Nursing home abuse and neglect in Asheville
Like many residents of Asheville, you may have a family member who needs frequent or even around-the-clock care. However, work and other obligations outside the home keep many seniors’ adult children and relatives from being able to be present all day. Leaving a relative with special needs alone is often not possible, especially if they have Alzheimer’s disease or a mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves or others. This article is the first in a series of four about nursing home abuse in North Carolina and what families can do if they believe a relative has been abused.
Placing an elderly parent or disabled loved one in a nursing or adult care home is one of the most difficult decisions many families make. Some families take months deciding on a facility, taking the time to review state documentation and other metrics of a nursing home’s safety, reliability, cleanliness and other conditions. Above all sources, families should be able to trust government agencies commissioned specifically to look out for a state’s most vulnerable residents. However, a recent investigative report by Carolina Public Press showed that families should even be cautious about trusting state agencies’ reviews of nursing home facilities.
Nursing home and adult care home neglect in Western North Carolina
A 2015 report by the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation accused a McDowell County adult care home of a variety of conditions that put the facility’s 80 residents in danger of sickness, neglect, and violent crime. The nursing home’s staff fell far short of minimum requirements for care and sanitation practices. Accusations of sexual abuse were detailed in the report. The facility was even host to illegal activities like prostitution and drug use. These issues were so egregious that the agency levied hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The fines were the highest among all nursing homes in the state, surpassing other facilities’ penalties by three times.
Instead of taking steps to remedy the glaring issues putting residents at risk of imminent harm, the facility’s owner sued the Department of Health and Human Services, demanding that the report be rescinded, the fines withdrawn and the zero-star rating it had received removed from public records. The lawsuit settled out of court, and the report, fines, and rating were all withdrawn, despite the fact that follow-up visits to the facility during litigation uncovered more violations and unsafe conditions.
How common is nursing home abuse?
Nursing home and adult care home residents are at risk of abuse from staff members and from other residents. About 1 in 3 nursing homes is host to abuse and neglect by staff members; 1 in 5 nursing home residents in a recent study reported experiencing abuse or mistreatment by other residents.
North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services oversees the operation of the 1,200 residential care facilities in the state, but the agency’s standards of review have been criticized for years by advocates for the elderly and people with disabilities. The case of the McDowell County adult care home is one piece in a mosaic of inconsistent enforcement of DHHS regulations and oversight of hazardous conditions in these homes. If the suffering of residents in these homes is not reflected in state ratings, then more seniors and people with disabilities are at risk of being victimized by abuse and neglect.
Legal help after elder abuse in North Carolina
The effects of elder abuse on seniors’ physical and mental health can be debilitating. Falls, bedsores, and other illness often leave seniors dealing with permanent damage that requires ongoing care, while psychological trauma from abuse and neglect requires counseling or medication therapy.
The fact that a residential care facility could secure a victory against a state agency in a case like this one, with dozens of instances of neglect and hazardous practices, shows how formidable the legal teams for these facilities often are. Seniors and other residents of these facilities face years of complex litigation in elder abuse cases against nursing homes. A skilled, knowledgeable attorney can make a significant difference in these cases, from helping clients get the treatment they need before the matter is resolved to investigating patterns of abuse at a facility to build a stronger case.
Our experienced legal team aggressively pursues elder abuse cases in order to get seniors the compensation they need after they have been harmed by nursing home staff. The dedicated staff at our Asheville personal injury firm are ready to evaluate your case at no cost to you so that you and your family can focus on your loved one’s recovery after nursing home abuse and neglect. Contact our firm today for a free initial consultation.
Attorney Lakota R. Denton is a Personal Injury Lawyer in Asheville, NC who proudly assists clients that have been injured through no fault of their own, or due to someone else’s negligence. A graduate of the New England College of Law, Lakota is a recipient of the 2014 “top 40 under 40” award from the National Association of Trial Lawyers and is a member of The North Carolina Advocates for Justice. Lakota and his staff are committed to helping people get the care they need and the compensation they deserve. For more information, contact our office.