Across the United States, nursing homes and long-term care facilities provide compassionate healthcare for millions of individuals. These facilities have a duty to provide competent care and living accommodations for residents. Unfortunately, neglect and abuse in nursing homes are common, with an estimated 1 to 2 million people suffering abuse at the hands of the caregivers. While nursing home insurance is designed to protect facilities, staff, and residents from a broad range of risks, it is imperative that facility managers understand the most common causes of a malpractice claim against the facility and/or its staff. Here is what you need to know about nursing home malpractice claims.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: Alarming Statistics
Abuse or neglect in nursing homes is on the rise. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, between 1 and 2 million U.S. adults aged 65 or over have experienced some form of abuse committed by a caregiver entrusted with their wellbeing. These incidents often go unreported to authorities; it is estimated that less than 10% of physical/mental elder abuse cases are reported, while fewer than 5% of claims of financial exploitation are reported to regulatory authorities. Abuse claims may vary, and include:
- Physical or mental abuse
- Improper or lack of supervision
- Financial crimes, including property theft, financial exploitation, or forgeries
- Sexual assault
- Improper or substandard medical treatment and care
With more elderly citizens relying on caregivers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, these statistics regarding abuse or neglect have raised alarms among regulatory agencies. Work is ongoing to create a legislature that protects seniors from abuse, and nursing homes are implementing their own practices to reduce instances of abuse.
Malpractice Claims in Nursing Homes
As shown above, claims of abuse or neglect in nursing homes can take many forms. Each of these negatively impacts the lives and safety of seniors who depend on care facilities. In some cases, these claims can lead to malpractice litigation against nursing homes and their caregivers.
The primary action regarding malpractice claims in nursing homes is centered on violation of “standard of care”. Each state has its own regulations establishing the standard of care in long-term care facilities, and these typically include provisions for the preservation of rights, rights to accurate medical treatment, and environmental safety and cleanliness. If a nursing home fails in its duty to provide a reasonable standard of care for residents, it may be subject to lawsuits, not to mention regulatory fines and penalties. Nursing home insurance typically provides some form of general and/or professional liability protection against legal claims, but nursing home owners and managers should not rely on this as a sole source of coverage.
Related to violations of established standards of care are medical malpractice claims. Nursing home abuse that falls under medical malpractice may include:
- Prescription drug errors
- Improperly-trained caregiving staff
- Unclean conditions that may lead to infection
- Improper use of medical restraints
- Failure to seek help from medical professionals if a resident’s health worsens
- Dehydration or malnutrition
It is important to remember that nursing home abuse or neglect can lead to serious consequences, including worsening health conditions or avoidable resident deaths. Healthcare facility managers need to take the steps necessary to reduce or eliminate the chances of a malpractice claim – protecting resident lives, staff members, and facility business assets.
Managing Risks in the Nursing Home Environment
The role of nursing home insurance cannot be overstated when it comes to offering risk management protection for healthcare facilities. This insurance alone is not the only resource available to nursing homes, however; facility owners and managers must implement numerous other strategies to protect residents from abuse or neglect.
Strategies to reduce abuse and neglect claims include:
- Carefully vetting staff members during the hiring process. This can include detailed criminal background checks and speaking to prior employers.
- Routine and recurring staff training. Training can include responding to emerging health threats, the use of specialized medical equipment, and identifying signs and symptoms of abuse in residents.
- Eliminating hazards in and around the facility, including contamination hazards as well as physical slip-and-fall injury sources (slippery flooring, wires and tubing in walking areas, insufficient lighting).
- Adherence to regulatory guidelines and standards. This is an important aspect of risk management in terms of managing expenses; regulatory fines and penalties can harm the business prospects of a nursing home facility and may lead to the shuttering of facilities in violation of standards.
With nursing home insurance and with an eye toward delivering competent, compassionate, and accurate medical care, nursing homes can continue to provide these services for America’s elderly citizens.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.