You may have needed the help of a nursing home to provide the level of care your elderly loved one needs. After placing a loved one in a nursing home, you expect that he or she will be treated with respect and kindness, with access to the medical and nursing care they need.

Sadly, many nursing homes in North Carolina have come under scrutiny for providing a substandard level of care, allowing residents to be victims of abuse or neglect. These cases are particularly tragic, as in many cases, the elderly person is not in a condition to report the abuse, and it is only discovered when it is too late.

Do you suspect nursing home abuse?

Any family member who has placed a relative in a nursing home must be alert to the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect. Visit your relative frequently, and watch for any of following symptoms of abuse or neglect:

  • Bedsores
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Infections
  • Wandering
  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, cuts, sprains, wounds, welts
  • Falls leading to broken bones and the need for hospitalization
  • Your relative appears to be over-medicated, groggy, unable to communicate
  • Signs of restraints showing on the wrists or ankles
  • Depression
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Unexplained death
  • Broken bones
  • Injuries inflicted by another resident
  • Lack of proper medical care when needed
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Nursing home regulations

Both the state and federal governments regulate nursing homes. Under Title 42, chapter IV, subchapter G, part 483.12, “Requirements for States and Long Term Care Facilities,” a nursing home facility has the following regulations:

  1. The facility must not use verbal, mental, sexual, or physical abuse, corporal punishment, or involuntary seclusion;
  2. The nursing home must ensure that residents are free from physical or chemical restraints imposed for the purpose of discipline or convenience rather than for medical treatment. If restraints are needed, they must be the least-restricted alternative and used for the least amount of time, and under ongoing evaluation about the need for such restraints.

North Carolina law includes a Declaration of residents’ rights, under §131D-21. This Declaration includes the following requirements:

  • Nursing home residents are to be treated with respect, consideration, dignity, and full recognition of his or her individuality and right to privacy.
  • Residents are required to receive care and services which are adequate, appropriate, and in compliance with relevant federal and state laws and rules and regulations.
  • To be free of mental and physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
  • Except in emergencies, to be free from chemical and physical restraint unless authorized for a specified period of time by a physician according to clear and indicated medical need.

Although the industry is heavily regulated, inspections may not occur with great frequency. The North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulations issues a list of nursing home facilities facing penalties for violations. This document reveals the staggering number of facilities throughout NC that have been fined for violations of a range of state regulations. These inspections and fines do nothing to help you or your loved one achieve justice for abuse or neglect. This is achieved by filing a claim or lawsuit against all liable parties, which could include:

  • The owner of the nursing home
  • Nursing home management 
  • A nursing home employee
  • Medical professionals providing care at the facility

Who has the right to file a nursing home abuse claim?

If your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home, he or she has the right to file a claim, but in many cases, the elderly person lacks the capacity to do so. In these cases, or in cases of wrongful death, we can still bring the claim through a guardian, or through the estate. If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, your first step is to engage representation from an experienced trial lawyer.

Will the case go to court?

The case may be settled without going to trial in a negotiated settlement, but the skills of our trial lawyers at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC are often a critical point in the final outcome of our clients’ cases. Every case is prepared as if it will go to trial, supported by documentation, evidence, witness testimony, and expert witnesses when needed.

Our thorough case preparation and experience negotiating settlements has led to our reputation as being among the most powerful, effective law firms in North Carolina. Should the nursing home or its insurance company fail to offer a fair settlement, we may advance the case to the next level, filing a lawsuit in civil court. Many cases settle during the process of preparing a case for court, whle others proceed all the way to trial. In either case, you can be confident that our attorneys will present a well-crafted, fully documented, compelling case in court.

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