Woman in Charleston nursing home

Many South Carolinians trust nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to care for their aged loved ones. But when residents experience nursing home abuse or neglect, it’s heartbreaking to learn that trust was misplaced.

At their best, nursing homes provide compassionate and professional treatment for those who need help caring for themselves. Unfortunately, some nursing homes and assisted living facilities are more concerned with cutting costs and boosting profits than doing what is best for their residents. Because of this, many vulnerable residents suffer preventable injuries,  intentional harm, and exploitation by staff members.

The North Charleston injury lawyers at Joye Law Firm have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of our older community members. Reach out to us immediately if you or someone close to you is a victim of elder abuse in a North Charleston nursing home or other Lowcountry facility.

Our team has more than 300 years of combined legal experience standing up for injured people. We take a personal interest in every family we represent. Contact us now for a free case review with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

Nursing home abuse occurs when residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities suffer physical, psychological, or financial harm due to caregivers’ negligent or intentional actions. Neglect happens when caregivers purposely or carelessly fail to provide residents with appropriate levels of care and assistance.

Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many forms, and these unthinkable acts often go unchecked because residents are unable, unwilling, or afraid to speak out.

Examples of abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Physical Abuse: Striking, beating, kicking, or causing bodily harm to a resident constitutes physical abuse. In some cases, physical abuse also includes confining or restraining a resident against their will.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse is difficult to detect. Caregivers may inflict psychological harm by intimidating, threatening, isolating, humiliating, or verbally attacking residents.
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse commonly affects vulnerable residents who are incapable of comprehending, consenting, or resisting sexual contact. Examples of sexual abuse include non-consensual touching, penetration, or exposure.
  • Financial Exploitation: Residents frequently suffer financial exploitation in the form of stolen valuables, miscellaneous charges, and identity theft.
  • Neglect or Abandonment: Neglect occurs when residents do not receive the appropriate food, hydration, clothing, hygiene, social interaction, or medical care they need. Abandonment happens when caregivers desert residents in need of assistance.

What Does Elder Abuse Look Like?

Nursing home abuse and neglect can be challenging to spot. Data suggests that for every case of elder abuse reported to the authorities, another 24 cases go unreported. Victims may feel too terrified or ashamed to speak up. Another segment of the nursing home population may be unable to report the abuse due to physical disabilities, cognitive impairments, or trouble verbalizing their needs.

Look for these potential signs of elder abuse in nursing homes:

  • A resident’s sudden or unusual inability to look after their health or wellness
  • The disappearance or sudden lack of external communication from a resident
  • Physical signs of injury, such as unexplained bruises, cuts, or fractures
  • Visible signs of inappropriate restraints, such as red marks around wrists and hands
  • Bedsores, infections, and other signs of neglected medical care
  • A disheveled, dirty, malnourished, or disoriented appearance
  • Unusual anxiety, depression, aggression, fear, agitation, insomnia, or withdrawal
  • Difficulty speaking or communicating, especially with caregivers present
  • A sudden or unexpected decline in cognitive faculties, self-care, or self-esteem
  • Newly diagnosed sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or injuries in intimate areas
  • Missing valuables and strange financial transactions or estate planning changes

Causes of Nursing Home Abuse

The specific causes of nursing home abuse and neglect differ on a case-by-case basis. However, one common thread in many nursing home abuse cases is a general lack of proper resources and/or management in the nursing home. Predictably, facilities that fail or refuse to focus on quality care are more likely to have high rates of resident abuse and neglect.

