Nursing Home Abuse in Vermont


Laura Schaefer

Vermont has the 4th largest senior population in the country relative to its population according to the PRB. Understaffing and overworked employees have caused nursing home abuse in Vermont to rise over the years.

An auditor recently found noncompliance with Vermont standards of nursing home care in more than 50% of their inspections. There were injuries and even three deaths in the care facilities inspected by the report.

It’s important to do your research before admitting a loved one into a Vermont nursing home. The state is projected to increase their elderly population in the years ahead. In 2030, it is estimated that 24% of Vermont’s population will be age 65 or older.

The share of Vermonters ages 65 to 79 as a portion of the whole population rose from 10.5% to 16.4%. That increase is the largest of any age group and more than double the overall population gain of about 19,600 people. This demographic shift will put more pressure on the state’s nursing homes.

If you or a loved one suffered a tragic circumstance where they were neglected in a Vermont nursing home, do not hesitate to call a nursing home neglect attorney. Your family deserves reparations for the suffering they endured due to abuse or negligence of a nursing home.

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Vermont Nursing Home Resident Rights

Nursing home residents have rights that workers and visitors must respect under state and federal laws, most notably the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 (NHRA).

Nursing home residents have the right to privacy, as well as the right to:

  • Refuse care or treatment
  • Be treated with respect and dignity
  • Make a complaint without fear of punishment
  • Communicate as they choose and/or refuse visitors
  • Receive care without abuse
  • Be free from physical or medical restraints (except when necessary to prevent injury)
  • Keep their personal belongings
  • Vote in all elections, participate in events, and attend religious activities
  • Remain in their room
  • Return to the nursing home after a hospital stay
  • Receive help from Medicaid to pay for care
  • Stay in the facility unless it adversely affects wellbeing of other residents
  • Send and receive mail without monitoring
  • Know the services offered by the facility

If you feel that any of these rights were violated during you or your loved one’s stay at a nursing home, you may qualify for a claim. It may not be the nursing home, but a third party who is at-fault for your damages. Make sure to speak with an attorney if you feel that your rights are violated and require legal representation.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse in Vermont

The Nursing Home Reform Act was created to prevent these four types of abuse from occurring in nursing homes. Reporting abuse will prevent further violations as most nursing homes require funding from Medicare and Medi-Cal to function.

If you see any type of abuse comparable to the examples below in a Vermont nursing home, report the situation. Legally protect yourself with a skilled nursing home attorney so you can pursue justice against the guilty party.

Physical Abuse

This is any treatment of a vulnerable adult that places that person’s life, health, or welfare in jeopardy or results in a health impairment or injury of any kind.

To spot physical abuse, look for:

  • Unexplained cuts or bruises
  • Untreated bed sores
  • Marks on the skin from improper straps or unclean facilities

Marks of physical abuse will strengthen your nursing home abuse claim as it provides clear proof of damages to the judge and jury. If you can prove that the nursing home unjustly caused these injuries, you have a clear argument for compensation.

Emotional Abuse

Subjecting a vulnerable adult to behavior or talk that results in the feelings below is considered emotional abuse in Vermont:

Make note of your loved one’s mood around their caregivers and if they begin to withdraw or seem fearful. Any notable negative changes in behavior after being admitted to a nursing home should be a cause for concern.

Financial Abuse

Nursing home financial abuse involves wrongful manipulation of a vulnerable person’s funds for personal gain. It also includes harassing a vulnerable individual for acquiring money or assets or forcing a vulnerable adult against their will to perform services for profit.

Look for changes in your loved one’s will or insurance policy, or changes in spending behavior. Also note missing belongings or valuables.

Sexual Abuse

Any sexual activity with a vulnerable adult by a nursing home volunteer or caregiver is considered abuse, as is any sexual activity with a vulnerable adult when they do not consent or are incapable of resisting.

Vulnerable adults may be susceptible to sexual abuse due to their inability to consent or recognize sexual manipulation. Conditions associated with vulnerable adults include:

  • Cognitive disability
  • Mental illness
  • Physical disability
  • Brain disorders like Cerebral Palsy
  • Short-term memory loss

Make sure to keep an eye on your vulnerable loved one when suspecting sexual abuse. There are various resources in Vermont that can help you report sexual abuse in a nursing home. You may qualify for a nursing home claim afterwards, compensating for the damages you suffered.

