The Heartbreak of Watching a Loved One Decline and Transition into a Nursing Home

total nursing homes in Atlanta statistic It is difficult to witness a parent or relative age and decline to where they’re no longer able to live independently. Family members are often depended on for daily care, like bathing, giving medication, and providing proper hygiene. And they often face other challenges, including transportation and ensuring their loved one receives social interaction and nutritious meals.

Family members are often concerned with how to best care for their aging or declining relative. However, a lack the time, resources, and even emotional strength leaves many turning to assisted living communities for solutions.

Many Corporations Claim to Provide Quality Care for Older Persons—But Fail

Nursing homes are often run by large corporations advertising geriatrics specialists and a solution to elderly care. Unfortunately, many fail in providing these promises.

Nursing facilities were not designed or intended just for older people in top health. Ideally, nursing homes should be equipped to help care for residents already declining from common diseases or health problems. Many patients will have illnesses like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or atherosclerosis; some have suffered from past heart attacks, strokes, or even cancer. Some are disabled adults or handicapped, and occasionally they are in hospice, no longer able to make simple life decisions. Nursing homes must be equipped to care for people who can no longer complete daily activities without help.

No longer are nursing homes simply considered a place to house people in their old age until they pass. You and your loved ones deserve more than that. Nursing homes that claim to be the solution for care must be held accountable.

Example of a nursing home Wrongful Death claim as reported by the AJC Investigative Team, September 2019

There Is No Excuse for Abuse or Neglect

You trusted that the nursing home would properly, safely, and compassionately care for your beloved or disabled relative. In fact, the company probably promised they would do so.

Our nursing home abuse attorneys believe there is no excuse for neglect or abuse by assisted living staff. Their purpose is to care for elderly or disabled adults who are in a vulnerable or extreme condition. We want to be legal advocates for families who have seen the harm caused by carelessness, negligence, or misconduct first-hand.

Definitions of common terms relevant to the abuse, neglect or exploitation of at-risk adults

How to Know If Your Elderly Parent Is Experiencing Nursing Home Abuse

Many elderly residents may have already begun experiencing mental decline caused by an injury or illness when they are admitted. So, it can be a challenge to detect if and when they have been abused or neglected behind closed visitor doors.

Some issues to look for and questions to ask your provider include:

  • Are there any visible or unexplained internal injuries? For example, if there has been a fracture, like a broken hip or neck, how did it happen? If there’s no plausible explanation, consider the possibility of neglect or abuse by personnel or another resident.
  • Are there any new or recent scars or sores? Permanent scars may result from broken skin-related abuse or neglect cases. For example, bedsores are a common sign of neglect or abuse. These sores (decubitus ulcers) can occur when a resident is left in bed without being rotated or otherwise properly cared for over an extended period.
  • Have infections been ignored or are getting worse rapidly? Residents sometimes require prescribed wound care for skin damage—but this is often neglected in an understaffed nursing home. Elderly residents require attention and medicine for conditions like bone, blood, soft tissue, respiratory, and urinary tract infections. Poorly trained or negligent staff can ignore residents’ infections until it is too late, which can be deadly.
  • Has there been a complaint of sexual abuse? Unfortunately, sexual assault and even sexual molestation (rape) does happen behind closed doors. Not all nursing homes do adequate background checks, enabling perpetrators to be employed by them. These abuses or attacks can happen if the facility is improperly managed, supervised, and staffed.
  • Are there strange transactions taking place in the accounts of your elderly parents? Fraud or financial exploitation is another type of abuse that can take place in assisted living homes. In some poorly run homes, care staff members have stolen from or exploited vulnerable residents. This even includes Medicare fraud.
  • Is the room overheated or not heated at all when you visit? Poor supervision or building maintenance can lead to hypothermia, hyperthermia or even heatstroke in a frail elder. Although cooling or heating buildings here in Georgia can be expensive, there is no excuse for not providing a safe, comfortable place to live.
  • Do you recognize any negative traits about staff members? Do you hear vulgarity from employees when they are talking to each other? Are they making any threats? Do they call people names? Do they yell at or insult other residents? Verbal harassment or mental abuse is often a “silent problem” because it usually does not take place in front of visitors. If you hear vulgar or abusive language, you should report this to management or other authorities immediately.
  • Are you noticing poor physical or oral health with your family member? Malnutrition is a form of neglect and can result in suffering or earlier death. Physical health can decline from not being bathed consistently, or with missed scheduled toileting—a sign of abandonment.
  • Is your loved one now in a vegetative or paralyzed state, for no logical reason? A preventable spinal or head injury may have occurred from a fall or intentional act of physical violence. An investigation may be needed to determine whether the probable cause of the injury was nursing home neglect or abuse.
  • Is there unusual behavior, such as mood swings or expressions of fear? These can be warning signs that a resident has been the victim of physical or emotional abuse.

