When people engage the services of a nursing home, it’s not without a tremendous amount of trust mixed with a heavy dose of guilt. Facing the possibility that your loved one may be suffering abuse in the facility you’ve placed them in is almost incomprehensible.
If you suspect your loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home, you are likely devastated. You’re probably stressed over how to verify and then address the situation. You are probably seeking the right person to answer your questions about a nursing home abuse claim.
We are here to help. We offer free advice. Call our Utah nursing home abuse lawyers as soon as possible.
Please don’t wait for fear you’ll need cash to pay for an attorney’s advice. Call today for a free legal consultation.
Table of Contents
It’s tough to accept that your family member may be the recipient of nursing home abuse. You probably don’t know where to start to determine what’s really going on, let alone prove it. Please read through the items below to find out how to get started, and how you can protect a potential nursing home abuse claim.
It can be tough to admit, but concerns about your loved one’s memory may make you hesitant to accuse the facility of abuse. This is an incredibly tough position to be in, because if it’s true, who else will stand up for them? If you have any reason to wonder whether abuse is going on, you must seek enough information to make sure your loved one is safe.
Nursing homes are expensive and often hard to get into. You may have had your loved one on a waiting list for months or more just to get in.
Now that they’re in, the last thing you want to do is make a fuss before you’re sure there’s anything to fuss about. And you are not likely able to just pull your family member out of their residency contract and take them home without steep penalties. You’ve got to start with gathering as much information as possible to give yourself a clearer picture.
Listen to what your loved one is telling you. Do they appear convinced that what they are saying is true? If so, it’s essential to investigate. You can do so quietly before speaking to anyone at the facility.
The information you gather may not be verbal, but even if your loved one isn’t verbalizing what is going on, you know your loved one. Keep in mind that abuse in a nursing care facility may not be physical. It can be emotional or psychological. It may also take the form of sexual abuse, financial abuse, or neglect. Do a “gut check” and ask yourself if you have any sense that something is not right.
Show up as often as possible and observe. The more you visit, the easier it will be for you to determine whether your loved is suffering abuse. Observing your loved one interacting with others will help you as well. Do you see any sign among the staff of impatience? Do any of the residents appear to be bullying other residents?
Try to be objective in examining the possibilities without making assumptions either way. What do you see, sense, and feel about your loved one’s treatment?
When you’ve got a loved one in a nursing home, it’s very helpful to make a habit of keeping a journal or a log of your visits, including dates, times, and a few comments. As you build this habit, try to record your impressions promptly after a visit, to ensure accuracy and recollection of who was there and other details.
Keeping notes will not only help you recognize patterns if something starts to go wrong, but it will provide you some proof if you find you must make a claim. The longer you maintain a journal, the more helpful it will be, as you’ll be able to compare your observations of your loved one’s physical, psychological, and emotional condition before and after mistreatment started.
You can keep notes simple, but include the date and time. In addition, consider noting some observations about your loved one’s mood and any concerns they voiced. If they complain of mistreatment, try to get them to give you more information and a name if possible. Note their general hygiene and physical condition.
Visited Mom for lunch today. It was raining, so we sat in the recreation room afterward instead of going into the garden. Mom seemed sad and was unusually quiet. Her hair was washed and her clothes were clean, but she had a bruise on her arm.
She wouldn’t talk about how she got the bruise, but she flinched when Nurse Assistant [name] came over to give Mom her meds. She hasn’t been eating as much as usual and has lost some weight. I mentioned that to [staff name]. She said they’ll keep an eye on her to make sure she eats at every meal.
In addition to your notes, it’s helpful to take regular photos. If they have a bruise they don’t want to discuss, be sure to smile and take photo of them with you, making sure one of those photos shows the bruise. The closer-up the photo is, the better, as you may need it later if you discover a pattern of unexplained injuries.
Taking photos will also help you notice if your loved one is experiencing weight loss. Unlike injuries, weight loss is something that may be harder to notice with frequent visits, but comparing photos a week or more apart over time will show you.
Naturally, you can also check in with the staff about whether your loved one is eating and maintaining a healthy weight, but having photos and notes will be essential to a claim if you need evidence of abuse.
Make sure you always keep the originals of your notes and photos if you provide them to anyone in discussing your loved one’s treatment.
Making the decision to speak to staff about your concerns can be scary. No one wants to raise alarm bells, especially when you may still be unsure of what’s going on. And in addition to worrying about making a false accusation, you may be concerned about retaliation against your loved one.
