Between 2010 and 2021, the Old Dominion state of Virginia saw its population rise over 8%. Virginia’s 65+ group was the fastest growing demographic, increasing 48.9% between 2010 and 2022. With a rising elderly demographic, nursing home abuse in Virginia must be monitored and prosecuted.
In Powhatan County, an assisted living facility’s owner, manager, and administrator were each charged in early 2023 with two misdemeanor counts of abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults. Unfortunately, a recent Senate report detailed the ways in which funding for industry oversight is lacking.
If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a Virginia nursing home, it’s time to speak with a nursing home neglect attorney. Holding nursing homes accountable is one way to protect others from further harm. Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering.
How Does Virginia Define Nursing Home Abuse?
According to 12 Va. Admin. Code § 5-371-10, “abuse” means either of the following definitions:
- The willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, or intimidation
- Punishment resulting in physical harm, pain or mental anguish
- Deprivation by an individual, including caretaker, of goods or services that are necessary to attain or maintain physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.
- This includes verbal, sexual, physical, or mental abuse.
Keep these definitions in mind while filing your claim with a nursing home abuse attorney. They have to compare your case with the legal definitions of abuse to find out what you’re owed in damages.
What are Virginia’s Nursing Home Resident Rights?
- You have the right to be treated with courtesy, respect and consideration as a person of worth, sensitivity, and dignity.
- You have the right to make choices about your care and daily life, finances, social and religious activities and other matters.
- You have the right to privacy in your care, personal matters, visits with guests and mail.
- You have the right to be informed of and give input regarding your care plan. Know your rights and responsibilities (ask the administrator for a copy of your rights).
- You have the right to have reasonable preferences accommodated.
- You have the right to make a complaint without fear of punishment or retaliation.
- You have a right to file a complaint or appeal if you feel you are being unfairly discharged.
These rights should be visible in all nursing homes and long-term care facilities for residents to see. Any action that infringes on these rights may be considered abuse under Virginia nursing home state laws.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse in Virginia
If someone’s actions deprive a resident from their nursing home resident rights, intentional or otherwise, that is considered abuse. These actions may manifest physically through brute force, but it can also come from emotional trauma as well.
Understaffing and a rising elderly population may cause overworked nursing home staff to abuse their residents. Keep these qualities in mind when searching for another nursing home for your loved one.
Your loved one may not readily tell you their condition due to fear of retaliation from their caretakers. Pay attention and acknowledge these signs of nursing home abuse to prevent further harm.
When a nursing home resident endures intentional bodily harm from nursing home or LTC facility employees, they are suffering from nursing home physical abuse. Your loved one should not have to endure physical abuse from negligent or hostile caretakers.
Examples of physical abuse include:
- Skin bruising
- Bone fractures
- Soft tissue swelling
Nursing home emotional abuse is any behavior or talk intended to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Emotional abuse is less overt, but may be more damaging depending on the case.
Some examples of nursing home emotional abuse include:
- Verbal harassment
- Isolation from other residents
- Psychological manipulation
- Repeated threats of harm
Financial exploitation is a form of nursing home abuse that focuses on stealing or manipulating funds from nursing home residents.
Examples of nursing home financial abuse include:
- Financial transfers and theft
- Transferring ownership of wills
- Changing banking information like debit or credit cards
- Control of a patient’s accounts
This type of abuse refers to subjection to sexual conduct or contact classified as a crime, and cases have occurred where residents’ medical conditions raise the chances of them to be taken advantage of.
Examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted sexual touching, penetration, or verbiage
- Taking or distributing sexual photos without consent
- Manipulation to perform sexual acts
- Forced nudity
- Lack of privacy
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a lack of care or attention resulting in physical or emotional harm. This may be due to understaffed, untrained, or overworked employees. When workers fail to fulfill their residents’ basic needs, intentional or not, that counts as abuse.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities cannot admit any more nursing home residents until they meet every member’s basic needs according to Virginia law. Violating these provisions may result in misdemeanors, felony charges, or stripped Medicare funding for the facility involved.
“It is unlawful for any responsible person to abuse or neglect any vulnerable adult. Any responsible person who abuses or neglects a vulnerable adult … is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Any responsible person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offense under this subsection is guilty of a Class 6 felony.”
Early Signs of Abuse in a Nursing Home
Being aware of the red flags of abuse is the best way to take care of your loved one. Not only will you prevent further abuse for your loved one, but you may prevent abuse from happening to other residents.
Look for these signs when suspecting physical abuse in your nursing home:
- Unexplained loss of mobility
- Repeated ER visits
- Unexplained injuries
Emotional abuse leaves no direct physical injuries, but there are signs this type of behavior is happening:
- Your loved one’s emotional withdrawal
- Less eye contact than normal when visitors arrive
- Unwilling to speak freely or answer questions
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Emotional distress when left alone
Financial abuse requires great care when initiating the conversation with your loved one. Spotting the warning signs is crucial to stopping further extortion and theft before it’s too late:
- 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 to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Virginia
You can call 757-222-4542 or 1-800-766-8059 to reach hotlines for long-term care patients who have received substandard care in Virginia. Another option is to contact the Virginia Ombudsman Program at 1-800-552-3402.
Virginia offers both a Citizen Advocacy Group (call 757-518-8500) and a department at the Office of Aging dedicated to handling reports of elder abuse in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which can be reached at 804-662-9333.
These resources are available free of charge.
Damages You May Qualify For
There are three types of damages you can file for in a nursing home abuse claim:
Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages. These are direct compensation for harm, injury, or expenses incurred by the liable defendant(s).
- Economic damages: Measurable expenses suffered due to abuse or neglect. These expenses may include:
- Medical care
- Relocation costs
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment
- Non-economic damages are the non-measurable expenses from abuse. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
In 1990, the Virginia Supreme Court held that assisted living facilities are not subject to Virginia’s medical malpractice cap, meaning under that interpretation there is no cap on compensatory damages. If the cap were found to apply to your unique case, the medical malpractice cap is $2,000,000.
- Punitive damages are designed to punish particularly egregious abuse or mistreatment. Punitive damage claims in Virginia are limited to $350,000.
Virginia Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Abuse
The statute of limitations in Virginia for an abuse claim against a nursing home is two years.
If your loved one experienced abuse or neglect in a Virginia nursing home, file your case as soon as possible. Fresh evidence will help your lawyer formulate a convincing case to the court, jury, or insurance adjusters.
Find an Expert Lawyer Who Knows Virginia’s Nursing Home Abuse Laws
Addressing nursing home neglect or abuse is important. Nursing home abuse attorneys typically work under contingency fees. This means your family won’t have to pay them until your loved one’s 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 Virginia nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate in Virginia.
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.