Between 2010-21, the Lone Star State of Texas saw its population rise a whopping 17%, with their 65+ age group rising 47.9% during those 11 years. The rising elderly population correlates to the rising instances of nursing home abuse in Texas.
Texas DFPS recently reported more than 50,000 cases of elder abuse that happened in 2022. Since 2015, more than 1,800 dangerous incidents have been reported to federal regulators from Texas. This is more than in any other state.
If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home in Texas, speak with a nursing home neglect attorney. Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering. Whether you live in or near Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio or another Texas city, never wait to take action.
Nursing Home Resident Rights in Texas
Residents of the Lone Star State possess all the rights granted by federal law like the Nursing Home Reform Act. The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) enforces these resident rights through community and facility-based programs.
Examples of nursing home resident rights in Texas include:
- Freedom from interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal in exercising their rights
- Living in safe and clean conditions
- Freedom from abuse, neglect and exploitation
- Being treated with dignity, courtesy, consideration and respect
- The use personal property while secure from theft or loss
- The freedom from any physical or chemical restraints used for discipline or convenience and not required to treat your medical symptoms
- Receiving visitors on a daily basis
Defining Nursing Home Abuse in Texas Law
Texas law defines nursing home abuse as:
“the negligent or willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical or emotional harm or pain to a resident by the resident’s caregiver, family member, or other individual who has an ongoing relationship with the resident.”
This definition ignores whether their actions were intentional or accidental. Even if the facility didn’t mean to hurt your loved one, they’re still liable for the resulting damages.
Issues like understaffing or negligent hiring may have caused your loved one to suffer. Even so, nursing homes still have a duty of care to protect their residents. If they fail to do so, they risk federal and legal persecution.
Physical and Emotional Abuse
If your loved one is suffering nursing home physical abuse, they may experience the following:
- Skin bruising
- Bone fractures
- Soft tissue swelling
Nursing home physical abuse includes any willful physical harm done to your loved one. If you believe they’re in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911 and report the incident as soon as you can. Legal action cannot take place if you’re unsure of your immediate physical safety.
Not every form of nursing home abuse is as direct as physical abuse. Nursing home emotional abuse is verbal or non-verbal harassment meant to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Some examples of nursing home emotional abuse include:
- Verbal harassment
- Isolation from other residents
- Psychological manipulation
- Repeated threats of death or physical harm
Financial exploitation is meant to steal or manipulate possessions or funds from nursing home residents. Elderly populations are extra susceptible to financial abuse as scams like wire fraud continue to target elderly individuals. Examples of nursing home financial abuse include:
- Unwarranted financial transfers
- Transferring ownership of wills
- Changing banking information like debit or credit cards
- Control of a patient’s accounts
Your loved one may feel defensive when talking about their finances. Sometimes they don’t know or fail to acknowledge the financial abuse being done to them by their caretakers.
In any given year, 5% of elders experience financial exploitation in a given year. Reassure them that they’re not alone, and they have the means to legally take control of their lives again.
This type of abuse refers to the subjection to sexual conduct or contact classified as a crime under TX Penal Code § 21.01. Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted sexual touching or verbiage
- Taking or distributing sexual photos without consent
- Manipulation to perform sexual acts
- Forced nudity or penetration
Nursing home sexual abuse is sadly a prevalent problem for elderly and disabled residents due to their mental impairments. Don’t let your loved one become a victim, and listen to them whenever they reach out.
A nursing home withholding basic care from their residents may be liable for nursing home neglect. If staff ignore a resident’s medical and social needs to the point of deteriorating their physical and mental health, they may qualify for compensation.
According to Texas law, neglect refers to:
“the failure to provide for one’s self the goods or services, including medical services, which are necessary to avoid physical or emotional harm or pain or the failure of a caregiver to provide such goods or services.”
Most nursing homes in Texas are funded by the government through Medicare or Medicaid programs to function. If a nursing home has neglected your loved one, their funding may be revoked, or may be forced to shut down.
