Do You Have A Case Against A Nursing Home When Your Complaints Are Ignored?

Given the condition of your family and loved ones when they become residents at a nursing home – either rehabbing from a difficult and major surgery or for long term care because they can no longer live on their own – it is important for the staff there to pay extra attention to any problems or complaints they have.  This also includes any complaints you make on behalf of your family member.  A minor medical issue in such situations can develop into a life threatening one if not given proper attention.

The Nursing Home Reform Act

This is in part mandated by federal statute, the Nursing Home Reform Act, otherwise known as the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA), 42 CFR 483, et. seq.  According to the Nursing Home Reform Act the nursing home must ensure your family member receives treatment and care in accordance with professional standards of practice.  This includes listening to and addressing any complaints you or your family member have while a resident there.  If the complaints indicate a serious medical issue the Nursing Home Reform Act puts additional requirements on the nursing home.  Under (42 CFR 483.25)483.10(g)(14) a nursing home must immediately inform the resident, their physician, and the resident’s representatives when there is a need to alter treatment significantly such as stopping treatment because of bad reactions to it, or starting a new form of treatment.  

Unfortunately your family member’s complaints, or the complaints you make on behalf of your family member, may either go ignored or not be seriously addressed for a variety of reasons.  The nursing home may be understaffed leaving little time for the nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other staff to give enough time and attention to each resident and their complaints.  There could be poor communication between nursing staff shifts resulting in later shifts not knowing about or following up on your family members complaints.  Sometimes the staff may not realize the seriousness of your family member’s complaints resulting them in not following up with their attending doctor (who is usually in the nursing home only once a week to see them).  

Moving Forward With A Claim Against A Nursing Home

Just because your family member’s complaints are neglected does not mean you automatically have a claim against a nursing home.  You must also show that, due to this neglect, serious harm occurred to your family member.  Put another way you must prove if your family member’s complaints were immediately addressed as they should have been, the harm that occurred to them would not have happened.  Examples are a worsening infection that could have been treated but instead resulted in sepsis, septic shock, and death; or worsening constipation that results in a burst colon.  

In order to determine if there is a case for nursing home neglect due to your family member’s complaints being ignored, your family member’s records will have to be reviewed and nursing home and other medical experts will have to be consulted.  An attorney will be able to help you obtain those medical records through medical authorizations you sign, but you also have a right to get your family member’s records if you are the administrator of their estate. If bringing a case against a nursing home, most states (such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey) require the support of a nursing home expert before you can file.

The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling cases of nursing home neglect.  If you believe serious harm happened to your family member because their complaints went ignored by the nursing home staff, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call at 215-568-6800.

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