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Nursing home abuse and neglect in Virginia: A primer

Nursing homes can offer a safe and even enjoyable environment for those who are unable to live on their own. Although many nursing homes meet and even exceed the needs of their residents, there are some that fail. Even those that do well may make a mistake that results in injury to their residents.

Why are nursing homes failing their residents?

Three common factors that can set a nursing home facility up to fail include:

  • Lack of adequate staff. Many nursing homes do not have the staff they need to properly serve their residents. Unfortunately, those who help care for residents, like certified nursing assistants, are often grossly underpaid and seriously overworked. The average annual income for a CNA is under $30,000. As a result, these facilities often have a high turnover rate and struggle to meet staffing needs.
  • Failure to meet the residents’ preferences. Nursing home residents have certain rights, and these generally include meeting their preferences. This could be as simple as taking a shower in the evening instead of the morning or as important as abstaining from eating meat due to religious beliefs. A failure to honor these preferences can begin to chip away at the resident’s mental well-being. Even larger concerns are present if the facility fails to meet basic needs, like providing water, food and meeting the residents’ hygiene needs.
  • Complicated corporate structure. The business structure used by these facilities often provides a corporate shield and complex web of ownership. This can make it difficult to hold the responsible party accountable when an injury occurs within a nursing home.

Difficult, but not impossible.

How can we hold the nursing home accountable if a loved one is injured or dies while in their care?

There are various checks and balances put in place by lawmakers to help better ensure residents are safe and well cared for in these facilities. The Virginia Department of Health Professions notes that those who engage in administration of an assisted living facility in the state must hold an assisted living facility administrator’s license or a nursing home administrator’s license. These licenses are issued by the Board of Long-Term Care Administrators. The Board holds these professionals to a high standard, requiring they renew these licenses and continue their education.

In addition to holding those who run these facilities accountable, the law also provides rights for residents at both state and federal levels. Those who are injured can build a case to hold the facility accountable for past, present and anticipated future medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish and impairment that will impact the ability to enjoy life.