My Loved One Died In A Nursing Home. Was It A Result of Neglect?


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Across the country, roughly 1.4 million people are residing in nursing homes. When we select a nursing home for our elderly loved ones, we expect that they will be given all the care they need to stay as happy and healthy as possible. Unfortunately, many nursing homes fail to meet that expectation, and some are neglectful of their residents. When this happens, and a resident dies as a result, the nursing home itself or the responsible staff member needs to be held accountable.

What Are The Responsibilities Of A Nursing Home?

Nursing homes have many responsibilities to residents and their families. While these responsibilities are numerous, they all center around the idea that residents deserve to be treated with respect, that they (or their family members) deserve to have a say in the care they receive, and that they will be kept as safe and healthy as possible.

Nursing homes achieve these goals by hiring sufficient staff and ensuring that all staff members receive the proper training to care for the residents they serve. Nursing homes are expected to maintain accurate and detailed records to ensure that treatments and medications are given correctly and that any problems or issues are documented as soon as they occur. It’s expected that doctors and other healthcare professionals will maintain a good relationship with their patients to ensure that their medical needs are effectively met, and that nursing home staff understand how to implement a doctor’s plan for treatment. Nursing home residents should also expect to be heard and respected in their treatment plans and in their day-to-day care.

How Common Is Neglect, And How Often Does It Result In Death?

Unfortunately, neglect in nursing homes is incredibly common. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, roughly 95 percent of nursing home residents report either witnessing or experiencing neglect. One of the biggest challenges of preventing and penalizing neglectful treatment is that most instances go unreported. Some studies have shown that only 1 in 25 cases of elder abuse, including neglect, are actually reported to the authorities. 

When it comes to the underlying cause of a death, it can be very difficult to determine whether neglect played a factor. Studies on this issue are notably lacking, but we do have some data that are red flags for a national problem of death by neglect:

  • Initial assessments are done at admission for each resident, and this assessment helps determine the level of care a resident will need. An average of 1 in 5 residents who are not designated as being “near end of life” in their initial assessments die within six months of admission.
  • Falls are generally recognized as preventable with enough protections and staff in place to assist residents. Roughly 1,800 nursing home residents die each year as a result of a fall.
  • Proper staffing is imperative for patient care. When a nursing home is inadequately staffed, residents cannot possibly receive the care they require on time. At any given time, an estimated 90 percent of nursing homes have staffing too low to care for their residents adequately.

How Do I Identify Neglectful Treatment?

Neglectful treatment can result in harm through either giving substandard care or failing to give any care at all. This can have serious consequences, including death, so it’s important to recognize the signs as early as possible before tragedy hits.

Frequent indicators of neglect:

  • Poor resident hygiene: infrequent bathing, an unkempt appearance, or dirty clothing.
  • Unsanitary living conditions: soiled bedding, mold in bathrooms, or dirty living areas.
  • Signs of inadequate nutrition: noticeable decrease in weight, frequent complaints of being cold, or constant tiredness.
  • Loss or lack of mobility: sign that residents are being encouraged (or required) to sit or stay in bed for most of the day.
  • Unexplained injuries: frequently, these are due to inadequate supervision.
  • New onset of psychological problems: anger, depression, a distrust of staff, or distancing from friends and family.

While a single instance of those listed above does not instantly prove neglect, seeing many small problems or the same issue over and over again are serious causes for concern.

What Can Be Done If I Suspect That A Family Member Died As A Result Of Neglect?

When a loved one dies, filing a lawsuit is the last thing on our minds. However, if the explanation you’re given for the cause of death doesn’t make sense to you, or if your family member’s health had an unexpected, dramatic decline while in the care of a nursing home, then you may want to look into things further. It can be difficult to know where to start, but a skilled legal team can help you uncover the truth. 

The first step is to make sure you get a definitive cause of death. If a nursing home caused the death of your loved one, they’re unlikely to admit to it. Because of this, an autopsy is always recommended. Interviews with other residents and their families can help determine if the nursing home or its staff has a history of neglecting their residents, and interviews with staff members can sometimes provide further insight into the inner workings of the facility. 

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

Finding the truth can be difficult, but at Ross Feller Casey, we’re committed to getting you and your loved one the justice you deserve. We have a team of skilled doctors on staff, so we understand the medical complexities that can lead to death by neglectful treatment. Our experienced nursing home attorneys have recovered over $1 billion for our clients over the past five years alone, including many multimillion-dollar recoveries. 

We work on a contingency basis, so you will not pay anything until a financial recovery is made in your case. Let us help you hold nursing homes accountable and hopefully ensure that negligence doesn’t lead to another death. Contact us today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Daniel McGrath focuses his practice on representing individuals who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of medical malpractice, hospital negligence and defective products.

Daniel McGrath

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.