Elder abuse is frighteningly common. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), about one in ten Americans who are at or over the age of 60 have faced some form of elder abuse. This means that as many as 5 million people are abused by their care providers each year. Unfortunately, NCOA estimates that only about one in 14 cases are ever reported to authorities. Elder abuse may happen when a person lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, but it also occurs at the hands of friends or family members who act as caretakers.
The Definition of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse encompasses a broad variety of actions, but it includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, confinement, or restraint. The concept of elder abuse can be passive neglect, such as when caregivers fail to provide basic necessities like food, clothing and medicine. In some instances, elder abuse is characterized by willful deprivation, which happens when caregivers deny medical devices, medical care, or other necessary assistance to the elder. Financial exploitation, which occurs when a caregiver withholds or misuses an older adult’s resources, is also a significant problem. All of these forms of abuse can cause serious permanent damage to your loved one.
Types of Nursing Home Cases
There are many kinds of cases which can create liability. They include falls, broken bones, bed sores, medication errors, and wrongful death. In many circumstances, injuries and illnesses are caused by neglect. Some specific neglectful actions include:
• When a person doesn't receive the proper assistance to take care of their personal hygiene, like brushing their teeth, taking a shower, or washing their clothes
• When a person is berated, belittled, and treated with a lack of basic empathy for their feelings
• When a person is denied their medications, not given assistance with physical therapy, and left on their own for hours at a time
• When a nursing home does not respond to specific medical complaints, like broken bones, cuts, sores, rashes, infections, or other serious health conditions
Oklahoma Nursing Home Malpractice
There are serious criminal and financial consequences for nursing homes and caregivers who abuse the elderly. In 2017, an appellate court upheld a jury verdict of $1.21 million against an Oklahoma City nursing home where hidden cameras captured shocking incidents of abuse. The victim was 90 years old and could not communicate due to dementia. A nursing home employee slapped her in the face and shoved latex gloves in her mouth. Family members discovered signs of abuse when they noticed bruises on her body and items missing from her room. The employees involved had previously been reprimanded for abusing residents. The case was significant because the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to apply the $350,000 compensatory damages cap, since the nursing home failed to raise the defense at trial.
In addition to civil liability, Oklahoma imposes criminal penalties on people who victimize older adults. Local law enforcement is trained to investigate elder abuse, but often do not become aware of a potential crime until a family member or lawyer informs them about the abuse. If you are concerned that someone you know is experiencing abuse by a caregiver, speaking with an Oklahoma personal injury attorney can ensure that there is an immediate investigation. You can also report the situation to the state's Adult Protective Services by contacting Oklahoma's Statewide Abuse Hotline at (800) 522-3511.
New Federal Rules Favoring Nursing Homes
In 2017, the Trump administration changed the federal rules which limited the use of arbitration agreements and waivers which are used to stop people from filing lawsuits against nursing homes. The new federal rules make it easier for nursing homes to evade legal responsibility for elder abuse. The rule is codified at 42 CFR §483.70(n)(1). If you or your loved one signed paperwork before being admitted to a nursing home, your rights may be restricted. An Oklahoma lawyer can help ensure that your rights are protected, even if you signed an arbitration or other pre-admission agreement.
Take Action to Protect Older Adults from Abuse: Call an Oklahoma Personal Injury Lawyer
If you believe that your loved one is being mistreated by nursing home staff, or financially exploited by a caregiver, it is advisable to contact an experienced Oklahoma nursing home malpractice attorney immediately. Contact our experienced lawyers today, or call 405-542-2529 (542-CLAW) and one of our Oklahoma Malpractice and Personal Injury Attorneys will help. Read more about our team, or continue reading and researching our free legal information library.