Sometimes, no matter how great our love and devotion, we are unable to provide adequate at-home care and supervision for our elderly family members. The onset of medical illnesses, physical deterioration and/or mental infirmities, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, that accompany advancing age increase the difficulty of providing adequate at-home care for our elderly family members. As a result, we are faced with a difficult decision, namely, whether to place our loved ones in a nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2014 approximately 1.4 million people resided in nursing homes, and of the 15,600 nursing homes providing care to our elderly population, approximately 70% were for-profit ownership.
When a decision is made to utilize the services of a nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility, it is with the hope and expectation that such organizations, at a minimum, will closely and professionally supervise our loved ones, keep them safe from harm, provide for their medical needs and daily sustenance, and treat them with respect and dignity so that they can enjoy a good quality of life in their remaining years. Unfortunately, some nursing homes, assisted living and elder care facilities — even those with excellent reputations — fall woefully short of our hopes and expectations.
These facilities may be understaffed, and their personnel poorly trained and inadequately supervised, resulting in many of our elderly population receiving poor care, inadequate supervision, and a dismal quality of life. It is not uncommon for the elderly who are receiving poor care, treatment and supervision at such improperly staffed, trained and supervised facilities to also suffer serious injuries, physical and emotional abuse, and even death.
The onset of advanced age often is accompanied by medical illness, physical deterioration, a decline in independent mobility, and a loss or reduction of cognitive functions due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A result of this aging process is that our loved ones become dependent upon the staff of nursing homes, assisted living or elder care facilities for life’s basic essentials and activities of daily living —food, water, medicine, toileting, grooming, interaction, and mobility.
If a nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility is understaffed, or if its personnel is inadequately screened, trained or supervised, our loved ones may not receive the care, treatment, goods or services that we expect them to receive in order to maintain a proper quality of life. The high monthly expenses that families must pay in order for their elderly loved ones to reside in a nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility is no guarantee that these facilities will provide satisfactory care, supervision and treatment. Injuries and other incidents suffered by the elderly at nursing homes, independent living and elder care facilities may signal the existence of negligence or possible abuse.
Proving a nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility’s negligence or abuse in a court of law sometimes can be complicated, and usually requires the assistance of experienced, skillful trial attorneys to protect the rights of such aged victims. At Charles Law Offices, you can rely on our nearly 40 years of legal training, trial experience, skill and successful representation of injured clients to help if you, or a loved one, are the victim of neglect or abuse at a nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility. Attorneys Frederick E. Charles and Dennis G. Charles will fight for you and get you the compensation you deserve.
Examples of injuries and occurrences that may indicate a departure from an appropriate duty and standard of care, and neglect or abuse in such facilities, are:
The laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania impose upon nursing homes, assisted living or elder care facilities a duty and standard of care to provide to its residents, without limitation:
(1) food, water, and proper nutrition to prevent malnutrition or dehydration;
(2) a safe, sanitary and appropriate living environment;
(3) adequate medical care, including the acquisition and correct dispensing of medications;
(4) assistance with personal hygiene and activities of daily living, including adequate treatment, services and assistance to incontinent residents;
(5) assistive devices, such as wheel chairs and walkers, and appropriate supervision to prevent falls or accidents;
(6) prevention of the resident developing decubitus ulcers (bed sores, pressure sores), and appropriate medical treatment if such decubitus ulcers occur.
The following briefly describes, and differentiates, a nursing home, assisted living residence, and personal care home:
Nursing Home: is “any premises operated for profit in which nursing care and related medical or other health services are provided, for a period exceeding twenty-four hours, for two or more individuals, who are not relatives of the operator, who are not acutely ill and not in need of hospitalization, but who, because of age, illness, disease, injury, convalescence or physical or mental infirmity need such care.” 62 Pa.C.S. §1001.
Assisted Living Residence: is “any premises in which food, shelter, personal care, assistance or supervision and supplemental health care services are provided for a period exceeding twenty-four hours for four or more adults who are not relatives of the operator and who require assistance or supervision in such matters as dressing, bathing, diet, financial management, evacuation from the residence in the event of an emergency or medication prescribed for self-administration.” 62 Pa.C.S. §1001.
Personal Care Home: is “any premises in which food, shelter and personal assistance or supervision are provided for a period exceeding twenty-four hours for four or more adults who are not relatives of the operator, who do not require the services in or of a licensed long-term care facility but who do require assistance or supervision in such matters as dressing, bathing, diet, financial management, evacuation of a residence in the event of an emergency or medication prescribed for self administration. 62 Pa.C.S. §1001.
There are a number of state and federal statutes that regulate facilities that provide care to the aged. A small sample of these include:
The Pennsylvania Department of Health licenses and regulates diverse types of health care facilities, including nursing homes (35 Pa.C.S. §448.808). The Health Care Facilities Act (HCFA) (35 Pa.C.S. §448.101 et seq.) regulates health care facilities, including nursing homes, and is intended to promote public health by implementing a system to improve the delivery of health care services. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has not enacted a bill of rights for nursing home residents, who must look to federal law instead. However, the HCFA requires that nursing homes comply with the minimum federal requirements set forth in the federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, including the resident’s right:
The Older Adult Protective Services Act is found at 35 Pa.C.S.A. §10225.101 et seq. It is declared the policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that older adults who lack the capacity to protect themselves and are at imminent risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment shall have access to and be provided with services necessary to protect their health, safety and welfare. This act is liberally construed to assure the availability of protective services to all older adults in need of them.
