Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers in New Jersey
The family and friends of a nursing home resident rely on the staff of these facilities to care for their loved one with dignity and respect. Sadly, the opposite is too often the case.
Nursing home abuse and neglect is a widespread problem on the rise nationwide. A 2011 study found that 7 to 10 percent of elderly Americans suffered abuse in the prior year. However, the true number could be much higher; multiple studies have found that elder abuse is vastly underreported. One study claims that only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities, and the New York State Elder Abuse Prevention Study argues that the figure is closer to 1 in 25.
There are 16,639 nursing homes in the United States, adding up to about 1.73 million beds, according to data from the National Center on Elder Abuse. In 2008, more than 3 million Americans resided in nursing homes, and an additional 900,000 elders live in assisted living settings.
A House of Representatives report found that nearly one-third of U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations of federal care standards during a two-year period. Even more troubling, approximately 10 percent of all long-term care facilities committed violations that caused residents harm, serious injury, or put them in jeopardy of death.
Countering this unfortunate trend involves taking legal action against the nursing home and holding the abusers accountable. Negligent nursing homes must be penalized in cases of neglect and abuse so that these facilities are forced to adhere to the expected standards of operation. If you or a loved one has been abused by nursing home staff, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi today for a free and confidential consultation. We will thoroughly investigate your claim and make sure you and your loved ones get the justice you deserve.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Elder mistreatment constitutes intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder, according to the National Research Council. It is important to note that intent is irrelevant—whether or not the caregiver intended to cause harm, putting the elder at risk of harm or in harm’s way constitutes abuse.
Abuse is not necessarily a violent action against the elder; abuse includes failure to satisfy a nursing home resident’s basic needs or protect him or her from harm.
Nursing home abuse includes:
- Physical abuse: the use of physical force against an elder, including hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, striking, shaking, burning, or pushing.
- Sexual abuse: the initiation of unwanted sexual activity with an elder, whether through threats, deception, use of force, or taking advantage of an elder who lacks the presence of mind to consent.
- Psychological abuse: the use of words or actions to frighten, belittle, threaten, isolate, reject, humiliate, or bully the elder.
- Financial exploitation: unlawful or improper control of an elder’s finances or property through deception, coercion, misappropriation, forgery, or theft.
- Neglect: the withholding of care from an elder who is unable to care for themselves, including withholding food, water, necessary medication, or medical care.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
It is well-documented that elders suffering from abuse tend to suffer in silence. Some elders might not recognize the actions as abuse, or they might fear retaliation or further abuse. Therefore, recognizing the warning signs of abuse can help save an elder’s life or prevent serious injury.
Warning signs of nursing home abuse include:
- Tension or frequent arguments between the caregiver and the elder
- Unexplained injuries, including bruises, welts, and scars (especially if they appear on two sides of the body or appear symmetrical)
- Failure to take medication regularly or report of overdose
- Changes in the elder’s personality or behavior
- Broken eyeglasses
- Caregiver’s refusal to let you visit the elder alone
- Signs of being restrained
- Unexplained venereal diseases or genital infections
- Unusual weight loss
- Untreated bedsores
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Sudden changes in the elder’s financial situation or significant withdrawals from his or her accounts
- Suspicious changes in wills, titles, policies, or power of attorney
What Are Your Legal Options?
If you suspect a loved one is being abused in a long-term care facility, it is important to get an attorney involved right away. Many nursing homes are run by larger organizations that make it difficult for plaintiffs to make a case unaided, and the quicker an attorney gets involved, the quicker evidence can be gathered.
Elders and their relatives have several options when it comes to filing suit. Plaintiffs can bring actions alleging psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, consumer fraud (financial abuse), false imprisonment (if the elder was restrained against his or her will), financial exploitation, or neglect.
In order to bring legal action against a nursing home, you must prove that (1) the nursing home staff breached an accepted standard of care or failed to abide by a state or federal regulation, and (2) the breach of duty resulted in an injury.
New Jersey law requires the victim to be 60 years of age or older to qualify under elder abuse statutes. Under New Jersey law, someone can be charged with endangering the welfare of the elderly if the abuser has:
- A legal duty to care for (or has assumed continuing responsibility for) the care of an adult who is at least 60 years old or lives with an emotional, physical, or mental disability
- Neglected to care for the physical or mental health of the elderly or disabled person, or has failed to allow someone else to properly care for the elder’s physical or mental health needs
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 requires long-term care facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare payments to adhere to certain standards of care for residents. The Act established certain rights for nursing home residents, including the right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect; the right to freedom from physical restraints; the right to be treated with dignity; the right to communicate freely; and the right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
Contact a New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
You and your family deserve the peace of mind of knowing your elderly relatives are well taken care of. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi are prepared to investigate the circumstances of any signs of nursing home abuse or neglect. Call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 or fill out a quick inquiry form today.