Nursing Home Abuse Is a Pervasive Problem
Texas is not alone in facing and dealing with nursing home abuse. In fact, many people view this atrocity as a national epidemic. There are over 1,200 skilled nursing facilities in Texas, with 66 in Bexar County alone. As the elderly population continues to grow, so too does the rate of elder abuse in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Despite federal and state regulations designed to ensure safety, analytical data ranks Texas in the bottom 20 percent nationally for reported cases of elder abuse and neglect. In fact, Texas ranks 51st nationally, which is dead last among all other states and the District of Colombia.
In 1987, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act, which requires that nursing facilities care for their residents in such a way as to promote the maintenance or enhancement of each resident’s quality of life. Unfortunately, three decades later, elderly Texas citizens still face a high risk of abuse. Contact our San Antonio Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers for more information on elder abuse.
Elder Abuse Is a Crime
Individuals who reside in long-term care facilities have a legal right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Texas considers elder abuse a felony. Elderly residents in nursing homes are considered victims of abuse if they suffer any form of:
- Physical abuse (either from a staff member or another resident)
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial exploitation
Many cases of nursing home negligence and abuse go unreported, whether because the abused seniors don’t understand the care to which they are entitled, or because they are physically unable to report the abuse.
If you suspect elder abuse in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, don’t remain silent. In fact, it’s considered a crime in Texas to fail to report such abuse. According to Texas law, anyone who suspects that a child, an elderly individual who is 65 or older, or an adult with disabilities is suffering from abuse, neglect, or exploitation must report that suspicion to the Department of Family Protective Services.
Those suspected of elder abuse may face second or third-degree felony charges, a $10,000 fine, and a prison sentence, depending on the circumstances of the abuse.
A Nursing Home May Be Held Liable for Abuse
If a nursing home fails to provide a safe, healthy, and well-equipped environment for the residents in their care, then that facility may be held liable for any resulting injuries and damages. Some of the most common reasons for culpability include:
- Hiring unqualified employees
- Not providing sufficient training
- Being found understaffed
- Violating state and federal regulations
Don’t Miss the Signs
Elder abuse can be difficult to recognize. Often mistaken for symptoms of dementia or the elderly individual’s failing health, family members or other loved ones may fail to notice subtle indications of abuse, such as:
- Changes in personality
Sadly, cognitive impairment may render victims unable to communicate problems to family members, or victims may be afraid of retaliation if they complain. When you have a loved one in a long-term care facility, you should watch for any hints of physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse.
Inform family and friends to remain on the lookout for:
- Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
- Indications of medication overdose
- Suggestions of being under medicated
- Broken eyeglasses
- Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
You can help protect your family members from abuse by remaining aware of their surroundings and who is caring for them. When visiting the nursing home, pay close attention to the following:
- The interaction between facility staff and residents
- Unsafe living conditions
- Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding, and clothes
- Examples where residents seem isolated
Warning signs of neglect include:
- Unusual weight loss
- Untreated physical problems
- Inattention to personal hygiene
- Unsuitable clothing
Long-term care facilities have a responsibility to develop resident-specific care plans that address a resident’s medical, physical, mental, and social needs. Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and falls are often commonplace in facilities that provide substandard care. Additionally, decubitus ulcers are a serious health hazard for elderly individuals. If left untreated, these bedsores can lead to infection, intense pain, and other serious complications. This type of physical negligence often results in invasive surgical procedures, the need for amputation, and unfortunately even death.
Nursing home care plans must include measurable objectives to address such issues as:
- Wandering or elopement
- Medication errors
Nursing home residents are isolated from family, easily confused, and often both physically and emotionally fragile. Sadly, these elderly citizens are easy targets for sexual predators. Although physical touch is a necessary part of compassionate caregiving, when it is unwarranted and unwanted, it constitutes assault.
Warning signs, such as bruises around breasts or genitals, unexplained vaginal or rectal bleeding, or torn undergarments, may be indicators of:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual assault and battery
- Sexual photography
Due to their declining cognitive abilities, many residents may not be aware of deceptive practices that their caretakers may employ. Staff members are in a unique position to perpetrate financial abuse because they often have access to personal identification information, checkbooks, and cash.
Examples of financial abuse may include, but are not limited to:
- Significant withdrawals from the elderly individual’s accounts
- Sudden changes in an elderly individual’s financial condition
- Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions
- Cashing an elderly individual’s checks
- Forging an elderly individual’s signature
- Theft of money or possessions
- Coercing an elderly individual to sign documents, such as a legal contract or will
- Adding names to the elderly individual’s bank signature card
If you have questions, concerns, or complaints about a nursing home, or if you need clarification about regulatory agency requirements, you should contact:
- Texas Health and Human Services. (512) 438-488; (800) 458-9858.
- The Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman. (800) 252-2412.
- Texas Abuse Hotline. Tollfree: (800) 252-5400.
San Antonio Nursing Home Negligence FAQ
According to the Texas Observer, over 76,000 people reside in corporate-owned nursing homes in the state of Texas. Seventeen percent of nursing home residents reside in privately-owned nursing homes. Even before the COVID-19 virus began increasing health risks in nursing home facilities across the nation, many residents suffered harm from negligent care. In one recent year, 143 people died as a result of nursing home neglect in Texas nursing homes.
A current report from the Texas Observer found that staffing ratios were below minimum standards in almost every corporate-owned facility. The study further showed that the penalties imposed were low, although inspection reports revealed that low staffing levels contributed to serious injuries and deaths among facility residents. To help lower the number of individuals harmed by nursing home neglect, you must report any instances of suspected abuse as soon as you see it.
What is nursing home neglect?
