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Locally and nationally, the neglect of seniors and disabled people in long-term care facilities causes extreme suffering. The National Council on Aging estimates while as many “as 5 million elders .. abused each year … only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.”

While it is true that neglect differs from abuse, the horrific and, often, deadly outcome share much in common. The mistreatment of patients who are already so vulnerable must be reported and stopped. The people and facilities who harm patients must also be held accountable.


Friends and family members who want to protect nursing home patients should look for the following signs of neglect:

  • Sudden or severe changes in physical, emotional or mental well-being
  • Withdraw from social interactions
  • Unexplained new symptoms, especially weight loss, loss of appetite or depression
  • Bruises, especially on parts of the body normally covered by clothing
  • Broken bones form possible falls
  • Torn clothing
  • Dirty bed sheets
  • Dehydration
  • Unwillingness to answer questions
  • Expressing fears of certain staff members

Such behaviors and conditions can indicate that aides and health care providers are failing to meet their most basic duties to feed, clean, medicate, assist and protect the patient. Such problems can result from understaffing, inadequate training or insufficient supervision.

Whatever the cause, neglecting a nursing home patient creates civil liability for the managers and owners of long-term care facilities. One reason this is true is that a Virginia state law establishes a nursing home patients’ “bill of rights.” Among those rights are to

  • Remain “free from restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal” in demanding quality care;
  • Manage financial affairs to the extent possible; and
  • Remain “free from mental and physical abuse and free from chemical and, except in emergencies, physical restraints except as authorized in writing by a physician for a specified and limited period of time or when necessary to protect the patient from injury to himself or to others.”

Virginia requires nursing home staff to report, investigate and resolve all violations of nursing home patients’ rights. When that does not happen, a patient’s friends or family or family members have the right to move a patient to a better situation, contact state regulators and call the police.

As Virginia nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys, my law firm colleagues and I also stand ready to take legal action on behalf of neglected patients.


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