What is Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect is a type of elder abuse committed against older adults in nursing homes. It involves the substandard care of a resident, or a breach of duty that harms a resident.

If you or a loved one suspects nursing home neglect, you should immediately report your concerns to the Minnesota Department of Health, nursing home administrator, director of nursing at the facility, and social worker.  It is very important to report and document the neglect or abuse and record it for your own records. You should write down what happened, what time it happened, when, and why you feel that what occurred is abusive or neglectful. If you think the law has been broken, you should call the police. Finally, call an attorney.

The Standard of Care

If a nursing home accepts Medicare, the home must follow certain Federal Regulations regarding the standard of care.

The Code of Federal Regulations for the standard of care in nursing homes falls within 42 CFR § 483.35:

“The facility must have sufficient nursing staff with the appropriate competencies and skills sets to provide nursing and related services to assure resident safety and attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident, as determined by resident assessments and individual plans of care and considering the number, acuity and diagnoses of the facility’s resident population in accordance with the facility assessment required at § 483.70(e).”

Under 483.35 nursing homes must have: sufficient staff numbers on a 24-hour basis, registered nurses on staff, competent nurse aides, required retraining for nurse aides, and regular in-service education for employees.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, Nursing Care Assistants are required under Minn. Stat.§ 144A.61 subd., 6a to successfully complete an approved competency evaluation prior to employment or an approved nursing assistant training program and competency evaluation within four months from the date of employment. Violation of this requirement results in a $300 fine.

Causes of Action

There are countless accidents, intentional acts, and failures to act that may leave a nursing home or other care facility liable for injuries or preventable health problems. These problems are often either based on the conduct of an employee or on a policy or ongoing practice at the facility. A few examples include:

  • Failure to maintain adequate facilities: keeping them free from hazards and failing to provide safe conditions.
  • Neglect of basic needs of residents such as proper food and water.
  • Failure to provide adequate medical treatment like dialysis or diabetic care.
  • Negligent hiring of staff.
  • Social or emotional neglect of residents.

Why Bring a Claim?

A claim may result in reimbursement for medical expenses, funeral expenses, out of pocket expenses, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability, and will hold the nursing home accountable for its choices and lack of quality care.

Now if your loved one has passed away as a result of neglect it is still important to bring a claim. Bringing a claim will not bring your loved one back, but it may prevent harm to another resident, provide closure, and hopefully improve care quality and safety for all residents at the nursing home. A claim can still be brought without death if a resident or family member of a resident suspect’s neglect.

Claims and lawsuits can bring on changes in the quality of staff, policies and procedures, and the management and operation of the nursing home. A claim would aid in improving the quality of care of the home and prevent further neglect.

Can a Resident be Transferred to Another Facility?

Residents may request transferring to a new home, though a room is not always guaranteed.

A resident cannot be sent to another nursing home, or made to leave the nursing home unless:

  • It is necessary for the welfare, health, or safety of you or others
  • Your health has declined to the point that the nursing home cannot meet your care needs
  • Your health has improved to the point that nursing home care is no longer necessary
  • The nursing home has not been paid for services you received
  • The nursing home closes

Except in emergencies, nursing homes must give a 30-day written notice of their plan to discharge or transfer you. You have the right to appeal a transfer to another facility.

A nursing home cannot make you leave if you are waiting to get Medicaid. The nursing home should work with other state agencies to get payment if a family member or other individual is holding your money.

Conclusion

When a resident is injured at a care facility, it is not always obvious what exactly went wrong, and who might be legally responsible. The evidence available is often incomplete and may be self-serving for the defendant (the nursing home). In cases like these, your best first step might be discussing the situation with a personal injury attorney.

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This post was created by Katherine Brown Holmen, personal injury, worker’s compensation, and wrongful death attorney at Dudley and Smith P.A. with help from Alexander Koch, a law clerk and current student at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.  Katherine has over 24 years of experience and has worked on thousands of medical and income loss benefit claims.  If you or a loved one suffered injury or loss as a result of neglect in a nursing home or care facility, please contact Katherine Brown Holmen at 651-291-1717 or by email at kholmen@dudleysmith.com.  Dudley and Smith, P.A. is a full service law firm with offices in St. PaulBlaineBloomingtonBurnsvilleChanhassenWhite Bear Lake, and Woodbury.

The law is continually evolving and Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship. Postings are for informational purposes and are not solicitations, legal advice, or tax advice. A viewer of Dudley & Smith, P.A.’s blog should not rely upon any information in the blog without seeking legal counsel.