In a nursing-home setting, neglect can come in many forms. For example, caregivers may fail to provide necessary medical services to prevent emotional and/or physical pain or harm. Additionally, caregivers and staff may fail to implement safeguards to prevent falls, fail to monitor lab results, fail to provide CPR, or fail to report patient’s condition changes to their doctors.
Neglect can also include caregivers’ intentional actions, such as not properly sanitizing residents’ rooms and clothing, ignoring patients’ signals for assistance, or withholding food. Unfortunately, these practices are not uncommon among nursing homes that are insufficiently staffed, especially those with inadequately trained employees.
Allowing visitation from family members who may have been exposed to COVID-19, the flu, or other contagious infections may also constitute negligence. Failure to prevent the spread of a virus when residents and staff are aware of a global pandemic is even more egregious. Nursing home staff have a duty to take preventative measures to ensure the health and safety of the residents. Allowing visitation from outsiders who are not known to be infected may not be negligence.
However, if a nursing home fails to provide policies for visitation to keep residents safe, the facility may be liable for a subsequent outbreak. Nursing homes have a duty to implement safety procedures for individuals entering the facility, including social distancing measures and only accepting residents who have been tested.
Do I need a San Antonio nursing home attorney to seek compensation for neglect or abuse?
People who are not represented by a lawyer will find the process difficult to navigate. They typically find it difficult to collect the compensation agreed upon. Texas recently enacted laws that cap the amount of damages that injured parties can seek from nursing home facilities for abuse and neglect. Further, nursing homes have a reputation for hiding assets, making it difficult for plaintiffs to collect on judgments against nursing homes.
An experienced nursing home neglect attorney can guide injured victims and their families through the claims process to ensure their rights remain protected. Nursing home neglect attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured parties to seek the compensation they are entitled to. When negotiations are unsuccessful, skilled attorneys may proceed to the discovery phase of the claims process to increase the chances of maximizing their client’s recovery.
During discovery, the facility will be required to undergo an investigation into their finances, which can make it more difficult for administrators to hide assets. Additionally, if a nursing home or its insurance provider fails to deliver a court-ordered injury award, the court has the power to hold the nursing home in contempt for failing to uphold its order.
Who oversees San Antonio nursing homes?
The Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities, respectively, enforce and create regulations for nursing homes within the state. The Department of Aging and Disabilities is responsible for licensing and inspecting nursing home facilities, which includes ensuring that residents are protected from abuse and neglect.
If a facility accepts Medicare as a form of insurance, the Attorney General’s Medicare Fraud Control Unit has the authority to start an investigation following reports of suspected neglect. Individuals who have been harmed by nursing home neglect can also file a claim with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
I reported a San Antonio nursing home for negligence, and now the home is neglecting my loved one. What do I do?
If you haven’t reported the suspected neglect to the Department of Aging and Disabilities, you should take photos, if possible, to document signs of neglect before contacting them. Then, file a report with the Department of Aging and Disabilities and contact a San Antonio nursing home neglect attorney. If you are uncomfortable making a report of neglect, contact our firm, and should you decide to retain our representation, we can file the report on your behalf.
Try to get as many photos or videos depicting negligent acts or signs of neglect as possible. However, it’s important to always avoid displaying other residents in any picture or video evidence you collect. If avoiding documenting other residents isn’t possible, either obtain the resident’s permission to record them, or edit the footage to conceal their identities.
Can I file an anonymous report?
Individuals who suspect nursing home neglect may anonymously report instances of negligence. However, by remaining anonymous, Texas Health and Human Services will have no way to contact you to inform you of actions taken regarding your report. It also won’t help you or your loved one recover compensation for the abuse or neglect. Call us instead and see what we can do to help you get the justice you deserve.
What does Health and Human Services do after I file a negligence report against a San Antonio nursing home?
Regulatory Services typically visits the nursing home unannounced to conduct an on the spot investigation. The process may involve observations of staff, a review of nursing home records, and interviews with residents, staff, and family members, who may have information about neglect. The Health and Human Services department then notifies you of the results of the investigation, and any action taken in response to the results.
I reported a San Antonio nursing home, and government officials fined the nursing home, but the negligent behavior continues. What do I do?
Oftentimes, after reporting one or more incidents of neglect, you may receive a report that states the nursing home was fined or otherwise sanctioned. However, you may notice that the nursing home continues to negligently provide care to your loved one. In this case, contact our nursing home attorneys as soon as possible to ensure the health and safety of the facility’s residents.
How much do your San Antonio nursing home attorneys cost?
Our firm, like most nursing home attorneys, takes cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you will pay us nothing for costs and fees for our services. If we do recover compensation for you, we will receive a percentage. If we recover nothing, you owe us nothing.
Is the review and settlement process confidential?
Nursing home review, investigation, and settlement processes can remain confidential in cases where legal action may produce repercussions for your loved one. Call us to see what we can do to protect you and your loved one. Attorney/client privilege protects the confidentiality of our conversations.
If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, contact the Law Offices of George Salinas for a free consultation today.
We Are Here to Help
At the Law Offices of George Salinas, our legal team has significant experience representing victims and families subjected to nursing home negligence and abuse in San Antonio and the surrounding area. We have the experience necessary to ensure that your family member enjoys the high level of care that state law mandates, and if not, we work to hold those responsible for poor care liable for any injuries. Collectively, we believe that:
- Elder abuse in Texas nursing homes is a problem that needs to be fixed
- Residents in long-term care facilities have rights
- Holding negligent parties accountable is imperative
- Public awareness of elder abuse and neglect will bring about needed and necessary changes
If you or a loved one has experienced elder abuse while a resident in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, call the Law Offices of George Salinas today at (210) 225-0909, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.