Alabama Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
If you have a loved one who is residing in a nursing facility, you have the right to expect that they will receive quality care. Sadly, this is not always the case. Far too many facilities are grossly understaffed and/or have poorly trained staff. Aging demographics, industry consolidation and other factors have made this problem even worse. With higher patient loads and employees working longer hours, the incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect have greatly increased in recent years.
Seniors with serious medical conditions who need extended healthcare are vulnerable to the very real threat of nursing home abuse. Many of them live in isolation, and when they are mistreated, they often feel like there is no one they can turn to for help. When nursing home residents are abused, the results can be devastating to the victims and the families who put their trust in such facilities for the care of their aging loved ones.
At the Birmingham, Alabama, law offices of Burge & Burge, we understand what families go through when they learn that a nursing facility they entrusted has neglected the needs of their loved one or worse, abused them. We believe it is an outrage that so many of the most vulnerable in our society are being mistreated. Our team of lawyers is committed to providing the elderly and their families the support they need, and to ensuring that those responsible for these egregious acts are held fully accountable.
Damages Available in Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases
When a loved one is abused or neglected in a nursing home, it is important to ensure that you receive full damages, not only to compensate for your loss, but to ensure that those responsible do not continue this egregious behavior. The amount of damages you may be able to collect in a nursing home abuse and neglect case vary depending on the specific circumstances.
The compensation victims receive can be divided into three general categories:
- Economic Damages: The actual expenses incurred by the victim as a result of the negligence or abuse. This may include medical costs, specialist fees, and the costs of litigating the case.
- Non-Economic Damages: Physical pain, emotional distress, psychological trauma, and the pain of losing a loved one (in wrongful death cases).
- Punitive Damages: If you can show that there was malicious or reckless conduct on the part of the nursing facility or staff, the jury may award punitive damages. This type of compensation is designed to punish the perpetrators and deter them from continuing to engage in this type of conduct.
At Burge & Burge, we have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the complexities of nursing home neglect and abuse cases, and we have a strong track record of success going up against these facilities and their armies of high-priced lawyers. We serve our clients’ needs regarding a wide range of injuries caused by staff negligence and abuse, including but not limited to:
- Bed sores (decubitus ulcers): When areas of the body are subjected to prolonged periods of unrelieved pressure, bed sores are a common result. This happens frequently to nursing home patients when they are not turned often enough. Over time, pressure restricts blood flow to the affected areas of the body and sores develop. If the situation is not addressed quickly, deeper infections can occur and conditions such as sepsis and gangrene amputations can develop.
- Malnutrition & Dehydration: Nutritional deficiencies are common among nursing home residents. This is often due to staff that is poorly trained and does not provide the proper food and drink to patients, particularly those who are on special diets. Sometimes, the staff is so busy they do not want to wait for patients (especially elderly who are slow eaters) to finish their food.
- Choking: Another common problem for elderly patients who have difficulty chewing and/or swallowing food is choking. It is the responsibility of staff to be aware of patients who are more susceptible to this problem and monitor them more heavily during meal times. Unfortunately, inadequate staffing often causes nursing facilities to fall short in this area.
- Falls and Fractures: Seniors are more brittle and far more susceptible to falls and broken bones. This can happen because patients are not monitored properly and are left alone too much of the time. In other cases, falls may occur because of abusive behavior on the part of the staff.
- Medication Errors: Various mistakes in the administration of medication to patients can lead to life-threatening situations. Examples include over (and under) medicating, failing to provide food and drink (when required) with the medication, improperly mixing multiple medications together, losing track of medications, administering them to the wrong patient, and mislabeling prescriptions.
- Breathing Tube Injuries: Many nursing home residents rely on breathing tubes to survive. When something goes wrong with the tube, serious complications can arise. Examples include shortness of breath, vocal cord damage, lung damage, and oxygen deprivation. It is important to properly maintain the equipment and closely monitor patients with breathing tubes to ensure none of these things occur.
- Lack of Proper Medical Care: Higher patient loads and overworked staff have heavily contributed to substandard medical care in many nursing homes. Some of ways this occurs include failing to check on patients regularly, failing to notice clear signs that a patient needs medical attention, improper or incorrect treatment plans, and medication errors.
