Long-term care legal issuesMoving a family member to a long-term care facility—such as a nursing home, assisted living residence or other residential facility—can be a difficult and challenging time for all involved. If you are faced with this decision, there are a lot of factors to consider from location and amenities, to the type of care needed and the cost. No matter which facility you choose, you want to assume that your loved one will be treated with the highest possible level of care, dignity and safety. Sadly, this is not always the case.

November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, a great opportunity to discuss ensuring the care and safety of our elderly loved ones.

Assessing your options

To get started, do some homework:

  • Talk with friends and relatives to see if they have recommendations based on their experiences. Your insurance company and health care provider may also be able to help.
  • Make a list of things that are important to you and your loved one, such as location, specialty care (such as a special unit for patients with dementia), religious affiliation or services or on-site hospice care.
  • Call the places on your list to see if they meet your basic requirements and if they have a bed available.

Once you have your list narrowed down, you’ll want to visit each option in person, take a tour and talk with the staff. Medicare provides an extensive checklist you can use when assessing nursing home options. The list includes important certifications, inspection reports, licensures, fees and staffing information, as well as things you should look for and ask about when you visit the facility.

Duty of care

Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts and good intentions, it sometimes comes to pass that elderly residents in long-term care facilities do not always receive the level of care to which they are entitled. However, determining liability is not always a simple matter, as demonstrated by the lawsuit involving the Florida nursing home deaths during Hurricane Irma

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities all assume what is called the “duty of care” when they accept new residents. This means they are legally required to provide a reasonable level of care; when they fail to do so, they are liable for resulting injuries and outcomes.

It’s understood that most residents of long-term care facilities are in the last stage of their lifespans, so deterioration and death are expected and not uncommon. However, if injury, suffering or death is caused or hastened by negligence or medical malpractice, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Examples include:

  • Medical neglect, such as delaying treatment or not providing needed medications or services
  • Inadequate safety and security
  • Failure to maintain a safe environment
  • Unreasonable or dangerous physical restraint
  • Intentional physical or psychological abuse by staff
  • Physical neglect, such as not providing for daily needs of living
  • Failure to properly train, manage and supervise staff

Addressing legal issues

Just like medical malpractice and personal injury law, the burden of proof lies with the complainant, and these cases can be complicated. If someone you love has suffered injury or death due to negligence at a long-term care facility, you want a lawyer who understands the legal requirements that must be met in your state.

There are statutes of limitations for when cases can be filed, so time is of the essence. Call us for a thorough examination of the details of your case, and the expert advice and representation you need.