The elderly and other vulnerable adults deserve the best care and protection. Unfortunately, some nursing homes choose to put profits ahead of the most basic needs of their residents, resulting in serious, sometimes fatal injuries. While abuse is often the result of intentional acts, neglect may occur based on a lack of action. Neither is acceptable, and both must be confronted with the full force of the law when they cause harm.

I am Kenneth Berger, a Columbia, SC nursing home injury attorney focused on obtaining justice for those whose safety has been compromised while in the care of skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. Our citizens - both young and old - have a right to safety in our state, and my job is to help protect that legal right. If you have questions about abuse or neglect at a nursing facility, call my Columbia, SC law firm today for a free consultation.


What is Considered Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

Nursing home abuse and neglect can occur in various forms in care facilities across South Carolina. In instances of abuse or neglect, facilities are often understaffed, employees have not received adequate training, or the facility’s administration failed to conduct proper background checks to ensure their residents were in good hands. Either way, if your loved one has suffered one of the below types of nursing home abuse or neglect, you have the right to hold the responsible party accountable.

1. Neglect is when the care facility fails to provide their resident with proper care. This may include not maintaining proper hygiene or allowing residents to become dehydrated or malnourished. Neglect often stems from indifference, poor training, or being understaffed.  

2. Physical abuse is when caretakers intentionally cause physical harm to nursing home residents. Any act to cause physical harm, such as hitting, kicking, burning, or shoving, is considered physical abuse and is not acceptable in any South Carolina nursing home.

3. Emotional abuse is any type of verbal or psychological abuse, such as name-calling, insulting, or isolating from friends and family, that leaves the vulnerable person feeling afraid or distressed.

4. Sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual interaction.


3 Signs of Abuse and Neglect in a Nursing Home

Nursing home residents are often at the mercy of staff. They depend on caretakers for meals, medicine, and safety. Sadly, their dependence and trust can be exploited. Rather than being cared for, some residents in South Carolina are made victims of abuse and neglect. I therefore want to provide you with three warning signs in an attempt to help keep your loved ones safe. 

  1. Burns, Bruises, or Broken Bones

Our seniors should never experience any of these injuries while in the care of a nursing home. However, there is a world of difference between injuries resulting from unforeseeable accidents and those suffered at the hands of an abuser. If you learn that a loved one has sustained harm, please investigate. Do not allow the nursing facility to blame your loved one, another resident, or a no-fault accident for the injury without speaking to nurses, supervisors, and potential witnesses.

  1. Offensive Odors and Poor Hygiene

Your loved one is most likely in a nursing facility because they are unable to care for themselves 24/7. Many seniors need help getting to the bathroom, keeping their rooms clean, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. When nursing home employees stop assisting the patients who depend on them, personal hygiene becomes a major problem. Be on the lookout for soiled sheets, dirty clothes, bed sores, and unsanitary bathroom conditions. If any of these items are present, immediately report them to management and if necessary, DHEC.

  1. Silence and Withdrawal

Our elders are often proud people. They have accomplished a great deal in their lives. They speak with humility; yet a quiet confidence defines them. If your loved one is such a person, you would not expect them to become withdrawn, timid, and almost afraid to speak. Likewise, no one would think that such a man or woman would become sluggish and disinterested in life. These changes may be a sign of abuse. If your loved one has been outgoing his entire life, yet now has little to say or do, ask questions.


Who is At Fault in a Nursing Home Negligence Case?

When elderly or otherwise vulnerable adults enter a nursing home, the facility agrees to take on that person’s basic duty of care, taking care of necessities like food, shelter, hygiene and medical care, in exchange for money. However, when a nursing home fails to take proper care of its residents and someone is harmed, they should be held responsible for their actions.

In South Carolina nursing home abuse cases, the responsible party may include one or more of the following:

  • Nursing home staff;
  • The facility’s administration; or
  • A third-party company, such as a wheelchair manufacturer or an outside contractor that failed to properly maintain equipment at the facility.

In most cases, we will turn to the care facility’s insurance company to seek a full and fair recovery for your damages. Even in instances where an individual abused or neglected a resident, the facility is often responsible because of a lack of training, being understaffed, or failing to perform proper background checks to ensure the staff was qualified to care for vulnerable adults.

Who Can Obtain Copies of Medical Records From Nursing Home Facilities?