Defining Nursing Home Neglect in Vermont

Neglect may be defined as a single incident or repeated conduct that results in physical or psychological harm to your loved one. Neglect as it applies here is defined by Vermont law (33 V.S.A. §6902) as:

  1. Failing to provide care or arrange for goods or services necessary to maintain the health or safety of a nursing home resident. This may include:
    • Food
    • Clothing
    • Medicine
    • Shelter
    • Supervision
    • Medical services
  2. Administration of a drug to a nursing home resident for a purpose other than legitimate medical or therapeutic treatment is abuse.
  3. Neglect also includes not protecting a resident from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others – or failure to carry out a plan of care, when such failure results in harm.
  4. Lastly, not reporting significant changes in the health status of a resident to a physician, nurse, or immediate supervisor (when the caregiver is employed by an organization that provides or arranges for personal care) is considered neglect.

Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse in Vermont

If you see a change in behavior or personality in your loved one, that can be a warning sign of nursing home neglect or abuse. Notice also if your loved one has rapidly lost weight or shows visible bruises or abrasions on their skin.

Other warning signs include:

  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Changing sleep or personal habits
  • Depression
  • Noticeably less eye contact
  • Fearfulness
  • Timidity
  • More than normal isolation from family and friends
  • Repeated injuries requiring visits to emergency rooms

Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse

A noncompliant workplace environment often creates a hostile working environment within a nursing home, which can lead to neglect. Widespread nurse staffing shortages often cause nursing home abuse in Vermont to occur.

An investigation at a long-term care facility in Burlington showed signs of short staffing, missed medications, and failure to implement necessary care for all residents. A state inspector made an unannounced check in as a result of several complaints. Staff members reported that short-staff and lack of time caused this incident.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Vermont

Reach out to your nursing home’s administrator and see if they know of the abuse occurring within their facility. You can report to the director of nursing as well as their social service director so more parties are aware of the situation.

If you are not satisfied with the facility’s response and require further assistance, call the Division of Licensing and Protection facility complaint line at 1-888-700-5330.

This government agency investigates complaints of poor care or substandard conditions. They work within the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL) to enforce nursing home standards across the United States. You may direct a problem or complaint to this Division by calling the number above or by writing to:

The Division of Licensing and Protection
280 State Drive, HC 2 South
Waterbury, Vermont 05671-2060

Vermont Ombudsman

If you would like someone else outside the nursing home to help, you may contact the Vermont Ombudsman at 1-800-889-2047. The Ombudsman will keep all information confidential unless you give permission to use it.

Ombudsman help is free of charge.

Types of Damages Possible in a Vermont Nursing Home Lawsuit

There are two types of damages that you and your family can recover in a Vermont nursing home neglect claim: compensatory and punitive damages. The settlement from your loved one’s claim depends on the case and how much your loved one was harmed due to a nursing home’s abuse or neglect.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are compensation awarded to victims based on the loss or harm they suffered due to negligence or abuse from their nursing home. These damages are classified under economic or non-economic damages.

Economic damages are the measurable losses one may face after nursing home abuse, such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost income
  • Lost funds (in the case of financial abuse)
  • Loss of personal belongings

Keeping track of economic damages like medical records and eyewitness accounts is key to boosting your nursing home abuse claim. Economic damages provide concrete evidence to prove that abuse was inflicted. Not having sufficient evidence of abuse may negatively affect your settlement amount after the lawsuit.

Another form of compensatory damages, non-economic damages, addresses the non-measurable harm your loved one suffered during their time as the nursing home resident.

These types of damages include pain and suffering and emotional distress. This recovery amount includes harms that cannot be measured, but may be more painful than physical or financial harm from the abuse.

Punitive Damages

If the judge rules that the nursing home’s actions against your loved one were caused by deliberate recklessness, they may be awarded additional punitive damages to further punish the nursing home.

In Vermont, punitive damages are rare and only issued in cases where wrongful conduct was outrageously reprehensible or showed malice. Cases involving punitive damages are the result of actions done to inflict deliberate harm.

Punitive damage awards are usually capped at 10x the amount awarded in compensatory damages.

Vermont Statute of Limitations for Nursing Abuse

As with any personal injury case in this state, legal actions against nursing homes in Vermont must be filed within three years of the date of the injury. This date is called the statute of limitations, and missing this date will prevent you from suing for the same case.

For wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of discovery of the death.

Find a Vermont Nursing Home Lawyer with LegalASAP

For fast help finding an attorney to represent you in your Vermont nursing home abuse case, LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with a professional in Vermont to consult with you for free about your case.

Nursing home attorneys generally work under contingency, meaning you won’t have to pay for their services until your settlement arrives in the mail. Call 1-888-927-3080 or fill out a short evaluation form below to continue with your free consultation:

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler 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 and