How to Spot Signs of Nursing Home Abuse in Texas
Do you know the red flags of physical or emotional abuse? Watching for these signs is the best way to take care of your loved one. Look for:
- Bruising or bleeding
- Unexplained loss of mobility
- Repeated ER visits
- Unexplained injuries
Emotional abuse is more subtle and may leave no physical injuries. Even so, pay attention to these early signs and talk with your loved one as soon as you can.
- Emotional withdrawal
- Less eye contact than normal
- Being unwilling to speak freely or answer questions
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Emotional distress when left alone
- Unsanitary conditions in the facility
Financial abuse requires great care when initiating the conversation with your loved one. If your loved one is experiencing the following signs of financial exploitation, it may be time to investigate:
- A lack of access to the resident’s finances
- Unexplained transfer of assets or money to another person
- Unexpected changes to a resident’s banking info
- Abrupt changes to their will or other financial assets
- Recent reluctance to talk about financial matters
- Sudden loss of personal belongings
- Balance statements with transfers to another caregiver
How Nursing Home Abuse is Caused in Texas
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is common due to ongoing staffing issues in the nursing home industry in Texas and in other states.
Abuse and neglect can be caused by a facility’s administration failing to train or supervise staff. Underpaying and overscheduling staff members may also lead to neglect. A rising elderly population and a lack of skilled workers creates an environment where residents are underserved by their caretakers, leading to abuse.
Texas Resources to Report Nursing Home Abuse
Texas law requires all citizens to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation:
“(a) A person, including an owner or employee of a facility, who has cause to believe that the physical or mental health or welfare of a resident has been or may be adversely affected by abuse, neglect, or exploitation caused by another person shall report the abuse, neglect, or exploitation in accordance with this chapter.”
If you have a complaint or incident to report regarding a nursing home or assisted living facility, call Texas Health and Human Services at 800-458-9858. When you make a report, your name is kept confidential unless required by law.
Government workers conduct an unannounced investigation on the nursing home facility, interviewing involved parties while reporting their findings. HHS workers may require you to disclose your info to receive a report of their investigation.
Another option is the Texas Abuse Hotline, which takes urgent cases where the nursing home must be investigated within 24 hours. You can call them with this number: 1-800-252-5400.
For the State Ombudsman, you can call 800-252-2412, email them at [email protected], or learn more by visiting their website. Ombudsman staff work with residents to promote safety while letting them know their nursing home rights.
Texas Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Abuse
The statute of limitations in the state of Texas for an abuse claim against a nursing home is two years.
IMPORTANT: If your loved one experienced abuse in a nursing home, file your case as soon as possible. This ensures evidence won’t be lost or forgotten. Fresh evidence will help your lawyer formulate a convincing case to the court, jury, or insurance adjusters.
Damages in a Texas Nursing Home Abuse Claim
There are two types of damages you can file for in a Texas nursing home abuse claim:
- Punitive damages
Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages, compensation that seeks to “make whole” the harm, injury, or expenses incurred by negligent or harmful behavior.
Economic damages: These are the measurable, objective expenses suffered due to abuse or neglect. You can easily assign a dollar-value to these damages, which may include:
- Medical care
- Relocation costs
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment
Non-economic damages are the non-measurable expenses from abuse. These are subjective, which will be weighed according to your evidence and how your attorney handles your case. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages in Texas law, are designed to punish the defendant for especially reckless or negligent behavior.
According to Texas law, these “may be awarded only if the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the harm with respect to which the claimant seeks recovery of exemplary damages results from:
- malice; or
- gross negligence.
In Texas, the amount for this type of damage award is capped (limited) by state law:
- If the court does not award the plaintiff economic damages, punitive damages are capped at $200,000.
- If the court does award economic damages, punitive damages are capped at two times the amount of economic damages, plus an equal amount of non-economic damages up to a maximum of $750,000.
Find a Texas Nursing Home Abuse Attorney with LegalASAP
Nursing home abuse attorneys generally work under contingency fees. This means your family won’t have to pay them until your loved one’s settlement arrives. You may need time to heal during this stressful time, and handling legal paperwork won’t help.
Not sure how to locate an attorney to represent your Texas nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate in Texas.
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.