We frequently receive calls from people throughout South Carolina who are concerned over how their family members are being treated either at a skilled nursing home or assisted living facility. Some people want complete medical charts, others are just seeking incident reports. Either way, they are often met with significant resistance from the center, so I've included some information on who should be able to successfully get copies of nursing home records below.

1. The first thing to remember is that the resident, if at all possible, may request the records himself. The nursing home has a legal duty to provide records to patients.

2. If a family member signed the patient into the facility with power of attorney, that same family member should have a contractual right to obtain a copy of all records.

3. Any person with health care or durable power of attorney, even if initiated after your loved one became a resident at the facility, ought to be able to get the complete patient chart.

4. If these measures fail, or if you simply want help, an attorney can send a request for a certified copy of all nursing home records.

The Records & The Truth Are Not Always the Same

It's important to note that no matter what the records say, mistreatment may still be taking place. Senior care facilities frequently alter and falsify documents in an attempt to escape civil liability. For example, a nursing home might change a record to state a patient was frequently repositioned and given daily wound treatment before developing a Stage 4 pressure ulcer. However, we may discover that no such treatment was ever provided, and further that the record was not created until after a claim was filed. Similar to stories on the news, the cover up is often just as bad, if not worse than the act itself.

As a Columbia, South Carolina nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer, I can obtain certified copies of all records, issue subpoenas, take depositions, and work to uncover not only what the records say, but also what really happened.


How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Columbia, SC

Who do you report elder abuse to in South Carolina? This is a common question many families ask when an elderly loved one has suffered some form of physical or mental harm while in the care of a nursing home.

Cases of gross negligence that result in serious injury, disability or death may be reported to a few different entities.

1. 911. If the vulnerable person is in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call the police to handle the situation.

2. Nursing Home Administration. If you believe an individual at the nursing home is abusing or neglecting your loved one, you may be able to take the incident up the chain of command to the nursing home administration to ensure the staff member is properly dealt with and that the issue is resolved.

3. South Carolina Department on Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO). The long-term care ombudsman helps resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents of long term care facilities regarding quality of care or quality of life, which according to their website, includes:

  • Violations of Rights
  • Improper transfer or discharge of a resident
  • Assistance with benefits
  • Dignity and respect, and
  • Abuse, neglect or exploitation  

Each year, the LTCO investigates approximately 8,000 complaints on behalf of long-term care residents. You can contact the SC LTCO by calling 1-800-868-9095.

4. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). DHEC is required to investigate any written or verbal complaint which indicates that there may be a violation of South Carolina’s licensing standards.

5. South Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer.

If you’re unsure about who to consult when you believe your loved one may be a victim of elder abuse in South Carolina, an attorney who has experience with nursing home abuse cases can also connect you the proper government agencies if necessary. Additionally, he or she will be able to evaluate your case to determine whether you and your loved ones have grounds for a civil lawsuit against the nursing home owner, management, staff, or other personnel. When you leave the legal work to an elder abuse lawyer, you can focus on tending to your loved one's needs.


Holding South Carolina Nursing Homes Liable for Injuries They Could Have Prevented

If your loved one has been harmed, or has died, as a result of the negligence or recklessness of a nursing center, I will seek to help you in your search for answers and justice. There are all too many situations where under staffing, poor training, and a lack of supervision can result in serious injuries, including the following:

My Columbia, SC law firm is dedicated to standing up for victims of elder abuse and neglect. If you would like answers, guidance, and a free case evaluation from an injury lawyer, call me today at (803) 790-2800. You do not have to take on the nursing home - and its insurance company - by yourself. Allow us to concentrate on the legal claims while you focus on spending time with your loved ones. We look forward to helping you.


Additional Resources

  1.  How Staffing Issues Can Lead to Elderly Neglect in Nursing Homes
  2.  Leading Causes of Wrongful Death in Nursing Facilities
  3.  Elderly Malnutrition And Neglect In South Carolina Nursing Homes
  4.  Nursing Home Neglect Can Lead to Harmful Dehydration
  5.  Top Reasons for Lawsuits are Filed Against Nursing Homes
  6.  3 Things SC Nursing Homes Should Do to Prevent Bed Sores
  7.  Falls and Subdural Hematomas in Nursing Homes
  8.  Nursing Home Negligence and Sepsis: What Families Need to Know
Kenneth Berger
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Columbia and Myrtle Beach car accident and personal injury lawyer dedicated to securing justice for clients.