Nursing Home Negligence: What It Is and How to Prove It

Having to send a loved one to a nursing facility is often a difficult choice for those involved.

The decision gets more challenging when you realize that a staggering 95 percent of nursing home residents have experienced or witnessed neglect.

To protect your aging family members, you must understand what to watch for to ensure they’re getting the care they deserve. In this post, Erie Injury explains everything you need to know about nursing home negligence and how to prove your case.

*Pro-Tip: If you suspect a loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence, contact a lawyer immediately. They’ll help make the situation better for the person receiving negligent care and ensure damages and losses are repaid in full.

What is Nursing Home Negligence?

Nursing home negligence is a form of medical malpractice in which the staff’s neglect of residents results in injury or death. In general, nursing home negligence claims are brought against the home itself, doctors, staff, or other parties directly involved in the care of patients.

Common examples of negligence in a nursing home include:

  • Leaving a resident with limited mobility in the same position for hours at a time
  • Leaving a resident in their room with no outside stimulation for hours at a time
  • Not addressing medical issues such as bed sores or new illnesses when they arise
  • Neglecting to change clothing or bedding regularly
  • Not providing basic hygiene to the residents
  • Not providing adequate nutrition and hydration

For patients with a limited ability to move or speak, proving negligence can be difficult. However, there are some signs you’ll want to watch for that may indicate that your loved one is not receiving proper care.

Signs of Negligence in Nursing Home Patients

If you’ve recently visited a friend or family member in a nursing home and suspect they may not be getting the care they need, contact a lawyer right away. They’ll help you prove your case while working to improve the situation for the person receiving care.

Though neglect is sometimes very apparent—massive bed sores that have not been documented or treated, poor hygiene, etc.—some signs of negligence are more challenging to notice and, therefore, harder to address. The next time you visit your loved one in a nursing facility, be on the lookout for:

Loss or Lack of Mobility

High-quality nursing homes often have policies and programs designed to keep residents active. If you notice your loved one’s physical condition is deteriorating quickly, they may not be getting the physical stimulation necessary to maintain their bodily health.

Poor Hygiene

From brushing their teeth to regular bathing, older adults typically need assistance maintaining proper hygiene. Particularly in understaffed nursing homes, personal hygiene is the first standard of care to become lacking. Pay special attention to the hair, clothes, and nails for any signs of neglect.

New Psychological Problems

Though it’s not uncommon for people in nursing homes to lose some of their mental faculties, a rapid deterioration could indicate neglect. New emotional issues such as fear of staff, anger, anxiety, and depression may indicate negligent care.

Rapid Weight Loss

Residents of neglectful nursing homes will often show signs of malnutrition due to inadequate food and water consumption. Be on the lookout for signs of malnourishment, including low body temperature, hair loss, or papery skin.

Unexplained Injuries

Accidents happen, and they are nearly impossible to prevent in a nursing facility. However, the staff should document serious injuries such as broken bones, bed sores, bruises, and more. Unreported injuries could, therefore, indicate neglect, so be sure to check with a doctor or nurse to determine if new ailments you notice are appropriately documented. 

Unsanitary Living Conditions

Bodily hygiene is an obvious indicator of nursing home neglect. But a dirty room, unchanged bedding, pests, and mold can also be signs of negligence. The next time you visit, consider the facility as a whole. If it isn’t somewhere you feel you could live comfortably, the same is inevitably true for your loved one.

Of course, being aware of negligence is only half the battle. You’ll need to work with a lawyer and an accompanying team of experts to prove negligence and successfully win your case.

Proving Nursing Home Negligence

If you suspect a loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect, your first step should be to call 911. They’ll help you get the immediate attention needed to ensure the physical safety of the nursing home residents. To see your case through, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to help prove negligence.

In the state of Pennsylvania, the party claiming negligence (the plaintiff) must prove four elements for the case to be found in their favor. More specifically, plaintiffs must prove that:

  • The nursing home owed the neglected party a duty of care*
  • The nursing home breached the duty of care (committed negligence)
  • The negligence resulted in injury or death
  • Damages were incurred (economic and non-economic) as a result of the negligence
  • Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs to obtain a special certificate of merit from a medical professional stating that they reviewed the case and believe the home was negligent. Additionally, the document must indicate that the nursing home breached the standard duty of care.

*Duty of care is the legal obligation imposed on an individual or institution that requires them to act according to predetermined standards of reasonable care. In a nursing home facility, reasonable care typically includes, but is not limited to, providing adequate nutrition and hydration, administering medications, making reasonable accommodations for comfort, and providing opportunities for entertainment and engagement.

Get the Help You Need to Win Your Case

If you suspect a loved one has fallen victim to nursing home neglect, your primary focus should be the health and well-being of the person affected. Therefore, you’ll want to hire a lawyer who can handle the legal process for you. Contact Erie Injury today for a free consultation, or visit our website to learn more about how we handle personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

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