There are over 5 million elder abuse cases reported in the United States each year. This tragic statistic accounts for approximately 10% of all Americans over the age of 60. Sadly, 78% of these complaints are filed against nursing home, memory care, and other assisted living facilities.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a list of nursing home and assisted living facilities that failed to meet the health and safety requirements mandated by the federal government. This list includes 10 underperforming facilities in Georgia that have been repeatedly cited for safety violations and quality of care deficiencies. This is an absolute travesty, as Georgia’s strict nursing home laws are specifically designed to go above and beyond federal regulations.
But why are reports of abuse increasing each year? Is it that people are becoming more aware of the actions that constitute nursing home abuse? While the answer to this question is yes, there is also another factor that needs to be addressed: In the early 2000s, private equity firms began acquiring, dismantling, and updating nursing home facilities into for-profit behemoths that prioritize insurers and investors over residents. Consequently, nursing home managers have been forced to cut “inessential” expenses, including staffers, to ensure their facility’s daily profitability. This means that most nursing home staffers are underpaid, inexperienced, and greatly overwhelmed by the needs of their charges.
Nursing home residents have suffered the following harms and catastrophic injuries while in the care of overworked, inexperienced, and negligent staffers:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Multiple bone fractures
- Neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
Elderly residents are often at a greater risk of tripping and falling due to slippery floors, cluttered hallways, or even just a lack of careful monitoring. In serious cases, a resident can even suffer staffer-on-resident and/or resident-on-resident abuse.
A Backlog of Complaints
On July 9, 2019, Andy Miller of WABE wrote an article detailing how “Georgia regulators have a backlog of about 200 complaints against nursing homes that need investigation.” The Department Community of Health claims that the complaint backlog is due to a high number of job vacancies for nurse surveyors. However, this is not a new problem; there was a similar backlog in 2017 before Legislature approved a higher starting salary for nurses who investigate nursing home complaints.
Frank Berry, the commissioner of Community Health, also revealed that 100 nursing homes will not be evaluated for recertification in time because of the number of vacancies and their limited budget. Ombudsmen representatives hired by the state, including Melanie McNeil, find this concerning because, “when surveys are delayed, residents may be subject to deficient practices at the facility for a long time because surveyors are not at the facility to identify the deficient practices and require that they be corrected.”
This is a very alarming situation. If your loved one is in a Georgia nursing home facility, there are certain steps you must take to guarantee their health and safety. For example, you can protect your loved one by:
- Visiting the facility frequently, without warning, and at irregular hours.
- Paying attention to resident/staff member interactions.
- Reading and reviewing any contracts carefully (you can work with a lawyer to remove a forced arbitration clause).
- Keeping an ongoing record that details any issues or problems you happen to notice.
- Meeting the administrators and staff members who are responsible for your loved one’s care.
- Talking to other residents about their experiences.
- Enjoying a meal at the facility to verify the food quality.
- Comparing facilities to make quality determinations.
- Working with a qualified attorney to learn more about your loved one’s legal rights.
- Filing a complaint with the appropriate state agency.
- Pursuing a civil lawsuit.
Do You Require Legal Representation? Contact Pratt Clay, LLC Today
The nursing home abuse attorneys at Pratt Clay, LLC have a comprehensive understanding of the laws, protocols, and regulations associated with elder abuse and neglect claims. Please contact our legal team immediately if you or a loved one has been harmed by the actions of a negligent caretaker. We can investigate your case, collect evidence, and develop a litigation strategy that proves the defendant caused you harm and violated your rights under the Standard of Care Act.