New Jersey Legislation Aims to Protect Nursing Home Residents
December 1, 2014
Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility can be incredibly difficult and emotional. It involves entrusting the daily care and well-being of an already vulnerable person to unknown individuals in an unfamiliar environment. The elderly, particularly those suffering from disease or disability, require a special level of attention and care. When a family makes the decision that a relative should enter one of these facilities, it is expected that the care they receive ensures their health and safety, especially given the high prices some of these facilities charge. Anything but the highest standard of care for these individuals can lead to degenerative health, permanent disability, or even death. Unfortunately, for many, and their loved ones, this happens all too often, forcing them to bring a nursing home negligence case against those responsible.
As the Baby Boomer generation continues to gradually get older, so too does the American population. Those 65 and older constitute more than 10% of the American population. More and more people find themselves in need of nursing home care, which has unfortunately led to an increase in abuse and mistreatment. The actual data regarding elder abuse can be significantly skewed because a large percentage of abuse goes unreported. What is known is that psychological abuse is the most common form of elder abuse and those suffering from dementia are more likely to suffer. According to a 2010 study, 47% of participants that suffered from dementia had been mistreated by caregivers. Additionally, the National Elder Mistreatment Study found that seven to ten percent of those surveyed experienced some form of abuse in the previous twelve months alone.
Individuals in nursing homes require an extensive range of care, from constant supervision to the regular administration of medication. Under New Jersey’s Nursing Home Responsibilities & Rights of Resident Act, nursing home residents are entitled to a safe living environment in which they receive care “that recognizes the dignity and individuality of the resident.” Although this specific act applies only to nursing home residents, those in assisted living facilities should be entitled to similar respectful care. When residents don’t receive what they are entitled to, those responsible should be held accountable.
Recently, a New Jersey nursing home suffered a $13.2 million verdict in a negligence case brought by the family of a former resident. An 87 year-old woman entered the facility for the rehabilitation of a dislocated shoulder. Although this visit was initially meant to be only a short-term stay, it ultimately lasted 94 days during which the woman developed numerous wounds, lost 20 pounds, and had to undergo a diversionary colostomy. These horrific injuries eventually led to the woman’s death.
Signs of nursing home abuse can include unused medication, unexplained injuries such as random broken bones or dislocations, and the reoccurrence of small but noticeable injuries such as bruises, welts, scars, scratches and other wounds or cuts. Additionally, signs of negligent care can include deteriorating hygiene, a disheveled appearance, and rapid weight loss. These symptoms and any type of unusual behavior should immediately be investigated and reported.
Establishing a nursing home negligence claim can be complicated. These facilities will not readily admit any type of liability as it jeopardizes their reputation and thus their future business potential. If you fear that someone you know has suffered an injury in a nursing home or isn’t receiving the care they deserve, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to end the mistreatment.