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Nursing Home Negligence

Overview

How to React to Nursing Home Negligence

When it comes to nursing home negligence, the harm done can be slow to build over time or culminate in an acute event. Your loved one may not be able to clearly communicate what is happening or maybe too afraid to tell you openly.

It’s important to pay close attention to signs of neglect or elder abuse and be proactive in addressing any issues with the correct authorities. If you find that your aged family member has been subjected to nursing home neglect, both they and you have the right to compensation through a negligence claim.

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What is Nursing Home Negligence?

Nursing home negligence is defined by an action or lack of action on the part of a nursing home or a nursing home employee that causes harm or personal injury to a nursing home resident who is under their care. Negligence may also be caused due to a policy in effect or practice in use at the nursing home.


Not all harm is caused by negligence, so having a lawyer who can help you differentiate is key. It’s important to be vigilant to prevent elder abuse, but in some cases, an injury could be purely accidental and non-preventable. Your reaction to potential negligence should be to gather information and seek professional advice.

What is considered negligence in Nursing?

A nursing home has a duty of care that must be maintained.

There are dozens of acts or failures to act that can lead to nursing home negligence, and unfortunately, these are common in aged care facilities. Negligence includes:

Physical mishandling of elderly patients

Careless handling by a staff member can cause a resident to bang into a wall or a piece of furniture, slip, fall, or otherwise sustain an injury. It’s important to note whether this is abuse, neglect, or purely accidental.

General neglect and lack of compassion for the elderly

Neglect of a resident concerning their personal and medical needs can include ignoring that they need help toileting or bathing, allowing them to stay unwashed or in dirty clothes, or not adhering to medication schedules for pain relief or other symptoms.

Medical dosage errors

This can include negligence in the type of medication given to the resident, the dosage or number of medications given, the method of medication administration, the timing of medication administration, and failure to properly document all medications and administration processes.

Surgical and aftercare errors

A surgical error can cause infection, sepsis, amputation, disability, or even death. Surgical aftercare is often provided in the nursing home and is a point at which elderly patients are particularly vulnerable. Medical negligence is often seen in nursing home situations.

Failure to adequately treat infections

Untreated, even the most minor infections can swiftly escalate into life-threatening illnesses. Medical neglect such as failing to treat an infection (such as a UTI or an ear infection) can lead to extreme illness and even death.

Failure to provide diagnoses and referrals

Residents can be put at serious risk due to any failure to accurately diagnose life-threatening illnesses and provide timely referrals to appropriate medical specialists.

Failure to provide adequate hygienic supervision

Many residents require supervision and help regarding bedding, personal care, showering and general hygiene. Failure on the part of the nursing home staff to provide oversight and assistance is a failure to discharge the duty of care.

Failing to detect malnutrition

Deliberate malnutrition of a resident is abuse, not neglect. However, if malnutrition isn’t deliberate, but goes unnoticed, a claim for negligence can be made.

Other negligence claims may arise from the nursing home, nursing facility, assisted living facility, or aged care facility-related issues, such as failing to ensure that adequate health and safety audits are undertaken.

Additional scenarios include neglecting to ensure that appropriate building actions are completed to reduce the risk of unsafe walkways, trip hazards, stairs and bathrooms that could cause injury to elderly patients.

Process

Nursing home negligence compensation

Trying to ascertain who can be held liable for nursing home negligence?

Typically, the nursing home is ultimately responsible for nursing home neglect, as they have accepted the responsibility of caring for the resident.

They have a duty of care to not only not cause harm but to prevent it when at all possible.

While there may also be a case to be made against a specific employee, in most cases the nursing home is the primary party held liable for harm or injury done to a resident. If your loved one has been subject to harm or injury, compensation can be pursued.

While significant monetary damages are limited to the maximum payable for pain, suffering and general embarrassment (approximately $550,000), you may also be able to receive compensation for the following:

  • Medical care and treatment costs (past, present, and future).
  • Comprehensive legal costs (to relieve burden on the victim and/or family).
  • Wage losses, when applicable (residual investment earnings curtailed by untimely death).
  • Exemplary damages (beyond the maximum, in cases of outrageous conduct by the institution).

What are your options?

What are your options if your parent was injured in a nursing home? You may well have a case for nursing home negligence, but you’ll need to take action as swiftly as possible. Time is of the essence with a neglect claim.

The first step if you suspect your loved one has been subjected to nursing home negligence is to contact a lawyer. There is a statute of limitations which is typically three years from the date of discovery of the negligence, and up to 12 years from the date the negligence occurred.

People who are incapacitated due to mental disorder or intellectual handicap may have additional time to bring a case.

You should gather all possible evidence of the neglect, including your loved one’s charts and take comprehensive photographs of any physical evidence (whether on their body or of conditions in the nursing home). Note anyone who may be able to provide more evidence or testimony, and alert your lawyer.

Successfully bringing a nursing home negligence case can be a complex and drawn-out process. Gerard Malouf & Partners can help you understand this process in an initial, no obligation consultation where we can provide you with legal advice. We understand you are already undergoing extreme amounts of stress on behalf of your loved one.

Why hire a nursing home negligence lawyer?

An experienced lawyer can help you determine if your loved one has been a victim of nursing home neglect, and help you get the most from your claim.

There are many challenges to processing claims of nursing home negligence. You need a practised lawyer on your side to help you navigate the claim and get the maximum possible compensation for your loved one or surviving family members.

It’s important to understand that Gerard Malouf & Partners can only address nursing home neglect, not nursing home abuse.

Abuse cases should be followed up with the appropriate authorities. Examples of abuse, as opposed to neglect, include:

Physical abuse of elderly patients

Abuse is done either with malicious intent, such as striking or slapping a resident or punishing them in other physical ways. Physical abuse can also be humiliating.

Emotional abuse and non-verbal abuse of elderly patients

This can include speaking derogatorily about a resident in their hearing or otherwise, hateful attitudes toward residents, rolling of the eyes, frowning and/or glaring when dealing with a resident’s needs, and other emotional and non-verbal unkindness.

Overmedication abuse

Medicating a resident to render them unconscious or docile typically crosses over into “abuse.” If a patient requires a sedative, this should be administered under the auspices of a strictly controlled treatment plan with a clear reason for each dose and an overall plan for alternate treatment. Residents should never be kept in a tranquilised state for “ease of handling.”

Sexual abuse of the elderly

Sadly, the elderly are often targets for sexual abuse in facilities, as they are vulnerable and may be threatened into not reporting or are unable to report the abuse. Watch for signs like fearfulness, bruises in odd places, and repeated UTIs.

Abuse of elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease

Maltreatment of residents with memory issues or diminished cognitive function can often mean the victim cannot report the abuse. Extra vigilance is needed.

Permitting elderly patients to suffer from malnutrition

Malnutrition can cause a bevy of side effects, including dehydration and contamination as the human body struggles to survive. Deliberately allowing residents to become malnourished is abuse.

Failure to prevent and/or treat bedsores

Often a resident isn’t provided appropriate body rotation methods to reduce the risk of bedsores, and/or develops bedsores that are not properly treated. This is another common example of nursing home abuse.

Current investigation into elder abuse and nursing home negligence by the Aged Care Royal Commission may give you more options to pursue nursing home negligence claims in the future.

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Our Team

Meet the Negligence Claims Team

Meet some of the diverse and dynamic compensation lawyers that support our clients with their Nursing Home Negligence claims.

Jayne O’ Sullivan
Senior Associate
Antonin Sebesta
Senior Associate
Susan Newman
Senior Associate

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