Virginia state laws are designed to help better ensure our loved ones are safe when in nursing facilities.

Nursing home facilities are designed to offer our loved ones with the care they need. When we choose to use one of these nursing homes, we expect the staff to take good care of our loved ones. In many cases, this is exactly what happens. The facility is clean and offers social events and activities for the residents along with staff that help to ensure our loved ones are well cared for and safe.

Unfortunately, there are some situations that are not as ideal. In some cases, a resident may be placed in a bad situation that results in abuse or neglect.

How does Virginia state law protect residents of nursing facilities?

Virginia state law has a number of laws to protect residents within nursing homes. Nursing homes are defined to include any facility that is licensed with the primary function of providing nursing and other health related services to patients. This includes facilities that are referred to as "convalescent homes, skilled nursing facilities or skilled care facilities, intermediate care facilities, extended care facilities and nursing or nursing care facilities."

The law also provides a clear definition for both neglect and abuse. Neglect is defined as a "failure to provide timely and consistent services, treatment or care to a resident" that is necessary to maintain the "health, safety or comfort" of the resident. Abuse is defined as a causing an injury or unreasonably confining, intimidating or punishing a resident in such manner that results in harm, pain or mental anguish. This includes "verbal, sexual, physical or mental" forms of abuse.

The state also requires that residents’ rights are protected while within these facilities. These rights include that the patient is treated with "consideration, respect, and full recognition of his dignity and individuality."

Is there a way to tell if a resident is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect?

Two common signs that can help to determine if a loved one is in a bad situation at a nursing facility include:

  • Change in behavior. If there is a change in a loved one’s demeanor. Perhaps the loved one was always outgoing and kind and is suddenly very quiet and timid. These changes could be a red flag that something is not right in the facility.
  • Communication. Take the resident serious if he or she communicates that they are a victim of abuse or neglect.

These are just two common examples. Others include noticing physical signs of abuse or neglect, such as bruising or the presence of bedsores.

What happens if these rights are violated?

If a resident is the victim of abuse or neglect, or you believe a loved one may be a victim, a complaint can be filed with the Virginia Department of Health. This complaint will be investigated by the Office of Licensure and Certification of the Virginia Department of Health (OLC). These complaints can be given in writing or communicated verbally and can remain anonymous.

If the investigation results in a finding of a deficiency at the facility, the administrator will be required to submit a plan for correcting the issue. If approved, the administrator of the facility will be held responsible for implementing and monitoring the plan to ensure the issue is fully resolved.

In addition to holding the facility accountable through a complaint with the Department of Health, a victim can also hold the person and facility responsible through a personal injury lawsuit. This can result in monetary awards to assist with any costs connected to the abuse or neglect, which can include additional medical expenses.