Such services shall safeguard the rights of incapacitated older adults while protecting them from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment. It is the intent of the General Assembly to provide for the detection and reduction, correction or elimination of abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment, and to establish a program of protective services for older adults in need of them. The OAPSA requires a covered facility to obtain a criminal history of all applicants and employees, and prohibits the hiring or retention of an employee who has committed any of the criminal offenses listed in 35 Pa.C.S.A. §10225.503(a).
Nursing homes provide medical and non-medical services. The Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) (73 Pa.C.S.A. §201-9.2 et seq.) applies to the non-medical services provided by nursing homes.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandates that health care facilities comply with all civil rights laws. Therefore, health care facilities are subject to, and must comply with, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e – 2000e-17) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (43 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 951-962.2)
Certain federal laws designed to stop the abuse of the elderly apply to nursing homes that receive federal funds. These nursing homes must comply with these federal regulations in order to participate as a skilled nursing facility in the Medicare program. These federal regulations cover such matters as Resident Rights (483-10); Admission, Transfer and Discharge rights (483-12); Resident Behavior and Facility Practices (483 – 13); Quality of Life (483 – 15); Resident Assessment (483.20); Quality of Care (483.25); Nursing Services (483.30); Dietary Services (483.35); Physician Services (483.40); Dental Services (483.55); Pharmacy Services (483.60); Infection Control (483.65); Physical Environment (483.70); and Administration (483.75).
The Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments, 42 U.S.C. §1396r et seq. provides, without limitation, that:
(i) nursing and related services and specialized rehabilitative services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident;
(ii) medically-related social services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident;
(iii) pharmaceutical services (including procedures that assure the accurate acquiring, receiving, dispensing, and administering of all drugs and biologicals) to meet the needs of each resident
(iv) dietary services that assure that the meals meet the daily nutritional and special dietary needs of each resident;
(v) an on-going program, directed by a qualified professional, of activities designed to meet the interests and the physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident;
(vi) routine dental services (to the extent covered under the State plan) and emergency dental services to meet the needs of each resident; and
(vii) treatment and services required by mentally ill and mentally retarded residents not otherwise provided or arranged for (or required to be provided or arranged for) by the State.
The services provided or arranged by the facility must meet professional standards of quality. 42 U.S.C. §1396r(b)(4)(A)
A nursing facility must protect and promote the rights of each resident, including each of the following rights:
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandates that health care facilities comply with all civil rights laws. Therefore, health care facilities are subject to, and must comply with, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e – 2000e-17) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (43 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 951-962.2)
Nursing homes provide medical and non-medical services. The Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) (73 Pa.C.S.A. 201-9.2 et seq.) applies to the non-medical services provided by nursing homes.
The investigation, preparation and trial of a case of neglect or abuse at a nursing home, independent living or elder care facility can be complicated. A myriad of detailed federal and state laws and regulations apply to the way these facilities are to be run, and the care their elderly residents are to receive. Many of the nursing home residents are aged and suffer from mental infirmities, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in many cases of nursing home abuse going unreported due to the disorientation, confusion and memory difficulties of the victims. Some additional issues and problems that may confront the families of victims of nursing home neglect and abuse are, without limitation:
Apart from the nursing home, independent living or elder care facility, are there other possible defendants, such as the facility’s management company; the administrator of the facility; the director of nursing; any nurse responsible for the victim’s care and treatment; other staff members of the facility providing care and supervision of the victim; and the physician providing care to the victim at the facility?
Did the nursing home, independent living or elderly care facility commit a breach of contract by providing a substandard level of care? Did the facility violate one of the many federal or state statutes or regulations regulating nursing homes, assisted living or elder care facilities, including those enumerated above, giving rise to negligence per se or negligence causes of action? Does the corporate negligence doctrine applicable to hospitals also apply to establish the nursing home’s direct liability for the harm suffered by its resident? Is the theory of liability based upon the nursing home, assisted living or elder care facility’s understaffing, negligent hiring and supervision, or failure to provide an on-premises physician? Is there physical injury to the resident that can support a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress? Is the harm suffered by the elderly resident of the nursing home the result of criminal conduct of other residents and/or nursing home employees? Did the nursing home administer psychotropic medications in violation of accepted professional standards, without an appropriate psychiatric or neuropsychiatric diagnosis, without systematically trying less restrictive techniques that proved to be ineffective, or without a psychiatrist reviewing the resident’s current medicine regimen to determine if the dosage and type of medication administered still is appropriate?
With nearly 40 years of trial experience and success in handling all types of personal injury lawsuits, Attorneys Fredrick E. Charles and Dennis G. Charles are second to none when it comes to guarding your legal rights and winning the money damages you deserve. Our record of big trial victories, large verdicts, and out-of-court settlements speaks for itself. We know how to stand up to large nursing homes, assisted living and elder care corporations and facilities to get you the compensation that you are legally entitled to for the harm you have suffered.
Contact us for a free legal consultation at 1-610-437-7064 or simply fill out the form appearing in the top right corner of this page. We’re here 24/7 to get you the legal help you require!
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with a lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the attorneys at Charles Law Offices.
The Charles Brothers’ devotion to the law is derived from a family history in the legal system and of service to others. Their father, Charles “Chink” Charles (depicted in the lower left-hand corner of the photograph) held a 35 year career in law enforcement, and was selected to serve as the personal bodyguard for former United States Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson during their campaign visits to Allentown.