Common contributing factors in North Charleston nursing home abuse cases include:

  • Understaffing: Nursing home staff members should collaborate to provide quality care for residents. However, understaffing is a problem for many U.S. facilities. When nursing homes are understaffed, employees lack the support they need to fulfill their responsibilities, and burnout can further contribute to abuse and neglect.
  • Lack of Training: Even a fully staffed nursing home can be an unsafe environment when workers lack the training, education, or experience to do their jobs. Improper staff training impacts residents’ quality of life and may be considered nursing home neglect.
  • Underpaid Staff: One of the most common ways nursing homes cut costs is to pay staff members as little as possible. When employees are paid the bare minimum to provide essential services to vulnerable adults, they can feel undervalued and unmotivated, which often leads to lower standards of care.
  • Poor Management: Most nursing homes are privately-owned facilities that are only as trustworthy as their leadership. If nursing home administrators or nurse supervisors do not set high standards or hold staff members accountable, it can foster an environment where abuse and neglect can happen.
  • Rogue Actors: In some cases, nursing home abuse and neglect occur even in well-managed and fully staffed facilities with trained personnel. All it takes is one person who decides to engage in unthinkable behavior for their own motivations. A rogue actor may commit abuse, neglect, or exploitation due to personal issues like stress, financial troubles, or mental illness.

An experienced North Charleston nursing home abuse lawyer can investigate your case and take steps to protect your loved one if you believe they are victims of abuse.

What Laws and Regulations Apply to Nursing Homes in Charleston County?

In South Carolina, nursing homes and elder care facilities are governed by a combination of federal and state laws and regulations aimed at ensuring the safety, well-being, and rights of residents.

Here are key aspects of the legal framework:

  • Licensing and Certification: Facilities must be licensed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Additionally, to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, certification to meet their standards is required.
  • Resident Rights: Under South Carolina law, residents in nursing homes have specific rights, including the right to be treated with respect, the right to privacy, the right to participate in their own care planning, and the right to be free from abuse and neglect, just to name a few.
  • Staffing Requirements: There are regulations concerning staffing levels and qualifications to ensure that residents receive appropriate care. This includes requirements for having a certain number of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants on duty.
  • Quality of Care: Facilities must provide a certain standard of care, as defined by state and federal regulations. This includes adequate medical care, nutritional meals, social services, and physical, occupational, and speech therapies as needed.
  • Inspections and Surveys: Regular inspections and surveys are conducted by DHEC to ensure compliance with health and safety standards. Deficiencies can result in penalties, including fines or revocation of the facility’s license.
  • Mandatory Reporting: South Carolina law requires that suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of vulnerable adults must be reported to the appropriate authorities, including law enforcement and the Department of Adult Protective Services.

The city of Charleston also received the Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life grant in 2016. The grant’s purpose was to provide training for City of Charleston law enforcement on identifying and addressing abuse in later life, enhancing support for victims, and raising public awareness. The grant project has since ended, but the Ending Abuse in Later Life Coordinated Community Response Team continue to meet.

When Is a Nursing Home Liable for Elder Abuse and Neglect?

Nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and their staff members have a legal and ethical duty to provide residents with appropriate standards of care. A nursing home or its employees may be liable for elder abuse or neglect if:

  • Administrators fail to properly screen, monitor, or train staff members.
  • Administrators fail to ensure adequate staffing levels or security.
  • Staff members fail to provide necessities like food, water, or medication.
  • Healthcare workers fail to address bedsores, infections, or other health issues.
  • Employees fail to protect residents from falls or other safety hazards.
  • Staff members intentionally abuse, exploit, restrain, or neglect residents.

Understanding who may be held liable in your case requires an in-depth investigation by a knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer.

Steps to Take if You Suspect Your Loved One is Being Abused at Their Nursing Home

When visiting your loved one, you may have noticed unexplained injuries or behavioral changes, such as increased agitation in the presence of a nursing home staff member. These signs may indicate nursing home abuse or neglect, even if your relative cannot verbalize precisely what happened. Another warning sign may be if a nursing home staff member does not want to leave you alone with your loved one.If you suspect that your loved one is being abused in their nursing home, it’s essential to take immediate and appropriate steps to ensure their safety and well-being.

