Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing homes are intended to be a safe haven for society’s most vulnerable population. Occupants receive the increased care and protection that they need to enjoy longer, healthier, and safer lives. Unfortunately, the reality is that nursing home abuse is an all-too-common problem in Massachusetts. Nursing home abuse is often a hidden problem because of the physical, mental, or cognitive disabilities of the victims. Thousands of our loved ones are abused, neglected, and exploited each year, but very few come forward.

Approximately 1 in 10 Americans 60 years of age or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated. According to the World Health Organization, 64% of nursing home staff members admitted to abusing residents in 2017.

Sexual assault, rape and abuse of nursing home patients is a widespread and vastly underreported problem. According to a 2017 CNN report, more than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported since 2000 in long-term care facilities. The study also revealed that the federal government has cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse at their facilities during this period.

Abuse can take many forms, including:

Neglect – Neglect can occur in many ways, including failing to provide necessary food or water, allowing unsanitary conditions that cause illnesses, failing to provide proper medical care, and denying other basic needs. Symptoms of neglect can include bed sores (pressure sores), malnutrition, dehydration, poor hygiene, sepsis, infections, and/or wrongful death.

Physical assault – Residents can suffer physical assaults by staff members or by other nursing home residents. This can include punching, kicking, pushing, throwing objects, restraining, and any other physical acts that cause injuries.

Sexual assault – Staff members or other residents may also sexually assault nursing home residents. Such abuse can range from exposing sexual parts to unwanted touching and rape. Nursing homes receiving Medicaid or Medicare funds must comply with federal regulations. According to the federal regulation 42 CFR 483.13, all residents have “the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.”

Emotional abuse – Nursing home staff can sometimes try to exercise authority or punish residents with insults, humiliation, name-calling, threats, and other words and actions that cause emotional trauma.

Nursing home abuse and neglect can often result in devastating injuries to victims. Some examples of severe injuries from harm in nursing homes include:

  • A medication error causes a resident to have a stroke, which leaves the resident unable to walk;
  • A staff member hits a resident in the head, causing severe brain trauma and a permanent vegetative state;
  • Medical staff fail to respond to a call button and, as a result, a resident dies from a treatable medical emergency;
  • An unsupervised resident sexually assaults another resident, transmitting an untreatable sexually transmitted disease;
  • A staff member pushes a resident, who falls, injuring their spinal cord and becoming partially paralyzed;
  • A resident does not receive proper food and develops a serious illness from malnutrition;
  • Rooms are not heated or air-conditioned as needed, causing a resident to suffer hyperthermia or hypothermia; and/or
  • Neglect leads to untreated and severe bedsores, which cause intolerable pain, permanent damage to the skin, or a life-threatening infection.

Common nursing home abuse injuries include, but are not limited to:

  • Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers;
  • Resident falls;
  • Unexplained fractures;
  • Broken hips;
  • Prescription drug errors;
  • Amputations;
  • Assaults and attacks;
  • Dehydration and malnourishment;
  • Urinary tract infections and Sepsis;
  • Bed rail injuries;
  • Nursing home infections;
  • Doctor negligence;
  • Hip fractures;
  • Pelvic fractures;
  • Sexual abuse; and/or
  • Aspiration pneumonia.

Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse

To take legal action, a victim must prove the injuries occurred due to the negligence or wrongdoing of the nursing home or its employees. Examples of fault in abuse and neglect cases include:

  • Inadequate training of staff members – Nursing homes may not give staff members all the information they need to do their jobs correctly. As a result, staff can end up accidentally hurting residents. Helping residents in or out of bed without the proper support, for example, can result in residents falling and shattering hips or vertebrae.
  • Hiring unsafe staff members – A nursing home might not perform background checks or check references for new hires. If the staff member has a criminal background or past allegations of abuse, the nursing home may have engaged in negligent hiring.
  • Inadequate staffing – A nursing home might try to cut corners by hiring fewer care staff, which means residents will not get the help they need.
  • Staff drug abuse or alcohol addiction – If a staff member neglects duties because of drug use, the nursing home might face responsibility.
  • Failure to provide adequate medical care – Based on the circumstances, a nursing home might need to order a particular course of treatment. If it fails to act appropriately, it may result in the negligent harm of a resident.
  • Failure to supervise staff – If a nursing home fails to supervise its staff members and prevent misconduct, it can bear the responsibility for any resulting abuse.
  • Failure to provide adequate security – A nursing home may not adequately prevent residents or visitors to the facility from harming other residents.
  • Failure to report abuse – The law requires that nursing homes report cases of abuse to prevent cover-ups.

