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Albuquerque New Mexico Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

How have penalties for health and safety violations changed?

When there is a violation of a health or safety rule in a New Mexico nursing home that results in harm to or endangerment of a resident, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services impose a fine. NPR reports that within the last five years, a new policy went into effect that changed the way that regulators punished a facility for allegedly harming a patient. In the past, regulators could act according to their own discretion in choosing to impose penalties on facilities in which residents came to harm, but the new policy requires punishment in the form of fines for every facility in every instance that patient harm comes to light. 

The new policy has resulted in an increase in the number and frequency of citations issued against long-term care facilities. However, with a new administration currently in power, the amount of money that the government is charging facilities in fines has dropped significantly when compared to the fine amounts charged during the previous administration. During the final year of the previous presidential administration, the average fine amount was $41,260. Currently, the average is $28,405. Additionally, the current administration more often imposes only a single fine, while the previous administration would charge a penalty for every day that the nursing home remained out of compliance.

Judging the most reliable nursing home for your loved one

When you begin considering the possibility of placing your family member in a nursing care facility in New Mexico, chances are your decision has not come before extensive time was spent weighing your options. At Harvey & Foote Law Firm, we are committed to acting as advocates for nursing home patients and their families in guaranteeing they are treated with compassion and respect. 

Once you have finalized your decision to move your loved one into a nursing home, there are several important factors that you should spend time looking at. These include the following:

  • Staff and resident demeanor: Observe how the people behave and respond to you when you visit a facility for the first time. Do the residents appear well cared for, clean and comfortable? Have the staff members spent adequate time giving you a tour and answering your questions with clarity and transparency?
  • Condition of facility: The building you are visiting should be maintained and be appealing while also having adequate modifications to address the needs of the patients. 
  • Social environment: A reliable facility will have options for social interaction for their patients so that your loved one can continue to build friendships and enjoy the connection that comes with social activity.

Is neglect an issue at my loved one's nursing home?

While there's no question that nursing home abuse is abhorrent, nursing home neglect can be equally damaging. While these behaviors may fall short of actual physical or emotional abuse, they still cause significant harm to your family member. This is especially true for residents with severely limited mobility, who are reliant on staff for daily assistance. To ensure you can put an end to neglect and get your loved one the care he or she needs, NextAvenue.org explains some of the common signs. 

Frequent injuries

Is your aging loved one getting the right medication?

When you placed your elderly mother or father in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you assumed they would receive exemplary care. Unfortunately, though, nursing home abuse is not exactly uncommon in the Land of Enchantment. By watching for the signs of nursing home abuse, you can better advocate for your aging loved one’s overall health. 

One sign of nursing home abuse is medication irregularities. According to a recent study, as many as 27% of nursing home patients had some type of error with their medication. While there are a few reasons medication errors occur, you want to be certain your aging loved one receives the correct medication in the prescribed dosage at the right time. Here are some common ways nursing home professionals administer medication incorrectly. 

Bedsores explained

The decision to relocate a loved one to a nursing home in Albuquerque is no doubt a difficult one. You may be willing to see to your family member or friend's every need, yet oftentimes, their conditions may require a level of attention that the circumstances of your own life simply do not allow you to give. This may be especially true if your loved one has mobility issues. You might think that caring for one confined to a bed or wheelchair would be easy, yet as many of those that we here at the Harvey & Foote Law Firm have discovered, such confinement presents its own unique challenges. 

One of those is the potential to develop bedsores. Such injuries (also referred to as "pressure ulcers") develop due to continued pressure being placed on a certain area of the body. Over time, that pressure limits blood flow to that area, which can lead to tissue degeneration and death. Bedsores manifest themselves as areas if increased swelling, and later progress to open wounds from which pus and even blood can begin to drain from. According to the Mayo Clinic, if left untreated, they can open the door to further health complications such as:

  • Infection
  • Cellulitis 
  • Sepsis

Senior citizens and sexual abuse

When people place a loved one in a New Mexico nursing home, they expect this elderly relative will receive the care he or she needs. Many families do not expect seniors to experience sexual abuse. Unfortunately, this situation is not as uncommon as some people may think. 

While some people may think that senior citizens will be safe from sexual abuse inside a nursing home, this is not always the case. According to Nursing Home Abuse Center, seniors who experience sexual abuse usually live inside nursing homes. One study suggests that 83% of the people who are abused live inside care centers and that this abuse is carried out by caregivers in about 80% of incidents. Most of the seniors who experience sexual abuse are women, although elderly men may also find that a caregiver takes advantage of them. Additionally, senior citizens only report this abuse in about 30% of incidents.

What may be causing malnutrition in my elder relative?

According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition in older adults can manifest in a number of ways, from wounds that are slow to heal, to laggard defenses against disease, to weakness in the muscles and a lessening of bone mass. If you have an elderly relative who resides in a New Mexico nursing home and is showing some of these signs, there are some reasons why this might occur and are worth investigating.

Sometimes a lack of nutrition may be caused by a diet intended to help an elderly person deal with a medical condition. Some diets that minimize the consumption of fat, sugar, protein or salt may unintentionally motivate a senior to eat less. It is important to make sure that a senior’s nutrient needs are balanced along with any requirement to cut out fats or sugars.

What does financial elder abuse look like?

It is not uncommon for New Mexico families to send their elderly loved ones to nursing or group homes for the medical care and ongoing support they need. Unfortunately, while many of these facilities provide outstanding care, families today have to worry about nursing home abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Though there are symptoms of all three of which you should be aware should you decide to send a loved one to a nursing home, Money Crashers details a few ways nursing home staff take advantage of elderly individuals' finances.

One way caretakers steal money from elderly individuals is through coercion via neglect and violence. If your loved one is severely disabled, the people you entrust with his or her care may withhold basic care or food until your loved one turns over his or her assets. These same individuals may also flat-out steal your elderly loved one's property, buy it for far below market value or "borrow" it without any intention to ever return it.

4 tips to help keep your loved one safe from nursing home abuse

You want to feel confident that the choice of nursing home you made for your loved one was the right decision; likely, it was. However, the unexpected can happen. Here are four tips you can use to help protect Mom, Dad or your elderly aunt from nursing home abuse and neglect.

A little background

Are there viable alternatives to nursing homes?

Because of the high prevalence rate of nursing home abuse and neglect, many families seek out alternatives to nursing homes for elderly loved ones who need round-the-clock care. If you do not want to risk your loved one's health and safety, you may wonder if there are viable alternatives to nursing homes in New Mexico. Fortunately, the answer is yes. Medicare.gov lists just a few. 

One of the first alternatives to nursing homes the site lists is community services. Many communities offer volunteer services that assist with things such as transportation, shopping, bill pay and financial matters. These services are low cost, with many only accepting voluntary donations. Other organizations may provide more comprehensive services at varied costs. Some such services include meal programs, adult day care and visitor programs.

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