Families in New Mexico who have a loved one in a nursing home should know about the danger of abuse and neglect. Many cases of abuse and neglect simply are not reported by the nursing homes, and in some other cases, no one can tell for sure if abuse or neglect is involved.
There are two main reasons. For one, elderly citizens are vulnerable to begin with, so signs of abuse may be misinterpreted. Bruises and broken bones can be incurred in a fall, for example, while malnutrition and dehydration may come about because a patient has cognitive or functional impairment. A second reason is that the victims themselves may become quiet and withdrawn, fearful of the consequences of speaking out.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states that one in five emergency room visits made by nursing home residents are for abuse. Out of some 34,000 Medicare claims that the CMS reviewed, 90% could be attributed to the possibility of abuse or neglect.
If a nursing home resident repeatedly incurs bruises, head injuries, cuts or bedsores, or if the resident is continually dehydrated and malnourished, then families should suspect abuse or neglect. The same goes for cases where residents are always sleeping or groggy; this could mean they are being overly sedated to relieve staff members’ burden.
Cases that involve nursing home neglect or abuse can fall under personal injury law or medical malpractice law. Families who intend to file a claim against a nursing care facility may want to see an attorney who is familiar with these fields of law. The attorney may evaluate the case and determine how much families might be able to recover in compensatory damages. If the defendant acted maliciously or with reckless indifference, the plaintiff may sue for punitive damages as well.