What laws apply to claims of nursing home neglect or abuse?

The staff obligations at a nursing home or assisted care facility are greater than at an apartment complex or other residential facility. Due to the special needs of elderly residents, a nursing home should be staffed with professionals who are able to provide adequate supervision and medical care. The failure to have these resources on hand could give rise to a negligence claim.

Several laws apply to nursing home abuse claims. A federal law called the Nursing Home Reform Act applies to nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid Funding. The Act requires facilities to have a written plan of care that provides for the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well being of residents. At the state level, the Alabama Department of Senior Services provides a variety of resources, including guidance on elder abuse and prevention.

Yet as a law firm that has helped many clients with nursing home abuse claims, we have observed that the specific duty of care owed by a facility to its residents may need to be established by expert testimony. A recent article provides just one example of the special needs required by senior residents with memory or cognitive impairments, even dementia. In order to provide an optimum living environment, a nursing home facility may need to hire staff with special training and skills. In fact, an employer may even need to look beyond a prospective employee's certifications and observe how he or she interacts with residents.

If you suspect that a loved one isn't receiving the care that he or she deserves in a nursing home, an attorney can investigate the allegations. Simply having an attorney on your side may result in the desired improvements. If nursing home abuse has occurred, an attorney can also file a lawsuit to hold the facility accountable for its actions.

Source:  Senior Living Executive, "Strategies for Hiring the Right Staff for Memory Care," May 2016

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