The good news is that nursing homes have a system in place to give family members a route to pursue complaints without fear of retribution. This system involves contacting the citizen’s representative in the home, called the ombudsman. This person may be paid staff or a volunteer. Either way, it’s their job to resolve patient care problems as quickly as possible without any negative impact to the resident.
Speaking to the Ombudsman is an opportunity to seek a resolution to problems before they escalate. When you speak to this person, be sure to add these conversations into your journal notes, including what they’ve promised to do to fix the problem.
Once you’ve filed a nursing home abuse claim, you will be contacted by the home’s insurance company with a request to provide a recorded statement. Do not agree to this.
The insurance adjuster is not making this request to get your claim processed faster. This call is a routine way that insurance companies try to save money. If they record something you say that can be “interpreted” in a way that casts doubt on your claim, they’ll use it against you.
Insurance adjusters are very, very good at getting claimants talking. This is not a place to call for a sympathetic ear. In all likelihood, you won’t even realize something you’ve said will be turned against you. But they find a way to suggest your loved one is mistaken, is making up stories, or is having memory problems, they can try to lower or deny your claim.
The best way to handle insurance company communications is through your Utah nursing home abuse lawyer. Having all communications go through one source—your lawyer, will eliminate miscommunications and confusion that can jeopardize your claim.
The tragic and overwhelming nature of nursing home abuse claims can make it difficult to reach for the phone to contact an attorney. You keep hoping things will improve. You may wonder if you’re just being overprotective or if your instincts are off.
When it comes to your loved one, the stakes are too high to gamble and worry about what the nursing home will think of you. If something is very wrong and you do nothing, what will your loved one think of you? What will you think of yourself?
Your family member’s well-being is the only measure that matters here. And if you’ve done your due diligence in observing, record-keeping, and checking in with the ombudsman and still feel something is wrong, the sooner you reach out to an attorney, the better.
Your Utah nursing home abuse lawyer will answer your questions and provide you with the guidance you need. As you move forward, your lawyer is going to need as much time as possible to investigate the situation, gathering evidence and speaking to witnesses.
Evidence in these types of situations can easily be “misplaced,” and sadly, elderly witnesses may pass away. The sooner your attorney can get started, the sooner any mistreatment your loved one is enduring will be stopped. And if your loved one is experiencing it, chances are, other residents will also suffer from similar treatment unless it is stopped.
When you reach the point of retaining a lawyer, make sure you hire the best fit for your claim. There are many practice areas within which a lawyer may specialize. Your sister’s divorce lawyer may have done a phenomenal job for her, but if she doesn’t spend the majority of his time in personal injury claims, he’s not the best lawyer for you.
Your strongest claim will be made by a personal injury trial attorney with a successful history resolving nursing home claims. And while it’s true that most claims are settled before trial, the trial experience is extremely important. If your loved one’s case must go before a jury to receive full and fair compensation, you need to know you’ve retained someone who can walk into the courtroom and win.
We are sharing the client story below to give you an overview of what to expect in your nursing home abuse claim. We’ve edited the specifics, including names, to protect our client’s privacy, but be assured of the value of the information. Please read it through, then reach out to schedule your own free legal consultation as soon as possible.
On a warm Thursday evening in Salt Lake City not very long ago, Arlene Baker shut down her computer and rushed to the nursing home where her mother Ruth lived. She was normally with her mother for lunch daily in addition to returning for dinner, but the upcoming client presentation had everyone working through lunch around the conference table.
Careful not to speed, Arlene felt a stab of guilt as she caught yet another red light.
“Come on,” she said aloud, as the light infuriated her with its indifference. She had the ridiculous urge to honk at it, just to be doing something. She knew was doing all she could, but logic had nothing to do with her anger at the light. She slammed the heel of her hand against the steering wheel as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.
Get it together, Arlene. She’ll know you’ve been crying.
She was almost there. No time for tears. Ruth had always had the uncanniest of instincts. Arlene couldn’t think of a time she’d needed her mom that Ruth hadn’t miraculously called her first. Her mom was never overbearing or bossy. She was always there with steady, supportive, unfailing love for her daughter.
And I rewarded her by packing her off to a nursing home.
Arlene sighed, wiping tears on her sleeve. She really had to learn to compartmentalize her emotions sometimes. Arlene had kept Ruth home with her and her husband for as long as possible, thankful for her remote employment that allowed her to be there every day.
But when Ruth had begun to get unsteady on her feet, she’d needed to transition to a wheelchair. Arlene and Roy’s townhome hadn’t been built for a wheelchair. They’d needed a more compliant space on one floor. They’d needed to move.
