if the person is the one being abused, but even witnessing physical abuse can lead to serious problems.
Nursing Home Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is all too common in nursing homes—especially since it often flies under the radar in comparison to things like physical and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse should be taken seriously: It has the potential for a profound impact on nursing home residents' lives.
Some examples of emotional abuse in nursing homes include:
- Verbal abuse
Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, sexual abuse can and does happen in nursing home settings. Staff in these facilities can coerce, assault, and abuse residents in a variety of scenarios.
Nursing Home Financial Exploitation
Nursing home financial exploitation is not quite like nursing home physical, sexual, or emotional abuse—it usually involves taking money from nursing home residents. The people who live in nursing homes are often more susceptible to being exploited than most other people. They may need financial assistance or have finances that are not monitored by a family member or custodian, which makes it easy for staff to prey on them financially.
Keep in mind that financial abuse may seem quite innocent at first as your loved one likely wants to do a kindness for someone in the facility. However, these situations can spiral out of control quickly. Yes, you should monitor your elderly loved one's finances, but you should also report ANY instances of staff taking money from patients.
Plus, it is wise to warn your elderly loved ones that their money is their own and all the staff is already paid a salary to present in the facility.
Steps You Can Take to Choose Safer Nursing Homes in Boston
We have to make something extremely clear: it is never your fault or your loved one's fault if they experience abuse or neglect in a nursing home. There is never a guarantee that a nursing home or its staff will treat your family member with the respect and care that they deserve.
There are a handful of steps you can take to try to weed out exceptionally dangerous nursing homes, though. Remember, you may have received recommendations from friends or seen advertising for a certain nursing home, but that cannot make up for a proper evaluation of the facility.
Just keep in mind that even the country's top nursing home could accidentally hire a neglectful staff member, and remember that appearances aren't always what they seem, either.
- Don't use private websites to evaluate nursing homes; these sites often include incomplete or incorrect information—they may even be run by homes themselves. These sites usually focus more on services and costs than concerns with personal experiences anyway.
- Use the Massachusetts government's website to look for information about nursing home inspections and complaints.
Helping Ensure Your Loved One Receives Proper Care
Once again: It is not your job to make sure that your family member is cared for and respected in a nursing home. With that said, many nursing homes fail to do their due diligence and ensure that this happens.
Because of this, we recommend that families proactively try to help facilitate open discussions about nursing home residents' care.
- Ask questions often—don't rely on totally transparent answers, because many victims of neglect and abuse do hide their experiences.
- Maintain good relationships with the people who care for your loved one; keep an eye on how they act and look for signs that something may be wrong.
- Get to know the staff so that you know who goes in and out throughout the day. Maintaining a relationship with the director of the facility is also a good idea.
The NCEA recognizes elder neglect as elder abuse. If you or someone you know has suffered physical, emotional, financial, sexual, or psychological abuse in a nursing home, you can find legal help. You need to remove the abused or neglected person from the nursing home immediately.
You should reach out to a reliable nursing home neglect attorney once the move is facilitated. A lawyer will help you understand your rights and will help you fight for justice.
Nursing Home Neglect FAQ
What does Nursing Home Neglect Look Like?
- Dehydration: Papery skin, dry mucous membranes
- Malnutrition: Hair loss, coldness, tiredness, irritability
- Unexplained injury or illness: Negligence often causes these when they are preventable
- Poor hygiene: Look for signs concerning the teeth and hair; you may also notice body odor
- Depression: Distancing, withdrawn behavior, sadness, lethargy
Just because you don't notice these symptoms, it doesn't mean they aren't present. Many older people who are neglected or abused in nursing homes do not want other people to find out. Be aware that your loved one may try to hide the signs of abuse or neglect.
Can I Move My Loved One to a Different Boston Nursing Home?
Yes. You have the right to help move your loved one into a different nursing home for any reason.
You absolutely can and should relocate someone who is suffering abuse or neglect in a nursing home setting.
- Contact law enforcement for help if there is an emergency or a problem with the nursing home.
- If it is not an emergency, you can put together a housing and transfer plan to ensure the entire moving process goes smoothly.
