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Nursing Home Lawsuit

Update: Information regarding nursing home fires, nursing home fire statistics, and common causes of nursing home fires.

Thanks to advancements in medical technology and improvements in quality of life, people are living longer. Although it affords us more time with loved ones, it also comes with its own set of problems.

When seniors age, they sometimes require more specialized care that can only be provided in nursing homes or by qualified care providers. The need can be due to a loss of mental faculties or physical ailments that make living alone untenable.

A common option for elderly citizens in the United States is to move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. While this is often a way for physically or mentally limited seniors to receive the specialized care they need, it also puts them at risk of elder abuse.

Elder abuse is becoming an increasingly rampant criminal problem. Unless something is done, experts predict the problem will only become worse as the elderly population grows.

Victims of elder abuse and their families are now looking for ways to combat the problem, including filing lawsuits against nursing homes and offending parties.

Elderly Abuse Definition

In the most basic terms, elder abuse is an intentional act that puts an older adult at risk of harm. An older adult is defined as someone 60 years or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although elder abuse is often narrowly defined as physical abuse, there are several forms of elder abuse.

  • Physical Abuse.
  • Caretakers or relatives of the elderly can inflict physical abuse on older adults. This is defined as the use of physical force that results in harm, distress, impairment, or death. Physical abuse can include everything from pinching or shoving to striking someone with a weapon or choking.
  • Sexual Abuse.
  • Older adults can also be subjected to unwanted sexual interactions with family or caretakers. Sometimes an elderly patient suffering from a brain disease like Alzheimer’s cannot give an informed approval for sexual activity. That also qualifies as sexual abuse of the elderly.
  • Emotional Abuse.
  • Harm inflicted upon the elderly does not have to be physical. Both verbal and nonverbal behaviors can cause mental pain, distress, and fear. For example, a caretaker may call an elderly patient names in front of others or threaten bodily harm. Isolation or attempting to control an older person’s life by limiting money or social interactions also constitutes psychological abuse.
  • Neglect.
  • With age comes difficulty taking care of oneself. The task often falls to caretakers at a facility or family members. Unfortunately, sometimes the person responsible for an elderly person does not meet their needs in an appropriate manner. This can include not keeping up with hygiene or leaving the older adult unattended in unsafe environments.
  • Financial Abuse.
  • When another person uses the resources of an older adult without their consent, it is considered financial abuse. According to the CDC, “this includes, but is not limited to, depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.” Stealing money or improperly using power of attorney qualifies as financial abuse.

Elderly Abuse Statistics

Determining the exact number of older adults suffering from abuse is impossible. The National Center on Elder Abuse warns that signs of elder abuse may be missed by professionals or family members. It is also likely that many older adults don’t self-report cases of abuse over the fear of retaliation or a lack of mental capacity.

Several studies have tried to identify the prevalence of elder abuse.

One 2011 study conducted in New York estimated that 260,000 older adults in the state had been victims of at least one form of abuse in the previous 12 months between 2008 and 2009. This came out to about 1 in 13 older adults.

A comprehensive study from 2015 estimated that the prevalence of elder abuse is approximately 10%. This means 1 in 10 older adults have likely experienced some form of abuse.

Statistics also point to an alarming number of reports of abuse in nursing homes and care facilities. Millions of elders living in long-term care facilities may be at risk throughout the lifetime of their stay at such facilities.

A report issued by the government revealed that nearly a third of all certified facilities “had been cited for some type of abuse violation that had the potential to cause harm or had actually caused harm to a nursing home resident” between 1999 and 2000.

Risk Factors for Elder Abuse

Researchers have attempted to identify the factors that indicate whether someone has a greater risk of elder abuse.

Studies have shown older women are more likely to experience abuse than older men. Older adults closer to 60 are also more likely to be abused. “One possible reason for this finding is that the ‘young old’ more often live with a spouse or with adult children, the two groups that are the most likely abusers,” according to Mark Lachs and Karl Pillemer.

Having a low social support increases the risk of abuse, as does having poor health or a functional impairment.

Elderly Abuse Hotline

Those experiencing abuse do not have suffer alone. Many services and hotlines allow elderly citizens or their families to report abuse.

Anyone who suspects an older adult is being abused in any way can call their local Adult Protective Services hotline. You can locate specific resources for each state at the National Center on Elder Abuse.

If the situation is particularly serious or dangerous, the police or 911 should be called immediately.

Nursing Home Fires

Fires in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are unfortunately too common. Across the country, numerous fires have happened resulting in several injuries and even fatalities. Nursing home fires can happen for a number of reasons, including:
Poorly maintained building equipment, including fire alarms and sprinkler systems;
No evacuation plan;

  • Poor building design;
  • Failure to call 911 in a timely manner;
  • Negligent staffing;
  • Poor staff training; and
  • Blocked exits.

In March 2017, two people died and four people were hospitalized at an assisted living home caught fire in West Baltimore. The facility was owned and operated by Kozy Kottage, which was approved for eight beds. The home housed seven people, including one person with multiple sclerosis who needed assistance with basic tasks, such as getting dressed.

In July 2017, a fire at a senior living home in Virginia killed three people. The Chesapeake Fire Department arrived on the scene, but by then it was too late.

In November 2017, four people were killed in a Barclay Friends Senior Living Community when a fire broke out on the patio of the building. That fire was blamed on faulty sprinkler systems and smoke alarms. Families of the victims have filed lawsuits.

In August 2018, a fire at Elkton Transitional Care broke out, sending two residents and an employee to the hospital. The fire was caused by a problem with a wall-mounted air-conditioning unit according to the investigators. Singerly Volunteer Fire Company responded with 25 firefighters.

How Lawsuits Can Help Curb Elder Abuse

With elder abuse so prevalent in the United States, the odds are high that you know an older adult who has been a victim of crime.

Older adults have recourse. A lawsuit against a perpetrator of elder abuse can not only help older adults get justice for the criminal acts committed against them but it can also work toward stopping elder abuse in the future.

For example, if a lawsuit is filed against a nursing home for neglect or physical abuse, the offending parties will be held accountable for their actions and should be properly reprimanded or fired.

An experienced attorney will be able to tell you whether you have a case.