Under federal law, there are a number of statutes which have been enacted for the care and protection of nursing home residents. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, the Older Americans Act, and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 have all been enacted to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of nursing home residents. These federal laws provide for civil penalties and sanctions for facilities who violate the rights of nursing home residents.

The Older Americans Act currently provides funding to numerous states, including Massachusetts, for social services intended to help elderly people. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 outlines what type of services must be provided to nursing home residents and sets acceptable standards for these services. In addition, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 also sets out a number of rights for state and federal nursing home residents;

  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect;
  • The right to freedom from physical restraints;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs;
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups;
  • The right to be treated with dignity;
  • The right to exercise self-determination;
  • The right to communicate freely;
  • The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility; and
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.

In Massachusetts, The Abuse of Elderly Persons Act holds nursing home facilities accountable for the abuse of their residents. The Act has defined abuse as any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver that causes harm to a nursing home resident.

Compensation for Nursing Home Injuries

Monetary damages generally fall into three categories.

Economic damages – Your loved one can receive financial compensation for losses that can be measured. In cases of nursing home abuse, such losses often stem from medical care—including past and ongoing care—needed to treat the abuse injuries, such as:

  • Ambulance transportation;
  • Hospital stays;
  • Surgeries;
  • Doctor visits;
  • Medical testing (CT scans, MRI tests, X-rays, blood work);
  • Prescription medication;
  • Physical therapy;
  • Assistive devices, including wheelchairs;
  • Future medical care; and/or
  • Costs of increased living assistance

Non-economic damages – Massachusetts courts recognize that injury victims suffer non-monetary harms, many of which drastically reduce their quality of life, and these victims deserve compensation for these damages. For example, you or your loved one might be able to request compensation for:

  • Physical pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress, including depression, fear, grief, anxiety, and sleeplessness;
  • Lost enjoyment of life; and/or
  • Permanent cognitive or physical impairments caused by injuries.

Punitive damages – Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory and are intended to reimburse abuse victims so they can return to their life as it was before. Punitive damages are different. They punish the nursing home in the hope of deterring future neglect or abuse. Victims may be able to request these damages in cases where egregious behavior occurred, such as the nursing home or its employees acting with malice.

Some potential signs of nursing home abuse include:

  • Unsanitary living conditions;
  • Loss of money or possessions;
  • Unrecognized names on paperwork;
  • Unexplained crying;
  • Fear of visitors or of being alone; and/or
  • Bruises, cuts, burns, or fractures.

Negligence or abuse by nursing home staff can cause catastrophic injuries from which residents may never recover. They may suffer extensive financial losses, as well as irreversible physical and mental harm. Our attorneys firmly believe that any victim of severe injuries due to nursing home abuse or neglect deserves full compensation—just like any other wrongfully injured individual. Our legal team regularly fights for and obtains favorable results for our severely injured clients. We are willing to stand up for our clients’ right to full compensation from at-fault parties. We want to help you hold nursing homes accountable for violations and prevent future injuries to residents.

If your relative was a victim of nursing home abuse, you need the right law firm handling your case. Nursing homes are highly unlikely to admit neglect or abuse. They will fight back, sometimes with the help of large legal teams and large amounts of funding. Victims need a law firm with the skill, experience, and resources to stand up to such opponents and successfully advocate for a victim’s rights. Advocates Legal Group, LLP will stand up and fight for your loved ones through the use of the following services and experience:

  • We use investigators to discover the root of neglect and abuse, gather nursing home records, interview witnesses, and obtain other evidence to prove misconduct;
  • We understand how to determine if the nursing home engaged in negligent hiring or supervision of staff members who engaged in misconduct;
  • We know how to calculate extensive damages for medical costs and pain and suffering;
  • We draw on a network of respected experts who can testify to the nature and severity of our clients’ injuries, as well as the associated pain and suffering;
  • We have a thorough understanding of nursing home regulations and safety standards, so we can demonstrate when a nursing home fell below that standard or failed to comply with the law; and
  • We have compassion for our clients in the wake of their injuries and provide highly personalized representation and attention in every case.

If you suspect your loved ones suffered preventable injuries at a nursing home, you should first prioritize their safety. Once they are no longer at risk of further injuries, contact our law firm at (508) 796-5737, or email us at, to discuss their rights and legal options with a skilled member of our legal team.

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