Does the Nursing Home Reform Act Apply in Boston?
Yes. The Nursing Home Reform Act is a piece of federal legislation. As such, it applies in all 50 states. Most states even have additional laws to protect people in nursing homes. Usually, these laws mirror federal OBRA statutes.
Am I to Blame Because I Put My Loved one in a Boston Nursing Home?
Absolutely not. Nursing home staff owe your loved one a duty of care. It's their job to take care of your family member. Nursing homes are supposed to be safe places where medical and other professionals can help someone live a fulfilling life at an older age. People who work in nursing homes are paid to take care of the person you love. You are not to blame for trusting them to do their jobs.
Can Boston Nursing Home Negligence Cause Death?
Unfortunately, yes. Nursing home neglect does have the potential to lead to death. If you have lost a loved one to nursing home neglect, you may still have the right to pursue justice for what happened. Ask a nursing home negligence lawyer about a wrongful death case; many lawyers who help with nursing home abuse and neglect cases can also help with a wrongful death case. If the attorney of your choice can't help you, he or she can point you towards someone who can.
Are there Legal Consequences If a Boston Nursing Home Staff Member Abuses or Neglects My Loved One?
Yes. There are legal consequences if a nursing home staff member neglects or abuses someone in their care. This can lead to investigations and fines from adult protective service agencies.
In some instances of abuse and neglect, perpetrators may even face criminal prosecution.
- Someone who lives in a nursing home has the right to retain a lawyer and file a lawsuit to seek compensatory damages due to the violation of their rights.
- Loved ones and family members of nursing home residents experiencing abuse or neglect can help the elder person with the process of finding an attorney; if you have questions about how, ask us.
Is Malnutrition a Sign of Boston Nursing Home Neglect?
Yes. Malnutrition is often a sign of nursing home negligence. In some other circumstances, it may also point to nursing home physical abuse (withholding food, for example).
Symptoms of malnutrition include:
- Sunken eyes
- Muscle weakness
- Dry mucous membranes
- Hair loss, dullness
What About Physical Abuse in Boston Nursing Homes?
It's important to recognize that there's a distinction between nursing home physical abuse and nursing home neglect. With that said, the two are very commonly seen together. Both are very serious issues that deserve punishment within the full power of the law.
Some basic examples of psychical abuse in nursing homes include:
- Hitting patients, striking patients
- Depriving patients of water, medicine, or food
Where Can I Find More Information About the Sexual Abuse of Elders in Boston Nursing Homes?
In some severe cases, sexual abuse does occur in nursing home settings. If you suspect that someone you love may be a victim of nursing home sexual abuse, it's imperative to contact authorities immediately. You should also seek legal counsel to help protect your family member.
Are Boston Nursing Homes Required to Have a Certain Number of Staff Members?
It depends. Nursing homes are not always required to have a specific amount of staff. There are no federal laws that require minimum staff levels in nursing homes. Medicare rates nursing homes based on staff levels, but a designated number of staff members is not required. It also doesn't mean that every understaffed nursing home gets in trouble or gets shut down.
How Can I Tell the Difference Between when an Elderly Person Is Experiencing Neglect and When They Are Simply Going Through the Natural Aging Process?
Here's something to consider: everyone who lives in a nursing home is either disabled, aging, or sick.
This never gives nursing home faculty some sort of “pass” to offer poor care or neglect residents. Abuse and negligence are never acceptable, and they are never legally permitted in nursing homes. These things have nothing to do with illness or aging.
If you believe that something may be wrong with your loved one's care, take action to make sure they are safe. Even if you're wrong, you can rest assured knowing that you took steps to protect them. Neglect and abuse do happen in nursing homes. It's imperative to keep a watchful eye for signs of abusive or neglectful behavior.
What Are Pressure Sores?
Pressure sores are very common in neglectful and abusive nursing home settings. You may also have heard them referred to as bedsores, pressure ulcers, and other similar things. These sores are treatable—which is good news for you and your loved one—but they are completely preventable in the first place.