Arlene laughed aloud in the car thinking how shocked she’d been when Roy had flat-out refused. Looking back, she was astonished she hadn’t seen it sooner. He’d barely been civil to her mother while she was living with them. And her mom had never complained.
When faced with Arlene’s request to find a better place for the three of them, Roy had made his stand, telling Arlene she’d have to choose between him and her mother.
Looking back, she now realized if Roy had been worth the paper their marriage license was printed on, he’d never have asked that of her. They’d put the townhouse on the market anyway when she filed for divorce.
Without the support of a two-income household, however, Arlene had been forced to take a new job to afford her mother’s care. She’d found a better-paying position, but it was not remote. Arlene had been forced place her mom in the nursing home while she rented an apartment for six months, resuming her commute.
She considered herself lucky to have found an opening that would allow her to enroll her mom for a six month term. It had a ridiculous early cancellation penalty, but she knew she could make use of those six months to move out of the townhouse and coordinate its sale with her purchase of a small one-story home for herself and Ruth. The new home would need minor renovations to accommodate the wheelchair, but she was confident they could be done before the nursing home contract was up for renewal.
Even if she had to bring in a home care nurse during the day, Ruth would be back home. It couldn’t happen soon enough.
Lately, she had the nagging feeling her mom wasn’t being cared for adequately. She’d noticed on more than one occasion her mom’s hair seemed dirty. When she’d asked a certified nurse’s assistant about it, she’d been assured Ruth was heading into the bath right after her visit. Coincidence, or cover? She’d given the nursing home the benefit of the doubt, but also began keeping daily notes of her observations.
On more than one visit, Ruth had been wearing clothing that Arlene knew she’d put in the hamper and that had obviously not yet been washed.
When Arlene asked a CNA why clothing appeared to be getting pulled from the hamper, the CNA had agreed it was odd, but didn’t really seem to believe her.
“Could she be removing the clothes from the hamper herself?” She had asked Arlene.
“My mother has always been fastidious about her appearance,” Arlene had replied. “And she’s got all her faculties. I assure you; she is not pulling clothes from the hamper.” The young woman given half a smile and half a shrug as she left, her body language screaming indifference.
Arlene bit back the urge to lose her cool and made a note in her journal. She would also call the ombudsman.
When Arlene arrived at the home toward Friday evening, dinner was all but over. She apologized to her mom, but the warmth in Ruth’s eyes told her there was no need.
Arlene noticed something else, however, as she hugged her mom “hello.” The smell of urine.
Ruth had never been incontinent. Making sure her mom had finished her meal, she took her back to her room to go to the bathroom and change her pants. She was surprised to find her mom was wearing an adult diaper.
“How long have you been needing these, Mom?” Arlene asked.
Ruth looked away proudly and said, “I don’t need them, but they put them on me because they say I can’t ‘hold it.’”
“And just how long are you expected to ‘hold it?’” Arlene asked, gently. Her heart broke as her mother hung her head and said quietly, “Apparently, too long.”
Ruth gave her mom another hug and cleaned her up. When she did, she discovered an angry rash beneath the damp diaper.
We met Arlene and Ruth the following Monday, after Arlene called to schedule a free legal consultation.
“Thank you for meeting with us so quickly,” Arlene said as she settled her mother in the office of Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Brad Parker. “I couldn’t leave my mother in that place for one more minute.”
Ruth’s eyes sparkled conspiratorially “I’ve been sprung!” She declared with a wink, setting of laughter around the room as her daughter took a seat beside her.
“How much does it cost to hire your firm for a nursing home claim?” Arlene asked. “I hate to even factor it into a decision about filing a claim, but breaking Mom’s lease is going to incur a huge penalty. I’ll also probably be charged for the remaining months of her lease, whether she’s there or not. While money is secondary to Mom’s well-being, it’s going to be a tough situation, financially.”
“I completely understand,” said Attorney Parker. “There is no up-front cost to retain the firm for your nursing home abuse claim. We work on a contingency basis, which means we cover all the expenses for your claim and receive payment only after we’ve successfully resolved your claim.”
“You actually make a living that way?” Ruth asked, astonished.
“Yes, ma’am, we do,” smiled Attorney Parker.
Ruth turned to her daughter, “These guys must be hot stuff!”
Attorney Parker laughed, “We’re all about bringing our clients the compensation they deserve.”
