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As one of the leading causes of wrongful deaths in the US each year, it’s no surprise that there are so many questions when it comes to the topic of nursing home neglect.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, over 75% of reported elder abuse is verbal or neglect, meaning tragically there are instances of neglect happening in nursing homes across the country every day.

If your family member or loved one is either moving into residential living or currently lives in a nursing home and you’re concerned about their safety, our frequently asked questions will help to answer some of the questions you may be asking;

What are the main types of nursing home neglect?

There are two types of neglect that occurs within a nursing home setting:

  1. Physical neglect
  2. Emotional or psychological neglect.

Physical neglect in care homes

Physical neglect is slightly easier to spot because there are often visible signs that show your loved one is not getting the adequate level of care nursing homes are required to provide. Physical neglect can include:

  • Not being washed for days
  • Wearing the same clothing for several days
  • Their environment is untidy, dirty or generally neglected
  • Bruising or other visible unexplained injuries
  • A change in their general behavior as they become more emotional or distressed

Emotional neglect in care homes

While physical neglect can be easier to spot, emotional neglect is also a very common type of abuse that happens in nursing homes in Arizona as well as across the US.

The signs of emotional neglect are often more subtle, some of the more common signs of emotional neglect include:

  • Care givers singling them out from group activities or general interaction
  • Belittling, bullying and other verbal abuse directed at individuals
  • Being denied rights such as having visitors and even access to food or drink
  • Witnessing any kind of raised voices or general aggression from caregivers

Emotional abuse can be tougher to prove as it typically happens over a longer period of time or even behind closed doors. The more common signs listed above can be spotted by visitors or loved ones but often over a period of time as their family member’s behavior typically declines.

What are the first signs of nursing home neglect?

This depends on the type of neglect taking place, but there are a few different signs to look out for in both, including significant changes in behavior from your family member or loved one.

It can be difficult to spot emotional neglect as but some signs to look out for in your loved one, should you suspect there is emotional neglect happening can include:

  • A change in behavior from your loved one eg. becoming withdrawn, emotional or depressed
  • Finding them alone or shut away
  • A general despondent approach to doing anything

With physical neglect there you are more likely to notice changes in appearance, other things to look out for include:

  • Wearing unwashed or soiled clothing, or seeing them in the same clothes repeatedly
  • A messy environment; untidy, unhygienic or generally unkept
  • Dirty finger and toenails left uncut or visibility unwashed
  • Having lost or gained an unusual amount of weight
  • Being visibly dehydrated or left without water
  • Being physically isolated from others or left alone for a long period of time

How can you investigate nursing home neglect?

The law in the state of Arizona allows a direct relative of someone in a nursing home who suspects abuse is happening, to file a formal complaint against the nursing home.

To begin the investigation contact The Arizona Health Services Department either by:

  • Completing a form on their website
  • Calling them directly on 1 (602) 364-2536.

You can read our article about where to file a complaint here for more information about starting any kind of complaint against a nursing home in Arizona.

Once you’ve filed the complaint, you should then consider speaking to a legal professional about your legal rights as a family member. Neglect within a nursing home is often a complex and emotionally charged legal case so hiring a legal representative will help take some of the burden and emotional stress away.

Investigating neglect is something an experienced attorney will be highly competent in doing, representing your family member in a legal capacity.

They can also advise you on what you can do to assist your case, including things like collecting photographs or keeping a log of behavior on behalf of your loved one.

Can a nursing home sue you?

There are a few limited circumstances in which a nursing home can sue a resident, for example if they fail to keep up the regular payments. There will be a contractual agreement in place before moving in so it is important to have a plan in place about paying for the care before this happens.

If you’ve filed a formal complaint or even raised issues with the manager of a nursing home about the neglect of a loved one, and are now concerned about them suing you, it’s important to learn about your rights.

Nursing homes have a certain obligation to supply a level of healthcare to its residents but once a resident goes into hospital, it’s not their responsibility to pick up the medical bills.

Again, if you or your family member doesn’t pay the medical bills for health issues that are ongoing, you will need to ensure they get paid.

Can I still visit if I make a complaint about neglect?

Yes, if you’ve raised concerns about a home you are still in your legal rights to continue to visit a loved one. Nursing home staff should not discourage or prevent you from visiting a loved one in any way.

If you’ve made a formal legal complaint these are handled anonymously in Arizona.

How often should a nursing home change a patient’s diaper?

This is a rather specific question that is often asked by family members of residents suffering from incontinence.

If your family member wears a diaper, a nursing home should be checking it every two hours and changing accordingly.

If you’re worried this is not being changed regularly or there are sores starting to appear, raise it with the manager immediately. Sadly, it is common for a nursing home to neglect residents who rely on adult diapers, forgetting or not checking regularly enough which can lead to urine burns and sores caused from the diapers.

Not changing a diaper is another form of neglect and is something that needs to be addressed. If you suspect your loved one may not be helped often enough with changing, make sure to keep a log and try to remind the staff as often as possible.

What are some of the causes of nursing home deaths?

Tragically, when neglect is left unnoticed or carries on for too long, it can cause other health conditions that may lead to a wrongful death happening. Wrongful death is defined by something that could have been prevented, such as neglect, and is often the legal outcome of a nursing home neglect case.

Death within a nursing home setting that can be directly related to neglect can be caused by a number of factors including:

  • A slip or fall resulting in injuries or instant death
  • Infection caused by something preventable e.g. a wound or urine infection.
  • Accidental medicine doses
  • Being left for a long period of time after a fall or injury

While there are many natural causes of death within a nursing home, sadly a high proportion are a direct result of neglect. Neglecting the most vulnerable members of society will always have much more severe consequences and sadly often ends with preventable death.

Dorosti v. Recovery Innovations of Arizona: An example of neglect causing wrongful death

A real-life example of neglect causing a wrongful death within a residential home is the Dorosti v. Recovery Innovations of Arizona, Inc case.

A resident by the name Dorosti lived in a psychiatric facility due to living with bipolar; a serious mental illness that meant he had become a danger to others as well as himself.

Dorosti had a long and complex mental health history throughout his life, but tragically the home where he was living when his wrongful death happened had been proven to significantly neglect Dorosti and the care he needed.

An experienced attorney representing Dorosti showed that the psychiatric home had:

  • Failed to manage his medication and manic behavior appropriately
  • This failure then caused his mania to escalate
  • This led to an attempt to use restraint, which resulted in an assault from an unqualified and unlicensed recovery coach

Due to the severe level of neglect Dorosti experienced that led to his death, the psychiatric home was found to be fully liable and responsible for a death that could have been easily prevented.

The surviving family of Dorosti was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages after the case was settled in court in front of a jury.

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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