If you suspect, experience, or witness similar injuries, or other acts of egregious behavior, it is important to investigate promptly. Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers can help by visiting the facility, reviewing records, or consulting with doctors or other experts to discover if abuse or neglect has occurred.

There is no charge to consult with us and no legal fee unless we recover money in your case.

How Our Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Can Level the Playing Field

Top-notch defense lawyers usually defend nursing home companies. The challenge is not merely creating a report, making a claim, or filing suit, instead it is actually proving abuse occurred. There are many obstacles in establishing an abuse or negligence case against an Atlanta area nursing home company.

After a serious incident, the nursing home’s risk managers or legal team may encourage the staff not to speak with you. And, it may be difficult to gain access to critical evidence without the knowledge of legal procedures and processes.

Victims of elder abuse or neglect are often unable to explain what happened due to infirmity, illness, or death. Additionally, nursing and long-term care facilities are no longer only for older residents. People recovering from serious head injuries, wound care, and surgeries often spend time in nursing facilities, too.

However, a silent plaintiff does not mean there is no hope or that you do not have a strong case. A proper investigation can help discover the truth even if your loved one is unable to explain or understand what happened. Hiring the best experts to review records and interview or depose witnesses and employees can make all the difference in a case.

We can help you prove that neglect and malpractice can, and does, happen to both elderly and younger patients.

Proving Neglect through Rules, Regulations, and Detailed Investigation

Georgia nursing homes and short- and long-term care facilities must follow certain laws, statutes, rules, and regulations. Unfortunately, understaffing, poor training and hiring practices, and sometimes lack of empathy, mean those regulations and standards are not always followed. Senior citizens and other vulnerable patients may be left to suffer needlessly.

Our nursing home neglect attorneys typically begin by thoroughly investigating the facility and owners, as well as the resident’s medical and nursing records. We look for violations of safety standards and evidence of negligence or intentional misconduct.

The nursing home or assisted care facility will receive notice of your claim. The facility will be required to preserve documents and records as critical evidence, under penalty of the law. Our attorneys and negligence experts will review your records and applicable laws and regulations to determine violations and the strength of your case.

No Up-Front Fees • Our Law Firm Works on a Contingency Basis

Unlike some national law firms, The Millar Law Firm handles nursing home and assisted living facility cases on a contingent-fee basis. This means we are only paid legal fees if we recover money for you or your family.

There is no charge for our consultations or investigations.

You can consult with our attorneys by telephone or in-person. And, we never pressure anyone to use our services. We will explain your legal options and arm you with the information you need to decide whether to take legal action.

Our nursing home neglect lawyers have the experience, skillset, and knowledge of abuse and neglect laws. They can analyze your case and begin helping you as soon as possible. Nursing home facilities have their own nursing home abuse lawyers to defend their misconduct. You need a powerful legal team on your side.

Common Issues We Identify in Nursing Home and Assisted Living Cases

Negligent care planning. One of the first things that our legal team does is to review the facility staff’s care plan. Was the plan appropriate, and was it followed? We may discover that staff members, nurses, and sometimes even doctors have not properly followed the care plan. This can sometimes be the root cause of neglect.

