Massachusetts, home to New England’s cultural and finance center Boston, is projected to increase their elderly population in the years ahead. The state has more residents over the age of 60 than under the age of 20 in recent years. Due to the rising elderly demographic, nursing home abuse in Massachusetts has been a serious issue.
In fact, the state’s Attorney General Maura Healey recently reached settlements with five Massachusetts nursing homes after allegations came to light regarding:
- Patient neglect
- Insufficient staff training
- Inadequate care for residents
Sadly, three nursing home residents died as a result of these conditions. The respected citizens of Massachusetts deserve a higher standard of care as they enter their most vulnerable years.
If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a Massachusetts nursing home, speak with a nursing home neglect attorney. Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering due to abuse or neglect.
Massachusetts Nursing Home Resident Rights
The state’s Executive Office of Elder Affairs is very clear about nursing home resident rights in Massachusetts.
Below are only some of the rights nursing home residents are entitled to:
- The right to manage their own medical and personal records
- Managing personal and financial businesses
- Rights to respect and freedom of restraint
- Freedom from abuse and neglect
- A clean and safe environment
- Proper medical care and decisions about that care
Massachusetts created numerous laws about nursing home standards that enforce these rights across the state. Talk to a nursing home attorney to make sure facilities and staff respect your loved one’s resident rights.
It’s not always the fault of the nursing home when someone violates your loved one’s resident rights. Another resident, or a third party, may be responsible for the damages.
That is why an attorney is crucial to representing your case. They are especially trained to investigate the facts to see who is at-fault. Determining fault will strengthen your claim and will potentially result in a faster settlement.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse in Massachusetts
Spotting nursing home abuse may be difficult due to how reluctant your loved one may feel about speaking out. They may not want to reveal their situation because they fear telling you will make the abuse worse.
Abuse comes in several forms that are not exclusively one type. Abusive behavior may be a combination of the forms below:
- Physical abuse: This is any type of physical injury or harm including the presence of bed sores, injury from a restraint, or a bruise from rough handling.
- Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse includes behavior or talk on the part of care providers deliberately intended to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Verbal harassment, isolation, and psychological manipulation are forms of emotional abuse that can occur in nursing homes in Massachusetts.
- Financial abuse: Financial abuse is improper access to, manipulation, or control of a nursing home residents’ valuables, accounts, insurance policies, or will.
- Sexual abuse: Any unwanted touching or sexual contact.
Abuse allegations can be complicated to prove due to the presence of cognitive disorders. It is often difficult for family members to figure out what happened, which also makes these patients particularly vulnerable to abuse. Families must be especially vigilant when their loved one suffers from a cognitive disorder.
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Withholding basic care and human interaction to residents is a form of nursing home neglect. It is common due to ongoing staffing issues in the nursing home industry.
Common examples of nursing home neglect include:
- Isolating mentally impaired residents
- Letting residents remain in bed too long, leading to bed sores
- Failing to provide walkers and wheelchairs to those with mobility issues
- Forgetting to give medication to residents
Nursing home neglect differs from abuse because neglect is caused by careless or apathetic behavior, whereas abuse stems from deliberate harm. A mixture of negligence in hiring staff, failure to investigate complaints, and a toxic culture in the facility can lead to nursing home neglect.
Nursing homes need to properly screen all staffing applicants and check their criminal records to ensure they pose no risk to residents, current and future. If they don’t do so and abuse occurs, a nursing home neglect attorney can hold them accountable.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse to Watch Out For
If you see a sudden change in your loved one’s behavior or personality, it can be a warning sign of nursing home neglect or abuse. Notice also if your loved one shows:
- Rapidly lost weight
- Visible bruises or abrasions on their skin
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Changing sleep or personal habits
- Noticeably less eye contact
- Fearfulness, timidity
- More than normal isolation from family and friends
- Repeated injuries requiring visits to emergency rooms
Consider these 12 questions before admitting your loved one to a new nursing home. Make sure the facility you’re looking for has adequate staffing and can take care of your loved one’s medical needs. Staying vigilant about nursing home abuse can help prevent further infractions against residents.
How to Prove Nursing Home Abuse in Massachusetts
After you’ve relocated your loved one to a different facility in Massachusetts for their own safety and well-being, gather all evidence and information which can help prove abuse or neglect.
This could include:
- Patient statements
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Doctors’ statements
If you’ve reported the situation to the state, a Protective Services caseworker will be assigned to investigate the situation. Their report may help prove nursing home abuse for your claim.
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse in Massachusetts
First, if your loved one’s health is in immediate danger, call 911. Ensure the safety of those around you and make the call.
All nursing home employees are considered mandated reporters under Massachusetts law. The state requires these staffers to report any abuse they may witness. State law defines acts of abuse as “physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, financial exploitation, and self-neglect.”
To report by phone, call 1-800-922-2275. To report by mail, print and complete the Consumer/Resident/Patient Complaint Form, then mail your completed form to:
Division of Health Care Facility Licensure and Certification Complaint Intake Unit
67 Forest Street
Marlborough, MA 01752
State law requires nursing home facilities in Massachusetts to have a process for responding to concerns regarding the care of residents. Start by filing a complaint directly with the facility. Most nursing homes have a Long-term Care Ombudsman you can speak to.
IMPORTANT: In Massachusetts, you cannot file legal actions against nursing homes unless you first provide a 182-day written notice. There are a few exceptions to this rule; talk with a Massachusetts nursing home abuse attorney to review them.
You may need to have the resident sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form. This form lets the state of Massachusetts share details of an investigation with you. You’ll submit this form with your written complaint.
Speak to your facility’s staff or visit the Long Term Care Ombudsman Local Contact Information page to learn more.
Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
There are three types of damages you can file for in a nursing home abuse claim:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages, compensation for harm, injury, or expenses incurred by the liable defendant(s).
- Economic damages: Measurable amounts of money your family spent to remedy the abuse or neglect. These expenses may include medical care, the cost to relocate the patient to a new facility, physical therapy, mental health treatment, etc.
- Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering and emotional distress. These types of damages are capped at $500,000 in Massachusetts. However, there are exceptions for “proof of substantial disfigurement or permanent loss or impairment, or other special circumstances which warrant a finding that imposition of such limitation would deprive the plaintiff of just compensation for the injuries sustained.”
Punitive damages are designed to punish reckless or egregious behavior so similar actions won’t be attempted in the future. They pay a minimum of $5,000 for “willful” or “grossly negligent” conduct resulting in death.
Massachusetts Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Claims
The statute of limitations is three years with the Discovery Rule in Massachusetts. This is also true for wrongful death cases in Massachusetts. However, if your loved one experiences abuse in a nursing home, it is wise to file your case as soon as possible before evidence disappears or is forgotten.
Find a Massachusetts Nursing Home Lawyer with LegalASAP
Nursing home abuse attorneys typically work under contingency fees, meaning you won’t have to pay them until your settlement arrives. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and secure your family a much higher settlement than if you represent yourself.
Not sure how to locate an attorney to represent your Massachusetts nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate in Massachusetts.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.