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When it comes to protecting our older relatives and loved ones living in residential care, it’s fair to say we all want to ensure they are safe and cared for at all times but what happens when they’re needs are not being met and they are subject to forms of abuse.

Nursing home abuse has become increasingly common, as over 1.5 million people across the US grow older and rely on residential nursing care. Sadly, in recent years, the increase in nursing homes has meant there has also been a rise in nursing home abuse cases reaching court.

If you’re worried about a loved one or want to know more about nursing home abuse cases, our frequently asked questions help answer some of the more common queries you might have about your rights and how to raise a complaint, should you need to.

1: What are the types of elder abuse?

There are sadly many cases of elder abuse filed across the US every year, with many more tragically going unnoticed.

While this is a complex social issue, having unqualified caregivers is just one of the many reasons why elder abuse happens every day in nursing homes across Arizona and the US. Other forms including:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse eg. smacking, hitting, pinching or scratching to break the skin
  • Psychological abuse eg. gaslighting or causing torment
  • Dispensing the wrong amount of medication
  • Shouting, swearing, and intimidation
  • Fighting between residents and/or carers
  • Denying basic access to food, water, and hygiene needs

Whilst these are some of the more common types of abuse that can happen in nursing homes, there are many other forms of abuse that happen. It can be difficult to spot signs of abuse within nursing homes and even know what to do next.

We cover other aspects of nursing abuse as well as what to do if you need some legal advice about filing a complaint about nursing home abuse, in a previous guide but would always recommend reporting your concerns to the management team directly, before other options.

2: How do I report nursing home abuse in Arizona?

If you suspect a family member or someone in their nursing home is being subjected to any form of abuse, it is important to understand what your legal rights are.

When it comes to reporting abuse within a nursing home in Arizona, there are two options to contacting The TASA, or The Arizona Health Service Department; on their website or by calling them directly on 1-602-364-2536.

Reporting abuse in a nursing home doesn’t need to be straight to the Arizona Health Department Service, as each nursing home in the state will have a complaints procedure. It is possible to deal with abuse or neglect directly with the nursing home if the staff co-operate or are willing to take action against their own staff. Try reporting the complaint to the management of the home and raise your concerns with them.

It is always important to know your legal rights when you’re thinking about reporting abuse as this can often become a complex legal case if the nursing home is then investigated.

We always recommend seeking legal counsel from an experienced attorney when it comes to nursing home abuse cases, as it can often be an emotionally distressing and highly stressful time for family members.

3: How long does it take to sue a nursing home?

The duration of a legal case of nursing home abuse can take between 18 months to 4 years before a verdict is delivered.

The time it takes from first filing a legal case against a nursing home until a case is resolved depends on many different factors such as;

  • how many other legal cases the state department are handling
  • how complex the particular case is
  • whether the jury was able to reach a verdict.

At any point during the process of filing a legal complaint, a settlement can be offered out of court, and if both parties agree to the settlement terms, the case can be resolved before it goes on to be represented in a legal court. If you agree to a settlement, the complaint could be resolved within 18 months of the first complaint.

If neither parties can agree on a settlement, the case could then take another year at least before it reaches court, prolonging the battle.

4: How do I protect assets from nursing home costs?

Protecting assets from being seized by nursing homes in Arizona is one of the more common questions relatives will ask, as assets such as properties, cars, and even valuables can be seized if payments for care are not met. If you are looking to protect your family members’ assets from being seized.

Before you enroll your family member into a nursing home, check their finances are in order and they are aware of the monthly costs of the home. If they’re not financially stable or worry about making ends meet, the Government-run program Medicaid has been specifically designed to means-test and supply financial support to those who need nursing home care but can’t make the monthly commitments needed.

Another way to protect assets from nursing homes is to ‘gift’ family members and friends with sums of money, properties, or goods of value, removing them from your possession and therefore out of reach from nursing homes. Gifting means that if you default on payments or cause the nursing home to demand money, they will be unable to take them as payment.

It is perfectly legal to hand over your possessions as a gift, but there may be some tax implications if you are giving money or a prepaid pension scheme to others.

Schemes such as the irrevocable trust; a legal document that allows you to avoid giving assets away or spending any savings you may have, may allow you to qualify for the Government scheme Medicaid. If you create an irrevocable trust and include assets within your trust, it means they are no longer legally yours, as you will need to sign them over to an independent trustee.

While you can use the assets listed in your trust throughout your lifetime, you can’t control what your trustee does with them should they choose to spend or dissolve them whilst you are alive.

5: When should I hire a wrongful death lawyer?

Sadly, one of the more frequently asked questions when it comes to nursing home abuse is when to hire a wrongful death lawyer in cases where death could have been avoided.

If you feel the care your loved one was in was not adequate or the home should have prevented their death from happening, then you may be entitled to filing a wrongful death case.

Some of the more common situations where it is necessary to hire a wrongful death lawyer are:

  • If an accident in the nursing home such as falling down or a medical overdose has resulted in death
  • Preventable injuries or infection
  • Other signs of neglect or abuse were present

Wrongful death legal cases can be filed any time up to two years after someone has died and can be filed by a family member or spouse of someone who may have died under suspicious circumstances whilst living in a nursing home.

We would always recommend seeking legal advice before filing a wrongful death case as an experienced attorney will be able to offer guidance and support throughout the difficult and often distressing case. If you need more information on wrongful death cases, read our guide to when you should hire a wrongful death attorney, or alternatively contact our helpful team today.

Our experienced attorneys offer comprehensive guidance on all personal injury matters by phone or video conference call.

Our team of lawyers work closely with their injury clients across Arizona, communicating clearly whilst offering reassurance and empathy through an often very difficult and emotional process. During the free consultation, our lawyers will discuss your concerns before creating a comprehensive plan for you, while also assessing the strength of your claim.

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