Nursing Home Neglect

 

For elderly individuals in need of constant care, Indiana nursing homes and assisted living facilities can provide real solutions to patients and families. While many of these homes are wonderful places staffed by talented caregivers, there still exists the possibility of neglect. Statistics show that 5 million seniors reported neglect or abuse by healthcare providers. Even more concerning is the fact that many elderly patients don’t speak up or report abuse, meaning these numbers may be even higher. Nursing home neglect in Indianapolis requires the assistance of an Indiana medical malpractice lawyer with experience. Christie Farrell Lee & Bell are here to answer all your questions and provide you or a loved one with guidance through this difficult topic.

Signs of Indiana Nursing Home Neglect

Discovering your loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect in Indiana is a difficult pill to swallow. Because there may be hesitation from the patient to report such abuse, the red flags for neglect can sometimes be tough to spot. Here are some signs that you or a loved one may be a victim of nursing home neglect.

  1. Falls in Nursing Homes 

The CDC found 25% of seniors suffer injuries from falling each year. For those patients, falling once doubles the chances of falling again. Chronic conditions like low circulation, vertigo, and diabetes can increase the chances of a fall. Since our bodies have lower bone density and muscle tone as we age, falling is a more serious risk the older we get. In fact, more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling.

Because of these higher risks, some residents have mandatory procedures as part of their plan of care at the nursing home. Medical staff is always on-call and should know which patients need help with mobility and self-care. Getting in and out of bed, a wheelchair, a bathtub, or even using the toilet are times when seniors are at high risk for falls.

CDC data shows that 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments each year for injuries caused by a fall, and many falls don’t get reported. Falls in a nursing home are a sign that you or your loved one may not be getting adequate care.

  1. Bedsores Due to Nursing Home Neglect

Studies have shown that 1 in 10 nursing home residents suffers from bed sores at any point in time. Bed sores can be easily prevented, so their occurrence should sound the warning bells that a resident is being neglected.

Bedsores occur when a person is in a single position for a long time. Patients who aren’t moved regularly to redistribute weight and allow the skin to breathe develop very painful open wounds. Bedsores get infected easily and can require expensive medical attention. Because bedsores are easily avoidable, their occurrence in a nursing home setting is often due to staff’s direct neglect.

  1. Risk of Community-Acquired Infections in Assisted Living

The CDC estimates that up to 3 million serious infections occur each year in nursing homes, leading to as many as 380,000 deaths.  In any community environment, proper safety and sanitation practices are mandatory to stop infections, diseases, and bacteria from spreading. This is especially important in a nursing home setting, where patients often take medications that suppress their immune systems.

Medical professionals are trained to take extra safety precautions when they are working in an assisted living facility to prevent contagions from spreading. If they don’t follow those procedures, the residents may get illnesses they otherwise would not have, simply because the bacteria or virus was carried from one patient to another.

Forced Arbitration in Nursing Home Neglect

In September of 2016, the federal government changed some of the rules that apply to nursing homes that collect Medicate and Medicaid payments. One specific change currently under dispute in court is that nursing homes would no longer be allowed to require their residents agree to forced arbitration. What does that mean, and what could it mean for current and future residents of nursing homes? Here’s our breakdown of the situation.

What is Forced Arbitration?

A forced arbitration clause in the contract means that if the person signing the contract has a problem with the nursing home provider, the nursing home reserves the right to force any legal dispute to be arbitrated out of court. That means residents or their representatives who have concerns or problems with the practices at the nursing home will likely never have the opportunity to get their case in front of a judge and jury. Instead, the dispute is handled by a professional arbitrator—always one hired by the nursing home to preserve their best interest.

New Rule’s Intended Nuances

This rule was created by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The AARP reports that around 65% of nursing home residents are supported primarily by Medicare and/or Medicaid, so for a nursing home, staying afloat financially would be difficult without CMS paying the bills. CMS proposed this change because they believe forced arbitration leads to unsafe conditions for their patients, and they don’t want to pay for patients to live in those conditions. They propose that while nursing homes could still offer the option of an arbitration clause to residents, they should no longer be able to require that a senior accept one to become a resident.

But in November a federal court ruled that CMS had exceeded its authority with this ban. The court stated that CMS had not proven forced arbitration clauses present a serious enough risk in and of themselves to patient safety to make the ban legal.

Industry Opinions

Many who represent seniors and champion their rights believe that CMS might be able to prove the ban is necessary in future appeals in the case.  “There have been too many instances of gross abuse and neglect,” observed George Slover, Senior Policy Council at Consumer Union. “Nursing homes should not be able to slip forced arbitration clauses into admission paperwork to shield themselves from accountability. This rule will help ensure that nursing home operators are held accountable and face a strong deterrent.”

Nursing Home Neglect and Indiana’s Time Limit Laws

Nursing home neglect is a very real issue for the elderly and their families.  The Indiana Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Alldredge v. The Good Samaritan Home, is a prime example of poor judgment on behalf of the nursing home, and a big win for the family and their lawyers who fought back against this nursing home that tried to hide its wrongdoing.

In the case, the Court of Appeals of Indiana found that the doctrine of fraudulent concealment tolls the two-year time limit for filing a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a loved one.  The case revolved around the death of Venita Hargis, who was a resident at a nursing home owned and operated by the Defendant, Good Samaritan Home, Inc. (“Good Samaritan”).  Venita died after another resident attacked and pushed her to the floor, but a nurse at Good Samaritan told Venita’s daughter that she died after falling down some stairs.  Venita’s daughter did not learn the truth until three years later when a former employee at Good Samaritan finally told her what actually happened to her mother.  By the time Venita’s daughter knew the truth, the two-year time limit to file a lawsuit for Venita’s wrongful death had expired.  That did not stop the lawyers who fought for justice for Venita, and a lawsuit alleging wrongful death and fraudulent concealment was filed against Good Samaritan 23 months after Venita’s daughter finally learned the truth.

Good Samaritan filed a motion for summary judgment against Venita’s estate on the grounds that the lawsuit was filed more than two-years after Venita’s death and therefore was outside the two-year filing period.  The trial court agreed and entered judgment against Venita’s estate that the claim was barred. In making its decision, the trial court found that there is a two-year time limit to open an estate for the purpose of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit.  After that time limit expired, the nursing home’s fraudulent concealment only permitted Venita’s estate be opened within a reasonable time after learning the information that lead to the discovery of the truth.  Noting that Venita’s estate was not opened for a year and a lawsuit was not filed until 23 months after discovering the truth about her death, the trial court found that the lawsuit was not timely filed.

In an important decision for plaintiffs in Indiana, The Court of Appeals of Indiana overturned part of the lower court’s decision and found that the two-year time limit to open an estate and file a lawsuit was tolled by Good Samaritan’s fraudulent concealment of the facts.  The rule in Indiana is that plaintiffs now have a full two years from the time the concealment is (or should have been) discovered to open an estate and file their wrongful death claims.  This decision gives plaintiffs who have been deceived by defendants a longer time to file a wrongful death lawsuit, and prevents the defendants who conceal their wrongdoing from using these time limits to their tactical advantage.  The entire decision can be read at: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/01311302jgb.pdf

Advocating for yourself or a loved one suffering from nursing home neglect in Indiana is a tall order. That’s why you need the right attorney on your side. Have you been injured as a result of medical malpractice? Every Indiana medical malpractice lawyer at Christie Farrell Lee & Bell has experience and can help you explore your options.