Despite being one of the first states to adopt adult protection laws, a study published at the end of last year ranked South Carolina last in terms of elder protection. The poor ranking was mostly due to the high number of nursing home abuse complaints, the low number of dedicated organizations and service providers, and the poor quality of the services provided by nursing homes.
This situation becomes clear to anyone looking for a nursing home in the Medicare database. Out of the four facilities listed, only two managed to acquire a five-star rating for their staffing. All facilities could use some improvements when it comes to health inspections, quality measures, and overall rating.
The number of elder-abuse cases reported in SC is not that high, but, if it is true that 96% of cases remain unreported, then many more nursing home residents are victims of abuse and do nothing about it. Some do not complain because they have nowhere else to go, others because their health condition affects their credibility or they are unable to fight for their own rights.
How can the victims or their loved ones end the abuse? The first and most important step would be to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer and find out where they stand from the legal point of view. Those who are not sure their suffering qualifies as abuse can find out more about the South Carolina nursing home laws and regulations in general, and elder abuse cases in particular, briefly reviewed below.
South Carolina Nursing Home Laws and Regulations
All nursing homes in South Carolina have to comply with Medicare/Medicaid regulations and the state’s regulations 93-110 and 120 regarding licensing. The institution overseeing nursing home licensing procedures is the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
The facilities applying for a license undergo a two-step examination. The former aims to ensure the facility complies with federal laws, while the latter targets compliance with South Carolina laws. Perhaps the most important part of South Carolina nursing home laws is the Bill of Rights of Long-Term Care Facilities Residents.
According to it, upon admission to the nursing home, residents should receive full information regarding the services available in the facility, the corresponding costs, and the refund policy. The Bill also gives the residents’ guardians the freedom to choose the physician who will treat the elder, participate in planning their elders’ care, and receive information regarding the care and treatments provided.
The Bill of Rights clearly protects residents against mental and physical abuse and forbids the use of physical or chemical restraints without a physician’s order. The nursing homes should have a secure location for storing the residents’ personal possessions safely.
The personnel should treat all residents with respect and dignity, and assure their privacy during personal treatments. South Carolina nursing homes cannot refuse treatment or admittance based on race, sex, color, origins, religion, or financing means.
In an attempt to further protect patients’ rights and prevent abuses, in May 2014, the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved a legislative bill that allows nursing home residents to install their own monitoring systems in their rooms.
The equipment should compel the nursing home staff to do their job properly, and, if they don’t, enable the residents to document abuse instances and take action against their abusers. Unfortunately, even with these measures in place, nursing homes residents in Myrtle Beach and throughout South Carolina still fall victim to abuse.
What Actions Qualify as Nursing Home Abuse in a Myrtle Beach, SC?
Institutional elder abuse involves abusive actions or behaviors taking place in long-term care, residential facilities. It includes:
- Neglect – As a result of the staff’s negligence and failure to provide the due care, the resident may develop bed sores, aspiration pneumonia, gangrene, malnutrition, or dehydration. Neglect also covers abandonment, over-sedation, improper administration of prescription drugs, improper hygiene, or residents coming to harm after leaving the facility without permission, due to inadequate supervision.
- Physical abuse – It can range from the unnecessary or inadequate use of physical restraints, to staff acts of violence against the residents (pushing that causes the resident to fall, hitting, punching, and more).
- Sexual abuse – This category includes sex acts in which the abusers enforce themselves on the victims or the victims are mentally impaired and, therefore, unable to express their consent or refusal.
- Mental abuse – Sometimes, nursing home residents become victims of verbal assault, isolation from their loved ones, or receive threats that their worst fears may come true.
- Financial Abuse – It is not uncommon for nursing home staff members to try and steal a resident’s money, property, identity, or two or more of these.
Unfortunately, the victims of most abuse cases are residents who lack the courage or the physical or mental ability to defend themselves. In such situation, their only hopes remain their friends and relatives, if they have any, who may notice signs of nursing home abuse, such as:
- Frozen joints
- Bed sores
- Poor hygiene
- Physical injuries (cuts, bruises, burns, sprains or fractures)
- Sudden behavioral changes (panic attacks, unjustified fear manifestations towards the nursing home staff)
- Venereal diseases, genital infections, unjustified bleeding
- Attempts to avoid or delay visits, and to prevent the visitor from remaining alone with the patient
- Suspicious transactions on the residents’ bank account
- Sudden, unjustified changes in the residents’ will
- Missing residents’ possessions.
How to Act in Case of Myrtle Beach Nursing Home Abuse
Before taking any legal action, the residents or their loved ones have to gather evidence and/or testimonies that the abuse actually took place. Of course, the advice of a Myrtle Beach nursing home abuse lawyer would be helpful at this stage as well.
To document the abuse, one can visit the nursing home unannounced, at different times of the day, talk to the staff and to other residents, and install electronic monitoring systems. When one has enough details and/or evidence, the immediate step is to file a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Depending on the severity of the abuse and the evidence available, residents and their loved ones can take their case to court and request the nursing home to refund the money they have already paid, and even pay damages. Their chances increase considerably with a lawyer on their side.
Consult with a Myrtle Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today
If you or someone you know have been victim of Myrtle Beach nursing home abuse, you will find the help you need to end the suffering and bring the abusers to justice at David Aylor Law Offices. Contact us now for a FREE review of your case!
David Aylor is a Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Charleston, Walterboro, and Myrtle Beach, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 11 years. David Aylor believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.