“The resident shall be treated with consideration, respect and full recognition of dignity and individuality, including privacy in treatment and in care for the necessary personal and social needs.” You’ll find this in Title 28 of Pennsylvania Code. Unfortunately, you won’t find it in practice in every nursing home. According to statistics compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse in the United States, more than 30% of all nursing homes in America experience some form of resident abuse, whether it’s by staff or other residents.

What Constitutes Abuse in a NURSING HOME?

Title 28 defines abuse as “The infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental anguish, or deprivation by an individual, including a caretaker, of goods or services that are necessary to attain or maintain physical, mental and psychosocial well-being.”

Abuse includes the following:

  • Physical abuse — The intentional infliction of physical pain or injury to the victim, which may include hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking or restraining by physical or chemical means.
  • Verbal abuse — Any use of oral, written or gestured language that willfully includes disparaging and derogatory terms to residents or their families, or within their hearing range.
  • Mental abuse — The deliberate infliction of mental pain, anguish or distress through humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment or deprivation.
  • Sexual abuse — Any nonconsensual sexual act including sexual harassment, sexual coercion or sexual assault.
  • Involuntary seclusion — Separation of a resident from other residents or from his or her room or confinement to the room against the resident’s will, or that of the resident’s legal representative.
  • Neglect — The failure of a caregiver to meet the needs of the patient or resident. This commonly occurs when a resident doesn’t receive proper medical, physical, or emotional attention.

Although it does not appear in Title 28, financial exploitation constitutes abuse. Aside from caretaker abuse and neglect, it is the most frequent type of abuse against Pennsylvania elders. It involves illegally taking, misusing or concealing personal funds, property or assets.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Warning Signs:

There are a number of warning signs that the family of a nursing home resident should be mindful of. They include:

  • broken bones or fractures
  • bruising or pressure marks
  • cuts abrasions or welts
  • burns
  • bed sores
  • dehydration
  • unusual weight loss
  • poor hygiene
  • fear of being alone
  • agitation
  • frequent crying
  • unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
  • sudden change in alertness
  • overwhelming sadness
  • sudden and unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
  • unexplained transfer of money or assets
  • abrupt changes in the resident’s will or other legal documents

Best Legal Theory to Proceed On

Pennsylvania tort law provides nursing home residents with the right to seek financial compensation for injury resulting from abuse, neglect, or accidents. Claims are based on principals known as “legal theories”. In a lawsuit against a nursing home, a number of theories may be applicable. They include intentional tort, negligence, premises liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and even breach of contract.

Physical abuse by a nursing home might result in a lawsuit for the intentional tort of battery.

A financial exploitation case may revolve around the intentional torts of conversion or fraud.
Elopement (unsupervised wandering which results in a resident leaving the nursing home facility) can be the result of negligence. So can falls, which occur twice as often in nursing homes than among elderly people living in the community. Falls can also result from a dangerous condition in the nursing home, giving rise to a premises liability claim. Medical malpractice may be the basis for a lawsuit when the underlying care involved the practice of medicine, e.g., the treatment of bedsores. In some cases, it may be beneficial to raise a breach of contract claim.

As HKQ Law Attorney Ryan Molitoris points out, “An experienced personal injury attorney can determine the most effective legal theory or theories to assert given your specific circumstances.”

Recovering Damages

Financial compensation for successful plaintiffs falls into three categories:

Economic: Covers monetary expenditures necessitated as a result of the defendant’s wrongdoing. In nursing home lawsuits those costs are primarily related to medical treatment, as loss of wages are not typically involved.
Non-economic: Compensates for physical pain, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium.
Punitive: Includes damages designed to punish defendants for their willful or recklessly indifferent actions and to deter others from similar future misconduct.

Nursing home abuse or neglect can result in serious injury or even death. If you believe your loved one might have been the victim of nursing home mistreatment, contact HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529.

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