Nursing Home Abuse in San Antonio
Nursing Home Abuse Is a Pervasive Problem
Texas is not alone in facing and dealing with nursing home abuse. In fact, many people view this atrocity as a national epidemic. There are over 1,200 skilled nursing facilities in Texas, with 66 in Bexar County alone. As the elderly population continues to grow, so too does the rate of elder abuse in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Despite federal and state regulations designed to ensure safety, analytical data ranks Texas in the bottom 20 percent nationally for reported cases of elder abuse and neglect. In fact, Texas ranks 51st nationally, which is dead last among all other states and the District of Colombia.
In 1987, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act, which requires that nursing facilities care for their residents in such a way as to promote the maintenance or enhancement of each resident’s quality of life. Unfortunately, three decades later, elderly Texas citizens still face a high risk of abuse.
Elder Abuse Is a Crime
Individuals who reside in long-term care facilities have a legal right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Texas considers elder abuse a felony. Elderly residents in nursing homes are considered victims of abuse if they suffer any form of:
- Physical abuse (either from a staff member or another resident)
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial exploitation
Many cases of nursing home negligence and abuse go unreported, whether because the abused seniors don’t understand the care to which they are entitled, or because they are physically unable to report the abuse.
If you suspect elder abuse in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, don’t remain silent. In fact, it’s considered a crime in Texas to fail to report such abuse. According to Texas law, anyone who suspects that a child, an elderly individual who is 65 or older, or an adult with disabilities is suffering from abuse, neglect, or exploitation must report that suspicion to the Department of Family Protective Services.
Those suspected of elder abuse may face second or third-degree felony charges, a $10,000 fine, and a prison sentence, depending on the circumstances of the abuse.
A Nursing Home May Be Held Liable for Abuse
If a nursing home fails to provide a safe, healthy, and well-equipped environment for the residents in their care, then that facility may be held liable for any resulting injuries and damages. Some of the most common reasons for culpability include:
- Hiring unqualified employees
- Not providing sufficient training
- Being found understaffed
- Violating state and federal regulations
Don’t Miss the Signs
Elder abuse can be difficult to recognize. Often mistaken for symptoms of dementia or the elderly individual’s failing health, family members or other loved ones may fail to notice subtle indications of abuse, such as:
- Changes in personality
Sadly, cognitive impairment may render victims unable to communicate problems to family members, or victims may be afraid of retaliation if they complain. When you have a loved one in a long-term care facility, you should watch for any hints of physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse.
Inform family and friends to remain on the lookout for:
- Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
- Indications of medication overdose
- Suggestions of being under medicated
- Broken eyeglasses
- Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
You can help protect your family members from abuse by remaining aware of their surroundings and who is caring for them. When visiting the nursing home, pay close attention to the following:
- The interaction between facility staff and residents
- Unsafe living conditions
- Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding, and clothes
- Examples where residents seem isolated
Warning signs of neglect include:
- Unusual weight loss
- Untreated physical problems
- Inattention to personal hygiene
- Unsuitable clothing
Long-term care facilities have a responsibility to develop resident-specific care plans that address a resident’s medical, physical, mental, and social needs. Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and falls are often commonplace in facilities that provide substandard care. Additionally, decubitus ulcers are a serious health hazard for elderly individuals. If left untreated, these bedsores can lead to infection, intense pain, and other serious complications. This type of physical negligence often results in invasive surgical procedures, the need for amputation, and unfortunately even death.
Nursing home care plans must include measurable objectives to address such issues as:
- Wandering or elopement
- Medication errors
Nursing home residents are isolated from family, easily confused, and often both physically and emotionally fragile. Sadly, these elderly citizens are easy targets for sexual predators. Although physical touch is a necessary part of compassionate caregiving, when it is unwarranted and unwanted, it constitutes assault.
Warning signs, such as bruises around breasts or genitals, unexplained vaginal or rectal bleeding, or torn undergarments, may be indicators of:
- Unwanted touching
- Sexual assault and battery
- Sexual photography
Due to their declining cognitive abilities, many residents may not be aware of deceptive practices that their caretakers may employ. Staff members are in a unique position to perpetrate financial abuse because they often have access to personal identification information, checkbooks, and cash.
Examples of financial abuse may include, but are not limited to:
- Significant withdrawals from the elderly individual’s accounts
- Sudden changes in an elderly individual’s financial condition
- Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions
- Cashing an elderly individual’s checks
- Forging an elderly individual’s signature
- Theft of money or possessions
- Coercing an elderly individual to sign documents, such as a legal contract or will
- Adding names to the elderly individual’s bank signature card
If you have questions, concerns, or complaints about a nursing home, or if you need clarification about regulatory agency requirements, you should contact:
- Texas Health and Human Services. (512) 438-488; (800) 458-9858.
- The Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman. (800) 252-2412.
- Texas Abuse Hotline. Tollfree: (800) 252-5400.
- Bexar Area Agency on Aging. (210) 362-5200.
We Are Here to Help
At the Law Offices of George Salinas, our legal team has significant experience representing victims and families subjected to nursing home negligence and abuse in San Antonio and the surrounding area. We have the experience necessary to ensure that your family member enjoys the high level of care that state law mandates, and if not, we work to hold those responsible for poor care liable for any injuries. Collectively, we believe that:
- Elder abuse in Texas nursing homes is a problem that needs to be fixed
- Residents in long-term care facilities have rights
- Holding negligent parties accountable is imperative
- Public awareness of elder abuse and neglect will bring about needed and necessary changes
If you or a loved one has experienced elder abuse while a resident in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, call the Law Offices of George Salinas today at (210) 225-0909, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.