When we think of nursing homes, we envision a haven where our loved ones are treated with respect, love, and care. Regrettably, not all nursing homes live up to these standards. Nursing home neglect is a distressing issue, one that is confronted more frequently than many Oklahomans realize.
If you are concerned about the well-being of your loved one in an Oklahoma nursing home, you are not alone. Nursing home neglect is more common than any of us would like to admit. In this blog post, our Oklahoma personal injury attorneys discuss how to recognize signs of neglect, what steps you can take to address it, and how Oklahoma nursing home complaints are handled.
Understanding Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is essentially the failure to provide the necessary care, services, and supervision to maintain a resident’s health and safety. You might picture overt physical abuse when you think of nursing home complaints, but neglect can be just as harmful.
Oklahoma has its own Nursing Home Care Act under Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes (Section 1-1900 et seq.). This act includes a “Bill of Rights” for residents, covering things like the right to be treated with dignity, the right to privacy, and the right to proper medical treatment. The act also outlines standards of care and penalties for violations.
Additionally, Oklahoma nursing homes must comply with federal laws like the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA) from 1987, enacted as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) and codified at 42 U.S.C. §1395i-3. This federal legislation establishes a baseline for the care and services that must be provided.
Any deviation from these statutes can be a sign of neglect. Furthermore, federal law allows for financial penalties against nursing homes that are found to be in violation of federal standards.
Recognizing Signs of Neglect
According to Oklahoma law, everyone—not just healthcare workers—has a duty to report suspected abuse or neglect. Recognizing nursing home neglect is the first step towards reporting it. Common signs of nursing home abuse that healthcare workers and family members should look out for are as follows:
- Physical Indicators: Unexplained bruises, cuts, bedsores, frequent infections, and noticeable weight loss.
- Emotional Signs: Sudden changes in behavior, such as increased agitation, withdrawal, or signs of anxiety and depression.
- Environmental Clues: Unsanitary conditions, lack of basic necessities like food and water, or residents left in soiled clothing for long periods.
Remember, prevention is better than a cure. Visiting your loved one regularly, asking questions, and participating in care planning meetings can help prevent neglect. The more present and involved you are, the less likely neglect will go unnoticed.
Oklahoma’s Nursing Home Complaint Process
If you believe your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect, you do not have to stand by idly waiting for someone else to act. There are proactive steps you can take to protect your loved one and address the neglect:
- Document Everything: Before you even think of legal action, start keeping a record of everything—photos, journals, medical reports. It’s not just about building a case; it’s about ensuring accountability.
- Speak to the Management: Sometimes, a simple conversation can lead to corrective measures. Maybe they are unaware or need a nudge. Either way, let them know you are watching.
- File a Complaint with the State: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has a mechanism for receiving complaints about nursing home facilities. They are responsible for licensing and inspecting nursing homes in the state. Whenever a complaint is filed, the OSDH carries out an investigation, takes corrective measures, and even levies fines if necessary.
- Seek Legal Counsel: In extreme cases, you can also take legal action. Oklahoma’s law allows victims of nursing home neglect or their representatives to sue for damages. The law specifically states that any violation of a resident’s rights can be grounds for a lawsuit. In this case, you should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law or nursing home neglect. An experienced Oklahoma personal injury attorney can guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit and seeking damages. In some cases, neglect may rise to the level of a crime, which could involve the local District Attorney and criminal prosecution.
Final Thoughts on Recognizing and Addressing Nursing Home Neglect in Oklahoma
Nursing home neglect is heartbreaking. Oklahoma, like most states, tries its best to protect its elderly residents. But the system is only as strong as the people who enforce it.
By filing nursing home complaints, Oklahoma residents initiate administrative and legal proceedings that can deter other nursing homes from engaging in similar practices. If you suspect neglect, do not wait. Gather evidence, report it, and seek legal guidance—contact Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers today! We offer a free consultation to explore how we can help your loved ones.