Grand Rapids Nursing Home Residents Have Rights

Nursing homes are integral to our community-based services in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas. Nursing home placement is the only option for many families with physically and mentally fragile loved ones. As our population ages, the impact falls across all aspects of daily life, business, and industry. With this so-called Silver Tsunami, following in the wake of the Baby Boomer Generation, the need for long-term care facilities increased exponentially.

Abuse and neglect in a long-term care facility are major industry-wide concerns. Despite being highly regulated by federal and state mandates, the burden of protecting our vulnerable aging population in a community living setting is a challenge.

Sadly, elder abuse is all too often a silent and underreported problem. Michigan’s laws allow the victims of elder abuse to seek compensation for their injuries through a personal injury lawsuit.

The attorneys and support staff at Gruel Mills have over 30 years of experience helping Grand Rapids families and families throughout the Midwest pursue financial compensation for the expenses, trauma, indignities, and pain they have incurred due to nursing home abuse-related injuries. If the abuse or neglect results in death, it may be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Statistics And Projections

Government projections tell us a large percentage of adults (39 percent) will receive nursing home care in their lifetime. The National Center For Elder Abuse tells us 24 cases of abuse go unreported for every one reported case. One recent data set reports over 37,000 current residents in Michigan nursing homes. Only nine states (California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and Indiana) have more.

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What Makes Nursing Home Abuse Underreported

Those Who Reside in a Nursing Home

All residents of a nursing home, or skilled nursing facility, require assistance with some or all activities of daily living. Most are medically fragile, some are recovering from recent surgeries or lengthy inpatient hospital stays, and some are battling a terminal illness. These residents are vulnerable and often cannot defend themselves against abuse.

A nursing home has a legal responsibility to all the residents admitted to the facility to provide a safe environment to meet their physical, medical, and social needs. Elder abuse is egregious behavior; it is illegal, and it is actionable. If your family is dealing with violations of health and safety standards in a nursing home, reach out.

At Gruel Mills, our attorneys are committed to holding healthcare professionals, care home administrators, and nursing home support staff accountable. We are in a unique position to review and assess your concerns.—we have a nurse and a physician on staff. Let us help turn your questions into answers.

Grand Rapids Nursing Home Residents Have Rights

In addition to laws preventing verbal, sexual, physical, and financial abuse and exploitation, state and federal regulations uphold a nursing home’s resident’s rights. When a family has a fragile loved one in a residential health care facility, they trust the nursing home will afford the resident all the dignity, privacy, and unrestricted freedom and independence their particular health issue will allow.

They should accept nothing less than a clean, well-equipped, easily accessible facility with trained and qualified caregivers and licensed clinicians. A family should not have to deal with the consequences arising from malnutrition, dehydration, pressure sores, medication errors, repeated infections, or a cognitively impaired or dementia resident wandering unattended, trying to leave the facility. They should not accept any form of abuse or neglect.

A Grand Rapids Nursing Home Attorney Explains Abuse

Nursing home abuse is a prevalent and preventable cause of patient safety issues and concerns. A deliberate action that harms or threatens another person can be considered abuse.

When a nursing home resident is a target, we can investigate the following actions:

  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Yelling, swearing, insulting
  • Handling a resident roughly
  • The unauthorized use of restraints
  • Pulling too hard on a resident
  • Throwing something
  • Hitting
  • Biting
  • Pinching
  • Withholding food or water
  • Threatening violence

Neglect, while also a form of abuse, can be unintentional. When a resident does not receive the necessary care, such as clean clothing, food, water, medication, or personal hygiene, the nursing home neglects or abuses them. Whether neglect results from apathy, lack of training, insufficient staffing, or a willful, deliberate act—harming a nursing home resident is an offense not to be ignored.

Some specific examples of neglect include:

  • Being deprived of basic needs, such as a climate-controlled room, clean clothing and bedding, sufficient food, required medical care
  • Social isolation
  • Ignoring a request for help
  • Lack of supervision
  • Leaving a mobility-challenged resident  in their room for extended periods
  • Ignoring medical issues such as bedsores, infection, chills, or fever
  • Failing to assess a resident after a fall
  • Medication mismanagement
  • Not providing oral/dental care
  • Failure to follow established safety precautions

Other examples of abuse include sexual assault, misuse of a resident’s personal property or finances, forgery, theft, and coercing a resident to sign documents, contracts, or a will.

Some Common Nursing Home Injuries

Unfortunately, these fragile and vulnerable individuals may sustain fractures, pressure ulcers, lacerations, infections, and medication errors. When they result from abuse or neglect, you may file a lawsuit. Sadly, death often results from such horrendous treatment.

What Makes Nursing Home Abuse Underreported

Why do residents fail to speak up about abuse?

In addition to physical limitations or cognitive impairment, there are several reasons why nursing home residents may be hesitant to speak out about abuse, including:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Fear of losing the care they need

Why do nursing home staff members ignore signs of abuse?

Sometimes those best positioned to shed light on suspected abuse (nursing home staff members) deliberately fail to do so out of:

  • Fear of losing their job
  • Complacency
  • Insufficient training
  • Perceived lack of administrative support

Why do family members fail to report resident abuse?

  • Fear of being forced to move the resident
  • Having no other options for placement
  • Failure to recognize the signs of abuse
  • Unaware of how to document abuse

The personal injury attorneys at Gruel Mills focus on nursing home abuse; we have above-board professional ethics, personal integrity, and the resources and resolve to handle these complicated and challenging cases.

