A woman with white hair is holding her head.

Nursing Home Liability Actions in Texas

One of the reasons we place our loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living facilities is because we believe that the caregivers at these facilities can better provide for the needs of our aging loved ones. Often the decision to place an aging loved one in a nursing home comes with fears about whether our loved ones are receiving the necessary care they need to live happy, healthy lives.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is an intentional act (or failure to act) committed by a caregiver that creates a risk of harm to an adult who is at least sixty years old.

What are the Different Types of Elder Abuse?

Physical abuse is often the first type of abuse that comes to mind when people discuss elder abuse. Physical abuse encompasses a whole host of violent acts that results in injury to an older individual. The list of physical acts that an elderly individual could become a victim of is very long. This can include, punching, beating, pushing, restraint, and kicking.

Another type of abuse is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes any forced or unwanted sexual interaction.

Elder abuse also includes emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is any verbal or non-verbal behavior that results in distress. This can include insults or threats.

Neglect can also be an example of elder abuse. Neglect includes any situation where a caregiver fails to provide for the needs of an older individual. Caregivers must provide the elderly with food, water, medical care, clothing, proper hygiene, and shelter. If the caregiver fails to provide one of these basic needs, neglect is likely occurring.

The final type of elder abuse is financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs when a caregiver exploits the resources of an elderly individual. For example, a caregiver may withdraw large sums of money from the elderly individual’s bank account without the elderly individual’s permission.

What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Physical abuse may be occurring if the older person suffers from unexplained bruising or other injury. For example, the older person may have cuts, burns, bedsores, ulcers, or open wounds. Neglect can be identified by observing the environment in which the older individual lives. If the older individual is living in terrible conditions neglect may be occurring. Poor hygiene could also be a sign of neglect. This can include dirty or soiled bedding or clothing.

Augusten Burroughs refers to emotional abuse as an “untraceable poison.†This is because signs of emotional abuse are hard to discover. There are a few signs that could indicate that emotional abuse is occurring. One of the biggest indicators is a sudden withdraw from friends and family members. Other signs include fear and distress.

Often, an elderly individual will be unable to ensure that all of their finances are in order, so a caregiver may take the opportunity to exploit the situation. Financial abuse can be detected early if you monitor the finances of your elderly loved one. If you suspect that a loved one has become a victim of financial abuse, you may be able to seek to become your loved one’s power of attorney so that you can make financial decisions for the loved one when the loved one is unable to make decisions for themselves.

If you suspect that a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse, you should discuss the situation with the loved one. Insisting on an open dialogue can help you detect elder abuse much sooner than you would be able to if you remained silent about your concerns. You should also contact the supervisor of the facility that your loved one is staying at in order to report your suspicions.

Can I file a lawsuit?

Elderly individuals who have been abused in nursing homes can file civil suits against the caregivers who abused them. This means that the elderly individual can file suit directly against the nurses who were responsible for the abuse.

Elderly individual can also sue the nursing homes or assisted living facilities that employed the individuals that were responsible for the abuse. These individuals may be liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior if the caregiver that was responsible for the abuse was acting within the scope of her employment.

What Cause of Action Can I File?

The underlying suit will vary depending on the abuse that the elderly individual suffered. Possible suits include assault, battery, false imprisonment, and negligence.

Nursing homes may also be responsible under a theory of negligent hiring or training. Nursing homes should ensure that the caregivers that they hire are properly trained so that they can provide adequate care to the individuals living at the facility.

Each of these suits has different elements that the plaintiff needs to prove in order to recover.

What damages can Victims of Elder Abuse Recover?

Elderly individuals who have been the victims of elder abuse can recover economic and non-economic damages. Examples of economic damages include medical bills, and cost of rehabilitation.

Examples of non-economic damages include physical pain and suffering, and disfigurement.

If a person dies because of elder abuse, the survivors can bring a lawsuit against the caregivers who were responsible for the death of their loved one. One of the damages loved ones can recover in this situation is loss of consortium (loss of companionship). Loved ones may also be able to recover for funeral and burial expenses.

Should I file a lawsuit?

The decision of whether to file a lawsuit based on elder abuse is a tough one. If you are considering filing a lawsuit against a caregiver, you should speak to an attorney. An attorney can give you advice about whether you have a case against a caregiver. It is very important to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as you discover that your loved one has been abused so that you can file a claim within the appropriate statute of limitations.

It is also important that you report the abuse to the proper authorities because elder abuse can result in criminal prosecution.