Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Abuse of nursing home residents is a significant problem in Atlanta, Georgia and throughout the nation.
Individuals placed in Georgia long-term care facilities are often frail and unable to care for themselves. Unfortunately, these conditions may subject the resident to abuse from nursing home staff and even other long-term care residents. If you suspect that your loved one is being neglected, but not necessarily abused, please visit our nursing home negligence information center.
Georgia nursing home residents have specific rights, guaranteed by both federal and state government. If the facility accepts Medicare, for example, the federal government sets forth specific rights enjoyed by the resident and specific duties imposed upon the facility. These rights and duties may be found here. If the facility does not accept public funds, it is still subjected to state regulation. In Georgia, the Department of Public Health regulates nursing homes and provides rights and duties applicable to residents and facilities.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home residents may be subjected to physical, verbal, mental, and even sexual abuse. Some signs of nursing home abuse are:
- Death of the resident when health issues did not signal impending demise
- Malnutrition and Dehydration (You may notice weight loss or change in the resident’s mental status)
- Burns or blisters
- Broken bones or unexplained bruises
- Unexpected change in the resident’s behavior (Resident becomes withdrawn or scared)
Last week, a jury in Floyd County/Rome Georgia punished a nursing home company and the head of the company with a $34,000,000 punitive verdict. The case involved the needless and gruesome death of an elderly patient whose family entrusted his care to the nursing home at issue. At first look, some might argue that the punitive verdict is excessive. However, after learning of the facts of this case, and the nursing home company’s behavior, I suspect most folks would agree with the jury’s verdict.
As it turns out, the nursing home operator had been systematically defrauding Medicare, resulting in millions and millions of dollars being stolen from the taxpayers. In fact, the evidence showed that the nursing home operator at the top of this pyramid purchased, among other things, a $1,300,000 million home with some of the stolen money. What does this have to do the case at issue and the death of the nursing home resident?
Apparently, the evidence and testimony at trial revealed that there was a shortage of basic human necessities at the nursing home, such as food. The decedent was deprived of needed food and medicine, all while those at the top of what amounted to a pyramid scheme, enriched themselves. The nursing home resident died horribly while the nursing home profited greatly with stolen Medicare money.
In Georgia, residents of long-term care facilities are given specific rights. These rights are codified and enumerated at O.C.G.A. § 31-8-133, 42 CFR § 483.75(b), and GA ADC 290-5-35.
As an injury attorney practicing in the Buckhead / metropolitan Atlanta area, I have been asked to review many cases where residents of nursing homes in Georgia have fallen and been injured or even killed. Often, the families of the injured nursing home residents want to know why their loved one fell. Our office has sent numerous “fall cases” to experts for reviews and there seem to be a few consistent themes. I wanted to write this blog for a few reasons. First, I want to identify what I perceive to be the most common causes of nursing home fall injuries and then offer a few solutions so that your loved one doesn’t become a statistic.
First, nursing homes cater to elderly, sick, and often frail individuals. Not surprisingly, these people are very prone to falls. Falling is a leading cause of injury and death for geriatric people. Sometimes, to put it bluntly, people just fall. The CDC has an excellent overview of the widespread problem of elderly individuals suffering falls. There is not always negligence by the nursing home. However, while no one expects the nursing home to provide twenty-four hour, constant observation, there are things a nursing home staff can do in order to minimize the risk of a fall. Our office has frequently seen preventable falls because nursing homes are understaffed, the employees are undertrained, or the nursing home staff is simply inattentive.
First, Georgia nursing home employees know that their residents are prone to falling. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to take reasonable measures to prevent a fall in the nursing home. Residents frequently fall out of bed. Therefore, a few common sense protective measures include: lowering the bed, use of bed-rails (to protect from rolling off the side), mattresses at either side of the bed, and checks on the resident throughout the night.
Nursing home residents often fall while trying to get from bed to the restroom and also while attempting to bathe and dress. What can be done? The nursing home should provide assistance to the resident while he or she is performing these activities of daily living. Also, the resident can be fitted with a hip pad in case of a fall. These pads reduce injury to the resident’s hips after fall.
Nursing home residents who are wheelchair-dependent often try to get out of the chair. Wheelchair alarms are made to alert staff if a resident has gotten out of the “seat” part of the wheelchair. Once the alarm goes off, staff should immediately respond and re-direct the resident back into the chair.
Clutter in the resident’s room should be removed. As simple as it may sound, nursing home residents trip and fall over items misplaced in their own room.
Finally, nursing home employees should remain very attentive to the resident. This is a simply concept, yet I have seen many cases where residents are found on the floor after falls. The staff, despite what they may say, had no idea how long ago the resident had fallen. In today’s technology-heavy world, nursing home aides are frequently distracted by cell-phones, laptop computers, etc.
What can you do? Be present frequently at the nursing home. Staff members are naturally prone to take better care of residents whom they know have family visiting frequently. Ask questions of the nursing home employees. Has my father fallen recently? How did he get this bruise? Is he eating? Quite simply, be involved. The United State Department of Health and Human Services has an excellent website dedicated to improving resident safety in nursing homes.
A Guide for Selecting a Nursing Home in Georgia
One way to minimize the chance that your loved one may be subjected to abuse in a nursing home is to select the facility carefully. The State Bar of Georgia website contains an easy-to-understand outline for selecting a nursing home. This information may be found here.
Resources for Nursing Home Abuse Issues
Georgia Helplines and Referral Sources
To report suspected elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in Georgia:
- 1-888-774-0152 (For suspected elder mistreatment in the home).
- 404-657-5250 (For suspected elder mistreatment in a metro-Atlanta home).
- 1-800-878-6442 (For suspected elder mistreatment in a long-term care facility).
- 404-657-5728 (For suspected elder mistreatment in a metro-Atlanta long-term care facility)
Phone: (404) 869-1580