- Physical Abuse: Abuse occurs in approximately one out of every three nursing homes throughout the country. Some workers do this because of stress and frustration, others do it because they think they can get away with it. Whatever the reason, this has become an epidemic that needs to be addressed ASAP.
- Sexual Abuse: It is horrifying to think that a nursing facility for whom you entrust to care for a valued loved one would violate that trust by allowing sexual abuse to occur. The elderly are prime targets for this type of abuse, and it is particularly common among patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, because the perpetrator can claim that the victim is just confused or imagined the situation.
- Wrongful Death: The rampant culture of abuse and neglect in Alabama nursing homes creates conditions that are not only miserable; in many cases, they are life-threatening. When a patient dies because of negligence or abuse, surviving loved ones can bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.
How can we protect loved ones from nursing home abuse in Alabama?
The signs of physical abuse in nursing homes, including bruises, bumps, cuts and broken bones, are generally easy to identify. Other signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, however, may be less distinguishable. Some of the most common of these signs include:
- Unusual or unexplainable depression – Has your loved one shown any significant changes in mood or personality? If they appear anxious or depressed, this could be related to much more than having to adjust to a new environment. Look for signs of fear around caregivers or note if they have a reluctance to talk about their nursing home conditions. Any of these could be symptoms of a medical issue, but they could also be signs of nursing home neglect, so it’s important not to ignore emotional changes.
- Irregular weight loss – If your relative is suffering from malnutrition, there is a high probability of nursing home neglect. A person who isn’t fed or given enough water to drink is going to experience rapid weight loss and dehydration. Many older people are unable to eat a full meal without assistance. If a nursing home must feed a hundred patients at once, they may not want to staff the facility to handle this task. Worse, malnutrition can lead to deteriorating health and even death in an already weak system.
- Poor hygiene – Any nursing home facility has the responsibility to ensure that each resident has their basic needs met. This includes handling their basic personal hygiene. If your loved one cannot bathe, get dressed, go to the bathroom, or brush their teeth on their own, the nursing home staff should help. If you notice a reduction in personal hygiene, it may be because the staff is failing in their duties.
By knowing what signs to look for, people can immediately take action to address suspected nursing home abuse or neglect. As such, they can protect their loved ones from suffering ongoing or escalating abuse.
I Believe a Loved One is Suffering from Abuse in a Nursing Home, What Do I Do?
If you suspect that a loved one of yours is suffering from nursing home abuse, taking action to end the abuse and protect your loved one is crucial. Here are some steps to take if you believe abuse is occurring within a nursing home:
In a situation where you believe that your loved one is at risk of imminent harm or death, you should not hesitate to call 911.
Speak with a Nursing Home Manager or Supervisor
In the event that bodily harm or death does not seem to be an immediate risk, speaking with a nursing home manager or supervisor about the suspected abuse should be your first step. You should address any concerns you have, and ask for a resolution. For example, if you believe that the nurse who primarily cares for your loved one has emotionally abused your loved one as a result of teasing, taunting, bullying, or intimidation, you can request that a new nurse be assigned to your loved one. Sometimes, talking about the problem and clarifying the issue can be the solution.
Call a Hotline or File a Complaint
If speaking with a nursing home manager or supervisor does not solve the problem, the next step may be to call a nursing home abuse hotline in Alabama or filing a complaint with the appropriate agency. The following lists resources available when you suspect nursing home abuse–
- Call the ElderCare hotline at 1-800-356-9596;
- Email the Alabama State Survey Agency at NHComplaints@adph.state.al.us;
Speak with a Strong Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer in Alabama
Do you suspect that a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse? At Burge & Burge, we take these incidents very seriously, and we stand ready advocate aggressively for your rights and interests.
Experience that Makes the Difference
Our attorneys at Burge & Burge remain up-to-date on the medical procedures and problems that our clients face. We use our medical knowledge and legal skill to bring strong cases in court. Whether we are putting our own nursing home abuse experts on the stand or conducting a cross examination of negligent nursing home staff, our experience with medical facts and the laws of negligence help us achieve optimal results.
Lawyers at Burge & Burge have proven time and again that we know what it takes to succeed in these types of cases. We are proud of our record of courtroom successes, but the real reward is helping the victims of personal injury and their families.
For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, contact us today by calling 205-251-9000 or toll free at 800-633-3733.