“So, are you able to give me an idea what a claim like this is worth? In addition to the penalties and nursing home bills, I’ll need to hire at-home help to care for Mom when I return to work next week. It’s all a bit daunting, though without question, worth it,” she said, taking her mother’s hand.
“Completely understandable,” Attorney Parker assured them. “The value of your claim is going to depend on the outcome of our investigation as well as on Ms. Barker’s damages.
“On the bright side, if we win, we may be able to get you reimbursement for the financial penalties you’ve incurred by breaking lease as part of your compensation.
“Do you happen to have any documentation of what’s been going on? Anything you can give us to support our investigation will be of help.
“I’ve got my journal,” said Arlene, handing it across the desk. I’ve been keeping it since the first incident over two months ago. I’m glad I did, because it speaks to a pattern of neglect.”
“This is going to help a lot. We’ll make copies and give this back to you,” said Attorney Parker.
“I also brought my mother to the doctor Friday morning for a complete physical and treatment for a rash that resulted from lack of care,” Arlene said.
“Excellent, those records are going to help tremendously,” said Parker. “Did you happen to speak to the ombudsman and file a complaint at any point since Ms. Baker arrived at the home?”
“I spoke to her on the phone almost a month ago about my mother’s seemingly irregular bathing routine. She admitted the home is currently understaffed but assured me that while this means bath schedules may be random in timing, they were still regular occurrences, whatever that means. She also assured me the staff was doing their very best.
She also said there was no need to come in and sign any paperwork. She said she’d speak to the necessary personnel to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. I didn’t like the ‘don’t come in and fill out any paperwork’ thing. I followed up with an email to her that I cc’d myself, just in case.”
“Then when I took Mom home Thursday night, I left a voicemail for the ombudsman saying it was urgent that I meet with her,” Arlene said. “I followed that with an email the same night, again, for the record. She hasn’t responded, but it’s just as well, as I decided to call you the next morning.
“Then this morning, an insurance adjuster from the nursing home left a voicemail, requesting that I call.”
“Please tell me you didn’t speak to the insurance company. They’re going to ask you to allow a recorded statement that confirms you are the one breaking the lease, in addition to anything else they can get you to say.
“No matter whom you choose to retain, your best choice here is to have a nursing home abuse attorney handle your claim. It will prevent you from inadvertently saying something they can use to ruin your claim. All communication should go through your attorney.
“Not only that, but you do not want to be directly available to them for any shamefully low settlement offers.
“So many people make the mistake of taking the first offer the insurance company makes. This is usually because they’ve been without a lawyer, and as a result, worn down by delays and denials. By the time they get an offer—any offer—they’re so exhausted they accept, for fear it’s all they’ll get.
“It’s best to assume the insurance company will never give you a lower offer than their first,” said Attorney Parker. “Let your lawyer handle the negotiations. They know how to deal with the insurance company.”
“Oh brother,” said Ruth, throwing up her hands. “Good thing we’re having this meeting.” Arlene nodded in agreement.
“So, how long does this claim process take?” Arlene asked.
“The timeline of the claim will depend first on how long it takes to complete the investigation and determine damages, so we can arrive at the claim’s value. Once we know the value, we send a demand letter to the insurance company for compensation. The length of time of your claim will take is going to depend on how the insurance company responds to our demand letter.
“They may agree to our compensation request and be done with it, but sadly, it’s not the norm. Nursing home abuse claims often to go to trial. So again, whomever you hire, I urge you to retain a trial attorney.
You can expect a trial to extend the timeline of a claim. Nursing home abuse trials often take a while because they are likely to involve the testimony of several expert witnesses.
“Define ‘a while,’” Arlene said, pressing her lips into a thin line as she braced for an answer.
“Could take a few years,” Parker responded. “Nursing home abuse claims do require patience and commitment, but we’ll be more than ready to stand up for you if you want to pursue justice.”
“I don’t know, Mom, what do you think?” Arlene asked.
A big smile spread over Ruth’s face. “Let’s do this.”
Ruth retained Parker McConkie that day. Ruth’s nursing home abuse case went to trial even though an investigation revealed other residents who reported similar neglect. Attorney Parker won Ruth’s case and a jury awarded her a sizable amount.
We hope the information on this page has given you insight about nursing home abuse claims. Since every claim is unique, please contact our Utah nursing home abuse lawyers as soon as possible to get answers to your specific claim questions. No one deserves the indignity of suffering from abuse, least of all the vulnerable residents of nursing homes. Let our experienced trial attorneys advocate for your family.
Call 801-845-0440 to get in touch with a member of our firm after your accident. We can review your case for free!