You Can Hold a Nursing Home Liable for Resident Abuse

A nursing home is responsible for the health and safety of every resident.

Victims of nursing home abuse recover financial compensation for harm from:

  • A lack of sufficient professional staff
  • A lack of appropriate support staff
  • Poor hiring practices
  • Failure to thoroughly investigate staff
  • A lack of training and supervision
  • Another resident
  • A visitor to the facility
  • Unsafe environment
  • Broken equipment
  • Lack of important documentation
  • Failure to accommodate high-risk residents
  • Fraud

What Damages Can I Recover?

A plaintiff in a nursing home abuse lawsuit can seek compensatory damages for:

  • The resident’s past and future medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering, emotional distress
  • Psychological injuries
  • Disfigurement
  • The cost of a caregiver
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Loss of any enjoyment
  • Shortened life expectancy
  • Wrongful death

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim In Grand Rapids

Statistically, most nursing home abuse cases in Michigan will resolve through an insurance carrier settlement. Whether a plaintiff recovers compensation due to a settlement, or a jury verdict, they must follow legal protocols and specific time constraints for taking legal action. Under Michigan law, a patient injured due to the negligence of a nursing home or nursing home staff member has two (2) years from the date of the abuse or neglect to file a lawsuit.

Family and Friends Can Help

Concerned friends and family are instrumental in helping to keep our senior citizens safe and well cared for. Trust your gut instinct. If something does not feel right, it may not be. When visiting the facility, look for signs of:

Physical abuse

  • Fractures
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Facial cuts or broken eyeglasses
  • Fearfulness

Emotional abuse

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Behavioral changes
  • Social isolation
  • Repetitive motions
  • Refusing to take medication

Financial abuse

  • Unexplained credit card expenditures
  • Reports from the resident of a missing wallet or checkbook
  • Receipts for unknown subscriptions or contributions
  • Signs of hoarding

Signs of neglect

  • Unclean clothing
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bedsores
  • Dehydration
  • Unclean room
  • Unexpected infection
  • Frequent falls

Report It and Record It

Staffing shortages leave healthcare workers overburdened and may result in dangerous gaps in necessary resident care. Without enough workers per shift, meals may come late, staff may not provide medications on time, and essential medical tasks often fall by the wayside. Regulations should ensure sufficient skilled care in American nursing homes. If a concern becomes a problem, report it to the nursing home’s administration.

Adequate professional care can reduce:

  • The incidence of bedsores
  • Inappropriate use of restraints
  • Dehydration
  • Overuse of antipsychotics
  • Acquired infection
  • Trips to the emergency room
  • Mortality

“Overall, 75 percent of nursing homes almost never met the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) expected RN staffing levels based on resident acuity.”— National Institute of Health -National Center for Biotechnology Information

While Medicare does not set a minimum resident-to-staff ratio, it does require the presence of a registered nurse for eight hours a day and a licensed nurse at all times. Medicare has an interactive website to allow concerned family members access to the current ratings for facilities in their area.

Speak up if you feel the nursing home violates your written agreement or is not meeting your expectations. Speak up if you witness any resident-on-resident abuse. Speak up if you feel there is a lack of security in the building.

How Our Grand Rapids Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Can Help

Grand Rapids Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer, Scott R. Melton

A family member is often the first line of defense for a resident in a nursing home. We understand it is hard to monitor a situation from afar. Although a nursing home is the best place for your family member’s immediate needs—you can be their voice.

The lawyers at Gruel Mills have decades of experience advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves—we stand ready to become a part of your support system. There are many obstacles to accountability for negligence and abuse—we can help.

Without legal assistance, it can be challenging to establish nursing home abuse or neglect and to receive the compensation your family deserves. A nursing home may be quite skilled in hiding or covering up negligent practices; suspected staff members will deny culpability or claim the resident inflicted some of the injuries on themselves.

Without a doubt, the insurance carriers for the suspected defendants will make every effort to deny or devalue the claim. If you suspect abuse, take immediate action and call for your no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

Our Michigan nursing home abuse attorneys at Gruel Mills are committed to protecting our communities’ elder citizens. We know Michigan’s nursing home laws and have decades of experience helping families like yours pursue financial compensation for the damages their loved ones suffered.

Some things we may review during a discovery period include:

  • Admission records
  • The initial intake of patient history
  • Medical records
  • Medication logs
  • Nurses notes
  • Staff background check reports
  • Any written correspondence between the family and the facility
  • Copies of the most recent state inspection

We review any photographs and/or text messages a family may have concerning the resident.

We may interview any visitor(s) the resident has regularly, and we ask to see the facility’s written policy and procedures for:

  • Fall prevention
  • Infection control
  • Sepsis
  • Wound care protocol
  • Preventing pressure sores

When a nursing facility does not always provide reasonable or acceptable skilled care, the lawyers at Gruel Mills know what questions to ask. We have access to a support system that can help establish when nursing homes don’t adhere to acceptable standards of care, and we have the drive and the dedication to do the job right. Call us at (616) 235-5500 or contact us online to find out how we can help you and your loved one, hold the nursing home accountable, and protect other residents from the abuse or neglect you and your loved one suffered.

Grand Rapids Office Location

Campau Square Plaza Building
99 Monroe Ave NW #800
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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