In one of the nation’s noted retirement destinations for elderly citizens, an investigation undertaken by National Public Radio and the Miami Herald has revealed dozens of suspicious and unexplained deaths among patients being looked after in senior care facilities. Although these tragic losses occurred across the country from our home state, the events that have played out in the Sunshine State may be helpful in understanding the risks of Nevada nursing home injuries.
Much of the media attention has been placed on the story of an elderly woman who had a lifelong fear of the sea but who was ultimately found drowned in 18 inches of water on the campus of her nursing home. Investigations of this nursing home death have revealed that the 85-year-old was able to leave her room in the wee hours of the morning, shuffle through a common area where a security camera was unplugged and exit silently through a door that was supposed to be alarmed. Investigations continue into this tragedy, which seems to be equal parts saddening failure of safety systems and signs of possible foul play.
Across the country, the issue of nursing home neglect remains a tragedy of epidemic scale. Assisted care facilities appear to have grown and spread even as pressures from the weak economy have pushed the price of care downward. From Las Vegas to Lakeland, we see large managed-care companies that operate multiple facilities and often seem focused on doing a volume business without concern for the creation of Las Vegas nursing home harm. Unresponsive managers are unable or unwilling to make the changes needed to prevent future tragedies for families with a senior parent who needs assisted care.
One problem we see time and again in this industry is the lack of serious consequences for negligent managers. Most state laws do not criminalize nursing home abuse unless it is willful, which is harder to prove than the dozens of instances of negligent or even reckless inattention. Civil penalties are a potentially strong tool, but reports from across the country have found that budget cuts to administrative departments have left investigators spread too thin and enforcement has been very weak. Only a handful of nursing homes are closed each year due to reports of nursing home neglect, even though in some cases they have saddening records of injuries and deaths on their grounds.
In Nevada, state legislators are mulling the creation of a statewide Silver Alert System, which would parallel the Amber Alert System that marshals public and civilian resources to help find missing children. The Silver system would be designed to get alerts out when a senior with a diagnosed mental or other condition has gone missing and is suspected to be in harm. However, current Nevada law provides the strongest protections of all: civil law. If a loved one has suffered Nevada nursing home abuse or even lost his or her life, contact us to help you bring a strong lawsuit that can help your family find closure and send a strong message to nursing home managers that there is an economic cost when they fail to protect our parents.
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