Here’s a brief guide on what to do:

  • Observe and Document: Pay close attention to any signs of abuse or neglect, such as physical injuries, sudden changes in behavior, or poor hygiene. Document your observations with dates, times, and details.
  • Talk to Your Loved One: If possible, speak with your loved one privately to understand the situation better. They may be reluctant to talk, so approach the conversation with care and reassurance.
  • Report Internally: Report your concerns to the management of the nursing home. They are required to have procedures in place for handling such complaints. If you speak to an administrator in person, you should follow up with a letter, putting your concerns in writing. Keep a copy of the letter.
  • File a Formal Complaint: If you are not satisfied with the response from the facility, or if you believe the situation is severe and immediate action is needed, you can file a formal complaint with the appropriate state or local authorities. This may include the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Adult Protective Services.
  • Seek Medical Attention: If the abuse has led to physical injuries, ensure that your loved one receives proper medical care. A medical report can also serve as important evidence if legal action is taken.
  • Contact an Ombudsman: South Carolina has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. An Ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living facilities. They can provide you with additional advice and assistance on what further steps to take to protect your loved one.
  • Gather and Preserve Evidence: Collect any evidence that can support the case of abuse. This includes medical records, photographs of injuries, and written statements from witnesses.
  • Maintain Records: Keep a detailed record of all conversations and correspondence related to the matter. Note the dates, times, and content of your interactions with officials and the nursing home staff.
  • Follow Up: After reporting the abuse, follow up regularly to ensure that your complaint is being addressed. Stay involved in the process and advocate for your loved one’s rights and safety.
  • Contact the Authorities: Call 911 or the local police if you believe the situation is putting your loved one’s life in immediate danger.

You should also contact an attorney at Joye Law Firm to seek guidance and discuss your legal options. We will set up an interview with a Legal Nurse Consultant to evaluate specific details of your loved one’s treatment, and will evaluate whether you have a valid claim for neglect or abuse. If a nursing home resident has been harmed physically, emotionally, or through financial exploitation, they may be entitled to compensation for their suffering. Family members could also recover compensation to cover the expense of treating their loved one’s physical, emotional, and financial injuries. We work to stop harmful or negligent behavior and hold those responsible accountable. It’s crucial to act quickly and decisively if you suspect abuse, as the safety and well-being of your loved one are at stake.

Types of Compensation Available in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

With a successful nursing home abuse or neglect case, you may be entitled to compensation for personal and financial losses like:

  • Hospital bills and any other medical expenses related to the abuse or neglect
  • Incidental expenses, such as the cost of traveling to medical appointments
  • Lost wages from any time family members missed work to care for the loved one experiencing abuse/neglect
  • The costs of repairing or replacing stolen valuables or money, if theft occurred
  • Subjective costs, such as pain, suffering, and lost quality or enjoyment of life

How a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Can Help

The trusted nursing home abuse lawyers working with Joye Law Firm can help you seek justice by:

  • Explaining your rights, the rights of your loved one, and the laws that apply to your case
  • Conducting an independent investigation into the nursing home to uncover valuable evidence, interview witnesses, and identify liable parties
  • Communicating with facility administrators and other parties on your behalf
  • Managing essential case documents
  • Navigating the legal process by complying with all requirements and guidelines for nursing home abuse cases
  • Meeting all filing deadlines
  • Negotiating aggressively to maximize your compensation in a settlement or nursing home abuse lawsuit
  • Advocating for victims and their families to ensure their voices are heard and their rights are protected and upheld

The steps you take to hold a negligent nursing home accountable cannot undo the harm your relative suffered, but it could prevent the same abuse from happening to others and provide a measure of closure and financial support for your family moving forward.

Get in Touch with A Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in North Charleston

The North Charleston injury lawyers of Joye Law Firm have been protecting the rights of South Carolinians since 1968. Our North Charleston attorneys handle cases in Charleston, Allendale, Colleton, Bamberg, Dorchester, Beaufort, Hampton, Berkeley, Jasper, Calhoun, and Orangeburg counties. We work aggressively to recover fair compensation for deserving clients who have been injured by the negligent and wrongful acts of others. Call or contact us today to learn how a nursing home abuse attorney can help.