Nursing home abuse in Arkansas comes in many forms. While physical and emotional violence have the most obvious effects, neglect, carelessness, and distracted employees can wreak havoc on an individual’s health and wellbeing. When you trust your loved one to the care of professionals in a nursing home, you expect they will be treated with dignity, respect, and the attention they deserve. But financial pressures, staffing constraints, and high employee turnover can all erode that solid base upon which your loved one’s health, safety, and their very lives rest. In fact, Arkansas nursing homes are, statistically, some of the worst in the nation when it comes to specific safety violations.
1-in-5 Arkansas Nursing Homes Cited for “Significant” Violations
There are a total of 234 licensed nursing homes in Arkansas. 46 of them have been cited for what the U.S. Centers for Medicate and Medicaid Services classify as ‘Significant” medication errors. That’s 1 out of every 5 nursing homes in your area. Is your loved one housed in one of these facilities?
Keep in mind, that’s just the errors that are officially reported. Individual cases involving nursing home employees who were either never officially reprimanded, or whose misdeeds were never brought to the attention of state investigators suggest that number could very well be much higher.
The federal government does not take these errors lightly. Indeed, federal data shows that nursing homes in Arkansas were fined a total of $1.3 million in 2013 for 43 cases of medication dosing errors. But these potentially deadly errors still occur every day.
In fact, the rate of medication errors in Arkansas nursing homes far exceeds the national average. Arkansas nursing homes ranked at the top 3% for serious medication errors nationwide for the last five years running.
What is a “Significant” Medication Error?
Medication dosing errors include:
- Giving residents the wrong medication
- Giving them too much (or too little) of the right medication
- Giving them somebody else’s medication
- Failing to give the right dosage at the right time
In one such serious violation a resident was given medication for 80 days after their physician ordered it stopped.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services classifies these medication errors as “significant” when they
1) Put a patient’s life or wellbeing in danger
2) Occur repeatedly
3) Involve certain drugs more dangerous than others (such as narcotics)
While mistakes do happen, and some medication dosing errors have no serious or long-lasting effects, any error that puts your loved one at risk should not be tolerated. Indeed, repeated dosing errors or serious medication errors may be a symptom of a more severe problem within the nursing home. These grievous errors may constitute nursing home abuse and could give injured individuals or their loved ones cause to file lawsuits in order to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Legal fees
- And more
Unfortunately, more times than not the residents who don’t have regular visitors are the ones that are at higher risk for nursing home abuse. This is because nursing home staff knows which residents have loved ones coming in and checking on them, spending time with them. Those are the residents who are going to be cared for first, because the nursing home staff knows they will be held accountable if a family member comes in and notices things that aren’t being done for the resident, maltreatment, abuse, neglect, medication errors, etc. Sadly, there are residents who don’t have visitors coming in daily, that don’t have family members or loved ones there to notice that they are laying in their own feces for extended periods of times, that their loved one has developed a bedsore that needs immediate attention because they are not being turned and repositioned every two hours, that they did not receive their breakfast or dinner, have gone without water for extended periods of time, that an employee is harming them or verbally abusive, therefore it goes unnoticed and will not be reported, therefore there are no consequences for the abuse.
The best defense against nursing home abuse is being involved daily in your loved one’s life. If you can’t be there, ask a friend to stop by, hire someone to go sit with your loved ones if you are able. Show up at unexpected times. Know what medications they are supposed to be taking, the dosage, for what period of time they are to be taking it. Take notes about the atmosphere, conditions of the nursing home, document conversations with staff, be observant, make sure your loved one feels safe and cared for. You may just save their life by showing up every day and asking questions.
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse in Arkansas
Abuse in an Arkansas nursing home should never be tolerated. If you witness (or even suspect) abuse, speak up! Your first resource should be the nursing home’s senior management. If they don’t satisfactorily solve the problem, it’s time to escalate the issue. The State of Arkansas’s Department of Human Services website allows concerned individuals to report abuse, neglect, and unsafe conditions at long-term care facilities within the state.
However, it may be necessary for you to pursue the matter even further and hire an experienced nursing home abuse attorney in Arkansas to represent yourself or your family in the matter. Having legal assistance on your side allows you to explore all of the options available to you while taking full advantage of a professional’s years of experience.