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Negligence vs. Abuse in a Nursing Home: What’s the difference?

Posted on: May 18th, 2017 by Mark R. Friedman

We’ll occasionally be posting blog articles from other attorneys on topics that may be relevant to our clients.  This one is from a Phoenix-area law firm on nursing home abuse and neglect, a topic we get asked about.  We hope you find it helpful!

The long-term care industry is an essential part of the American healthcare industry. Many institutions within the long-term care industry are committed to providing compassionate care to elderly patients. There are some exceptions, however. Some organizations fail to provide a reasonable standard of care for their patients — many of whom could be very vulnerable, and all of whom deserve the utmost respect. Nursing home negligence and nursing home abuse are two types of personal injury cases that involve the exploitation of residents living in long-term care facilities.

Nursing Home Abuse

Abuse implies some level of intent. This could mean the blatant intention of causing physical harm or it could mean clear indifference to the consequences of one’s actions. Nursing home abuse may be prosecuted in criminal court because it could be considered a criminal offense.

Some cases of elder abuse don’t involve the staff members of the long-term care facility; rather, a family member of the injured individual could be to blame. This may be particularly evident if a relative is attempting to take advantage of the elder’s financial situation.

In a nursing home setting, abuse may manifest itself in many forms. Residents may be physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused. They might be financially abused by someone who wants to take advantage of their vulnerability.

Nursing Home Negligence

Negligence, on the other hand, is legally defined as the failure to perform some duty that is owed to another person. If someone is negligent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they acted deliberately. It simply means that the individual failed to act in a reasonable way, and this failure led to another person’s injury.

In a nursing home environment, it could be easy for staff members to become distracted and fail to perform their regular duties to a reasonable standard. It’s possible for staff members to forget to provide the correct medication to patients or fail to pay attention to basic hygienic needs. The staff members in these situations might not be considered abusive because they did not intend physical or emotional harm to residents.

As a Phoenix nursing home negligence lawyer might explain, extreme cases of negligence could potentially be prosecuted as criminal charges. Depending on the jurisdiction where the act occurs, if an act of negligence is done in a manner that would suggest “willful disregard” for the safety of another, or is done “with reckless abandon,” such an act could be prosecuted in a criminal court.

Taking Action in a Nursing Home Negligence or Abuse Case

If you suspect that your elderly relative is being abused in a nursing home facility — by a staff member, by another resident, or even by a family member — don’t hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer today.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Alex & Saavedra, P.C. for their insight into nursing home negligence and elder abuse cases.

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