Neglect and abuse of nursing home residents happens far too frequently. If your elderly or disabled loved one is a target of nursing home neglect or abuse – or if you are suspicious but not sure – you must speak right away with a Maine nursing home abuse attorney.

Families of older and disabled people who can no longer take care of themselves independently often send their loved ones to one of Maine’s licensed nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Some of these institutions provide superlative nursing and elder care.

Sadly, however, at some of the assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Maine, there have been instances of mistreatment and abuse of residents. What are the reasons behind nursing home abuse? What are the signs of nursing home abuse? What are an abuse victim’s rights?

This brief discussion of nursing home abuse in Maine seeks to answer these questions. It also discusses how to spot nursing home abuse, and how to stop it – and win justice – if your elderly or disabled family member is a nursing home abuse victim.

What Are the Causes of Abuse at Nursing Homes?

Nursing home neglect and abuse are more likely to happen when staffers are overworked and underpaid. Abuse and neglect are predictable results if a nursing home’s owners will not pay for sufficient staffing and adequate training.

Of course, nursing home owners have the right to earn a profit, but profits cannot be placed above the dignity and well-being of a nursing home’s residents. Where staffing levels are inadequate or staff is understaffed, nursing homes may be required to pay compensation to residents who receive poor care as a result.

Spotting neglect and abuse at a nursing home may be a challenge because residents may be ashamed or even afraid to discuss or report it. Family members should know the signs of neglect and abuse, visit frequently, and look closely for anything that might indicate neglect or abuse.

What Constitutes Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse in Maine?

The law in Maine protects nursing home residents. In this state, any of the following may constitute nursing home neglect or abuse:

  1.  emotional or verbal abuse, abandonment, or isolation
  2.  assault, battery, or any physical abuse
  3. financial exploitation including extortion, theft, fraud, or forgery
  4.  medical negligence or malpractice and its consequences

Financial exploitation may include the theft of jewelry, cash, or blank checks, check forgery, or intimidating a nursing home resident to sign a financial document. Financial exploitation is a problem that is on the rise at nursing homes across the nation.

Look for These Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Anything that puts a nursing home’s residents at risk or violates their dignity or best interests could be deemed nursing home neglect or abuse. These are the signs of abuse and neglect that family members should look for:

  1.  bed sores
  2. dehydration or malnutrition
  3. inadequate monitoring of residents
  4. medical negligence or malpractice

Family members should also be concerned about sudden mood swings, abrupt weight losses, cuts, bruises, or unexpected, sudden medical emergencies.

Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

In Maine, certain persons are legally required to report nursing home abuse. These are people who work with seniors and the disabled, including occupational therapists, ambulance attendants, licensed practical nurses, psychologists, and social workers.

In addition, Maine encourages anyone suspecting nursing home neglect, abuse, or exploitation to report it. If your family member is a neglect or abuse victim in a nursing home, speak at once with a Maine nursing home abuse lawyer.

When nursing home abuse involves theft, fraud, or forgery, or when abuse is intentional rather than negligent, your attorney may determine that the police should become involved. If you have evidence that indicates nursing home neglect or abuse, or if you are certain of it, do not wait.

When Should You Contact an Attorney?

In most cases, the deadline for initiating legal action in a Maine nursing home abuse case is three years from the date the abuse is discovered. For wrongful death cases related to nursing home abuse, the deadline – the statute of limitations – for initiating legal action is also three years. In other instances, the statute of limitations is shorter.

You should not wait until the statute of limitations has nearly run before contacting an attorney. A Maine nursing home abuse attorney needs to see and examine any evidence while it’s still fresh and needs to obtain statements from any witnesses before their memories fade.

If you procrastinate, it becomes more challenging to prove abuse or neglect; evidence can disappear or deteriorate, and memories can fade quickly.

Taking Legal Action on Your Loved One’s Behalf

When a nursing home or its employees were negligent, the nursing home and its owners can be held accountable for the abuse of your family member.

If you bring a nursing home abuse claim, your family may recover compensation for negligence-related medical expenses, for your loved one’s pain and suffering, and, when applicable, for wrongful death. In Maine, you may also be awarded punitive damages if the nursing home’s conduct is sufficiently egregious.

Economic damages – medical and surgery expenses, for example – can be fully reimbursed. Maine has no cap on pain and suffering damages. However, damages for a wrongful death are capped at $750,000.

What Will It Cost to Seek Justice?

Your attorney will provide a free initial review of your claim. That free review entails no obligation, but it will provide the personalized legal advice that’s pertinent to your particular case.

If you and your Maine nursing home abuse lawyer move ahead with your nursing home abuse claim, you should pay no attorneys fees until your loved one recovers compensation for his or her injuries and losses. Likewise, most attorneys will front the costs associated with the litigation, and will only seek reimbursement if they are able to get you and your family compensated.

If you believe that a beloved relative is at risk in a Maine nursing home or assisted living facility, discuss your case, your family’s legal rights, and the steps you need to take with an experienced Maine attorney. Nursing home abuse is real. If you know of abuse or if you suspect it, act now.