Get the FAQs on Nursing Home Abuse in SC

Nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation nationwide are at levels high enough to shock the average person. According to a report shared by ABC News, 30 percent of all U.S. nursing homes—5,283 facilities—received citations for almost 9,000 cases of abuse over two years. In many cases, the abuse caused real physical harm or placed the abused person in jeopardy of serious injury or death. Documented cases of abuse and neglect ranged from slaps to punches, kicks, and choking, causing severe lacerations and broken bones. Documented cases of neglect involved untreated bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

Are you concerned about placing a loved one in a continuing care facility? Do you currently know someone in a nursing home and have reason to be worried? Our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) might help you with some of your concerns.

How common is nursing home abuse in South Carolina?

While it is possible that many cases of nursing home abuse, neglect and exploitation go unreported each year, we do have some idea of the prevalence of the problem through the statistics compiled by the state’s Adult Protection Coordinating Council, a group composed of 21 public and private organizations and consumers. The Council’s data shows the following numbers of complaints filed during 2015:

  • 4,904 cases were reported to Adult Protective Services.
  • 1,930 complaints were made to the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
  • 37 complaints were made to the Medicare Fraud Control Unit.

Does nursing home abuse affect only the elderly?

Not at all. Although the majority of people living in nursing homes are age 65 and over, people with other types of serious disabilities, such as traumatic brain injuries, may also reside in nursing homes because their families cannot care for them at home. The South Carolina Vulnerable Adults Investigation Unit of the State Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, received 929 complaints of nursing home abuse for patients of all ages in 2015. Some of the categories with alleged problems include:

  • 352 complaints concerning a death
  • 161 complaints concerning physical abuse
  • 151 complaints concerning substandard care
  • 33 complaints concerning psychological abuse
  • 29 complaints concerning neglect
  • 26 complaints concerning some kind of exploitation
  • 19 complaints concerning sexual abuse.

I just learned that the nursing home employee who abused my loved one has a criminal record. Shouldn’t the facility have checked on that before hiring them?

According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 92 percent of nursing homes employ one or more individuals who have been convicted of at least one crime. In South Carolina, anyone who is paid by or who has a written contract to provide “hands-on” care to a resident, patient, or client must have a criminal background check. Most applicants qualify for only a state check; federal checks are required only of applicants who have not been a resident of South Carolina or another state for at least 12 months. The decision of whether or not to employ a person after having the background check done is left up to the employer. However, there are a few notable exceptions, including this one: A facility, if it wants to secure and keep a SC state license to run a nursing home, cannot hire any person who was ever convicted of, or who pled “no contest” (nolo contendere) to, a charge of “child or adult abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, or any other felony.”

What kinds of abuse can happen to my loved one?

Any of the following behaviors or actions can be classed as abuse, and any caretaker in any facility or care situation can be guilty of them:

  • Physical abuse: inflicting physical injury or pain
  • Sexual abuse: any unwanted sexual contact
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: intimidation, threats of abuse, verbal harassment, name-calling
  • Willful deprivation: withholding food, liquids, or medication deliberately, including pain medication
  • Financial exploitation: misuse or theft of the patient’s financial resources
  • Passive neglect: not providing things essential to life, such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care
  • Confinement: the use of restraints when there is no medical basis or need
  • Chemical restraint: overmedication with anti-psychotic drugs. One-third of all nursing home patients are given anti-psychotic drugs.

What signs could indicate that a nursing home resident has been abused or neglected?

If you observe any of the following signs with regard to your loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you would be wise to explore the situation to determine whether the facility is properly caring for them:

  • Weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Bedsores
  • Unexplained bruises, wounds or dislocations
  • Bloody or torn clothing or bedding
  • Fearfulness and other personality changes
  • Frequent illnesses or infections
  • Sedation/over-medication
  • Unexplained sexually-transmitted diseases, or injuries to the genitals, anus, breast, or mouth
  • Agitation or fretting
  • Wandering or attempts to “escape”
  • Depression or unresponsiveness
  • Unusual or unexplained financial transactions
  • Insufficient staff, such as one nurse’s aide to care for as many as 30 patients
  • Seeming distrust, paranoia, or fear of the staff by the patient
  • Aggressiveness or distrust of visitors on the part of staff, especially if they won’t leave you alone with the patient.

Who regulates nursing homes in South Carolina?

Nursing homes must be licensed by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, which sets standards they must meet in many areas, such as training, record keeping, medication management, food service, infection control, and building design. All facilities are subject to inspection or investigation at any time, without prior notice. These reports are available to the public upon written request.

What should I do if I have a complaint?

If you have a concern about the operation of a facility, you can call the South Carolina DHEC at (803) 898-DHEC (3432). If you suspect that your loved one has been the victim of physical, sexual or psychological abuse, financial exploitation, neglect or abandonment, contact the SC Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging at (803) 734-9900.

More information on elder abuse can be found at the websites for South Carolina Adult Protective Services, the National Center on Elder Abuse, and the South Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging.

If you feel uneasy or anxious about what you observe at the facility, or if your loved one tells you they are being abused or neglected, you should consider investigating further.

Seeking Truth and Securing Justice for Your Loved Ones

When someone you care about has been hurt, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. When this happens, the South Carolina nursing home injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm can review your legal options and work with you to determine the most appropriate next step.

Many South Carolina nursing home and assisted living facilities are part of larger corporations which have their own legal departments. The corporation’s lawyers may try to dispute abuse and neglect claims, but we at the Louthian Law Firm have represented victims of neglect or abuse in retirement homes, and we understand how to deal with such negligent facilities and the attorneys who represent them. While a lawsuit cannot heal bedsores or restore someone’s health, a South Carolina nursing home abuse claim can help recover the large sums spent on a neglectful or abusive nursing home, as well as the medical bills created by that abuse or neglect. You may also be able to hold the abusers accountable for the pain and suffering they caused, for relocation costs, and for wrongful death.

For a free consultation, call our Columbia nursing home injury attorneys today toll free at 1-803-454-1200, or use our online contact form.