Unsafe and understaffed facility. Nurse-to-resident ratios at nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are often dangerously unsafe. According to nurse.org surveys, staff-to-patient ratios in some Georgia nursing home facilities are reportedly as high as 50:1 for nurses and 30:1 for certified nursing assistants. Such ratios pose an extreme risk to residents.

Georgia law requires each shift to have at least one licensed or registered nurse on staff as well as one doctor, RN, and dentist. We have found that these requirements are not always being met.

Understaffing is a major problem in the nursing home industry, contributing to much abuse and neglect. We expect this problem only to become worse due to the additional loss of staff caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Resident physical and sexual abuse. Incidents of physical abuse by fellow-residents and by improperly hired or supervised facility staff members are shockingly common. Investigations often show that these events could have been prevented by having correct resident-to-staff ratios and properly trained, qualified workers.

Failure to supervise and protect residents. A vast number of injuries occur because patients wander around or elope from (leave) the facility. Failure to assist patients to the restroom or missing or improperly positioned bedrails or other protective equipment also lead to many injuries. We find that many of these incidents should have been easily prevented.

Improper patient and resident reporting. Nurses and other staff members are required to monitor the physical and mental condition of residents. They must report their conditions to senior staff and the resident’s doctor even if they are not in the facility. Failure to monitor patients, or document and report on their conditions, can lead to injury, infection, malnutrition, or death.

Cover-ups. When a resident—particularly one with diminished mental capacity—is injured, a facility and staff may attempt to alter or destroy records and evidence or lie about what happened. Fast, thorough, and detailed investigation combined with expert witness review of the records and facility can often detect such cover-ups. Evidence that a care facility has covered up an incident can lead to increased civil or even criminal penalties.

What Damages Can Be Recovered in an Atlanta, Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Case?

In Georgia, victims of nursing facility neglect or abuse may recover damages for pain and suffering, wrongful death, mental and physical trauma, hospitalization and medication costs, and loss of enjoyment of life. In some cases, punitive damages for intentional, reckless, or outrageous conduct by the company or staff may also be awarded.

Even if the victim is elderly or retired, damages are available. In fact, we believe that damages are even more important when our most vulnerable citizens are negligently injured or abused.

Types of Damages That Are Awarded In Atlanta Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuits

Some examples of damages and compensation that have been recovered in claims against nursing home facilities include:

  • Economic damages
  • Cost of ambulance transportation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damages for wrongful death
  • Bills and expenses for hospital stays
  • Surgeries and surgical costs
  • Nursing home and in-office doctor visits
  • Costs for medical testing, such as MRI scans, CT imaging, X-Rays, and blood work
  • Prescription medication
  • Physical therapy, wheelchairs, and assistive devices
  • Future medical care
  • Punitive damages for gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing

How Are Atlanta Nursing Home Cases Settled or Resolved?

Like other injury claims, most Georgia nursing home neglect and abuse cases are resolved through settlement or by a court judgment or trial verdict. Each case is different and will need to be evaluated as to whether settlement or trial is best.

After investigation, many nursing home abuse cases are settled with the permission of the victim or the family. Settlement can take place before or after a lawsuit is filed. Usually, efforts are made to settle without filing suit. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement, the lawsuit will be presented in court before a judge and jury.

Cases of intentional or outrageous conduct like gross negligence, physical or sexual abuse, or a nursing home with a bad history, will often be evaluated differently, and at a higher value, than cases where the negligence was the result of a non-intentional error or single mistake.

In all cases, the client has the ultimate authority to decide whether to settle or take the case to trial. If a case is filed, the lawsuit will go to civil court (most likely a Georgia State or Superior Court). The nursing home defendants will usually be one or more staff members, managers, employees, or doctors who were the perpetrators, breached a legal duty, or were otherwise responsible for causing the injury or committing the tort.