- If someone can't move from one position (like lying on a bed) for an extended time, they create constant pressure on certain spots on their bodies; this pressure creates a sore
What Is an Assessment and Care Plan in a Boston Nursing Home?
You may already be familiar with assessment and care plans if your loved one currently lives in a nursing home.
If not, here's a basic overview:
- The Nursing Home Reform Act requires that nursing facilities create assessment and care plans for every resident
- These plans must be completed within 14 days of someone's admission to a nursing home
- If someone is a Medicare patient, the deadline changes to seven days
Assessment and care plans lay out the details about how someone should receive care in a nursing home. The services they receive and any specific needs they have are outlined in the plan. Assessment and care plans are reviewed annually or when a patients' condition changes—whichever comes first.
What Can I Do to Prevent Boston Nursing Home Negligence?
Instances of nursing home neglect or abuse are never residents' fault—and they aren't your fault, either. These things are often preventable, however, when the nursing home exercises proper care.
With that said, there are some steps you can take to try to improve your loved one's safety in a nursing home.
These may help minimize the chances of abuse or neglect, but they do not eradicate the possibility:
- Believe your loved ones: One of the most beneficial things you can do for a loved one in a nursing home is to believe what they say. If they file reports of abuse, neglect, or similar issues, listen to them and take appropriate action immediately.
- Stay in regular contact with your loved one: The more often you talk to your loved one, the more likely you are to notice changes in their behavior and care. Your loved one will also remain more comfortable with you and, in theory, be more willing to share their experiences and care.
- Review nursing home facilities before you decide on one: Sometimes, all the research in the world won't prevent the terrible outcome of someone suffering abuse or neglect. You can definitely check boxes when it comes to selecting a nursing home that should offer good care, but there are no guarantees. Try to look out for unsanitary conditions, unhappy residents, and reports of abuse or neglect.
Can I Sue a Boston Nursing Home on Behalf of a Loved One Who Has Passed Away Because of Negligence?
Yes. If you have lost a loved one to nursing home neglect in Massachusetts, you could be eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home.
A Boston Nursing Home Lawyer Can Help You or Your Loved One
A lawyer can help if you or someone you love has suffered nursing home negligence or abuse.
If you hire a lawyer to help in instances of nursing home neglect or abuse, you will find that pursuing justice is a much easier process. Lawyers spend years in school (and practicing in the field) to learn how to do several key things.
Even though your loved one's neglect feels so much bigger than these basic points, these are the most important things in your case:
- The nursing home owed a duty of care to the injured or neglected person (this is automatic if the person was a resident)
- The nursing home breached the duty of care (they did not abide by their legal responsibilities)
- The breach of duty caused the victim's injuries
This is where an attorney comes into play. When you select a nursing home neglect attorney, he or she can prove the above and meet the legal requirements to bring a case. You have a guarantee that someone with the legal knowledge and capabilities to secure justice is on your side.
Count on Our Team Throughout Your Nursing Home Abuse Case
Our team has dealt with many cases of this kind. We devote our time and attention to elders and their families. We aim to secure justice and fair compensation for families that have suffered due to nursing home negligence. Our team is prepared to do the following to help you:
- File paperwork
- Search for evidence that proves your loved one's claim
- Valuate your loved one's losses
- Communicate with all involved parties
- File a lawsuit within the relevant timeline
- Negotiate with insurance companies
- Answer your questions
- Protect your loved one's rights
How Much does It Cost to Hire a Boston Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer?
Our Boston nursing home attorneys offer their services on a contingency-fee basis. This means that you won't need to pay them any attorney fees unless you secure a settlement or judgment.
Dolman Law Group Can Help You
Dolman Law Group is committed to helping survivors of nursing home neglect and abuse throughout Boston find justice. If you need legal representation following abuse or neglect in a nursing home, reach out to us today. Our lawyers have helped thousands of clients obtain success, and you deserve empathy, support, and empowerment throughout the legal process.
You can easily get ahold of Dolman Law Group, or you can write to us using our online contact page. Let us fight for justice for you and your loved one.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
76 Canal Street, Suite 302
Boston, MA 02114