Our team of experts will provide the necessary information to help you make the best decision regarding accepting a settlement or moving forward to a judge or jury decision.

Should You Hire a Nursing Home Abuse Case Attorney?

Small cases, like minor traffic tickets or small claims, usually do not require an attorney. However, nursing home neglect cases are different. Without an experienced legal advocate, it’s unlikely you’ll receive justice, a fair settlement, compensation for damages, or a fair verdict.

The majority of nursing facility cases will require legal experience. A thorough understanding of the rules and regulations governing nursing home operations and staffing is imperative.

Many steps must be taken to ensure the case is properly investigated and presented. These steps include sending legal notices and evidence preservation requests, obtaining and reviewing medical records and nursing notes, thoroughly investigating the facility and staff, and obtaining relevant witness testimony. Attorneys who specialize in nursing home negligence and mistreatment cases are prepared to carry out these steps. They have the expertise and the time and money to invest to win a case.

Before hiring an attorney, it’s critical to ask questions. Find out if the attorney and law firm have experience handling nursing facility negligence cases and the necessary staffing and resources to do so. Large corporations with deep pockets run many nursing homes. So, it is likely that you will need experienced and well-funded counsel on your side.

How We Work For You in a Nursing Home Lawsuit

Our law firm regularly handles nursing home claims and litigation across the Atlanta area and the State of Georgia. We are also trial lawyers. While most injury cases do settle, we prepare each case as if it will go to trial. We are ready to take our cases to trial if a settlement cannot be reached. This is the only way to achieve top results.

Some of the things that we will do while investigating and handling your case include:

  • Gathering and reviewing evidence such as medical records, facility records and policies, photographs and photographic evidence, witness statements, and video camera recordings
  • Hiring and working with top experts to determine exactly what happened in the nursing home
  • Obtaining records to prove whether the nursing home has a history of abusing or neglecting patients
  • Inspecting the care center
  • Conducting discovery and taking depositions from the staff and company management
  • Determining what the full losses are

What Are Some Other Benefits of Bringing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim?

Legal claims may not always be thought of as “beneficial.” However, as attorneys, we believe one of our missions is to stop future abuse and neglect.
Not only can legal claims benefit your family by recovering well-deserved damages, but they can also help others by improving the quality of care in the nursing home. Lawsuits and legal claims may force medical and nursing providers to improve their services and prevent future incidents from happening.

In cases where extreme physical, sexual, or emotional abuse occurred, civil lawsuits may help to stop and prevent future crimes. Nursing home sexual assault and molestation are serious misdemeanors and felonies. Evidence gathered in civil cases can sometimes lead to criminal charges or prosecutions.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Georgia’s nursing home resident population is currently estimated at 33,000 residents—the 15th largest population in the nation. And, with 13.9 percent of Georgia’s population over the age of 65, it’s expected that nursing home attendance will double by 2030.

Free Consultations for Nursing Home Cases

The Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers of The Millar Law Firm represent family members and victims of nursing home negligence and abuse. We believe that all assisted living and nursing home residents have the right to be free from injury caused by neglect or abuse.

We handle various elder abuse and neglect claims and cases against nursing homes, including negligent and intentional injures caused by falls, staff or resident abuse, malnutrition, bedsores, broken bones, malpractice, and wrongful death.

If you would like to learn more about nursing home cases or find out what your case may be worth, our consultations are free. Contact us today to speak with an attorney in-person, by telephone, or by video conference.

Even if you are not sure if you have a case, we are here to answer your legal questions. There is no charge or obligation, and we will never pressure you to sign up for or hire our services. Call us today at 770-400-0000 (that’s “770-4-Million”) and chat with us or use our quick contact form.

Investigating a Nursing Home

Georgia Nursing Home Directories

State of Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Resources

Federal Government Nursing Home Abuse Resources

Georgia Statewide – Non Profit Organizations for Elder Abuse

Filing a Complaint