Allegations of Abuse and Neglect at Wisconsin Veterans’ Nursing Homes

August 16 , 2022 | Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Elderly veterans who live at the Chippewa Falls Veterans Home, King Veterans Home, and especially Union Grove Veterans Home are not getting the care they deserve, according to a recent report.

Since 2017, regulators have cited Union Grove for 62 violations and assessed over $225,000 in fines. These violations include failing to investigate reports of abuse to patients, not giving residents regular showers, lack of infection control, and generally unsanitary conditions. “Something is not right at that facility,” one resident’s family member remarked. “It is unbelievable what [these residents must] endure. It was horrible. No one should receive this kind of care. [Older veterans] really dedicated their lives to serve this country, and they are not served there,” she added.

Mary Kolar, head of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, blamed understaffing for these problems. “There needs to be a greater focus, as evidenced by the citations, on the requirements of a skilled nursing facility,” she admitted.

“They couldn’t pay me enough to ever get me to go back. It is a dump,” one former Union Grove resident concluded.

Abuse at Veterans’ Nursing Homes

Essentially, abuse is an intentional personal injury. “Intentional” is not synonymous with “malicious” or a related concept. Instead, intentional basically means non-accidental. However, a different mental state is required in some intentional torts. Some common intentional torts in nursing homes include:

  • Battery: This tort does not mean inflicting injury on another person. Instead, battery is a harmful or offensive touch. An injury, especially a severe injury, simply makes this tort easier to prove. Since most nursing home residents are physically frail, almost any touch or push could cause a serious injury, like a broken bone or a fall.
  • Assault: Essentially, assault is a threatened harmful or offensive touch. Usually, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) must have the apparent and immediate ability to carry out the threat. Assault is easier to prove in nursing home cases since most residents are physically vulnerable.
  • False Imprisonment: Any unreasonable restraint of liberty, such as blocking a doorway or grabbing someone by the arm, is false imprisonment. Usually, the victim must also prove that there was no reasonable way out. Once again, this element is easier to prove if the victim was a frail older person.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: Basically, this tort is extreme or outrageous conduct that is intended to cause, and does cause, extreme emotional distress. Many kinds of nursing home sexual abuse and harassment, such as forcing a resident to watch pornography, are IIED torts.

Individual tortfeasors are legally and morally responsible for such torts. Frequently, the nursing home that employed the tortfeasor is financially responsible for damages. Common legal theories in this area include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Employers have a legal duty to hire competent employees. Competency means more than having the proper qualifications to do a job. It also means having the right temperament to do a job. Not everyone has the proper temperament to deal with older adults because, in many ways, these individuals are more like young children. Special rules apply if the incompetence involves a prior criminal conviction.

Speaking of rules, negligent supervision is essentially a failure to follow institutional rules or a failure to adhere to the standard of care. If misconduct allegations arise, the standard of care requires a nursing home to investigate such allegations promptly, thoroughly, and transparently.

Promptness implies that the investigative structure, like the people on the committee and the physical place for the committee to meet, is already in place. Thoroughness means investigators look at all the evidence, and not just the evidence which supports their conclusions. Transparent investigations never feature off-the-record interviews or closed-door meetings.

Compensation in an intentional tort or other nursing home injury case usually includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. An Oak Creek nursing home abuse attorney can obtain additional punitive damages as well, in some extreme cases.

Nursing Home Neglect

Usually, neglect is an unintentional injury, in that the tortfeasor does not intend to hurt the victim. However, the act itself is intentional, or non-accidental. Some frequent nursing home neglect injuries in Wisconsin include:

  • Resident-on-Resident Assault: As mentioned, many nursing home residents are more like children. Petty disagreements often explode into violent confrontations. Mostly since so many facilities are understaffed, and residents are not properly supervised, these neglect injuries are on the rise.
  • Resident Falls: Understaffing often leads to resident falls. Over half of nursing home residents fall every year. Staffers should address fall hazards, like wet spots on floors and uneven walkways. They should also escort residents who have mobility issues. Sadly, nursing home administrators often are not willing to provide such help.
  • Malnutrition: It is hard to believe this issue is a problem in nursing homes, but it is. As people age, their senses degrade. Since food does not look, smell, or taste good, many residents simply do not eat what they are served. Making matters worse, many understaffed nursing homes don’t employ nurses or other people who ensure that residents eat.
  • Bedsores: Understaffing is also a primary cause of bedsore injuries. If residents shift position in bed once every two hours, pressure ulcers cannot form. However, many residents are so frail or over-medicated that they cannot turn themselves over. In understaffed environments, nightly rounds, especially on weekends or during holidays, is usually one of the first areas on the chopping block.

As many as 90% of the veterans’ nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Wisconsin are dangerously understaffed.

Once again, the nursing home is usually financially responsible for neglect injuries. Common theories include ordinary negligence and respondeat superior.

Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Nursing home owners, and all other property owners, usually have a duty of reasonable care to protect residents. This duty includes a responsibility to address all injury hazards, like a loose handrail or malnutrition issue, that the nursing home knows about, or should know about.

Respondeat superior is employer liability. This rule applies if an employee is negligent during the course and scope of employment. This theory often applies in bedsore claims. Frequently, nursing home workers either do not spot early-stage bedsores or do not respond appropriately when they see them. Early-stage bedsores quickly become late-stage bedsores. These injuries are usually life threatening.

Generally, an Oak Creek nursing home abuse attorney settles such cases out of court, and on victim-friendly terms.

Contact a Hard-Hitting Milwaukee County Oak Creek Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Accident victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Oak Creek nursing home abuse attorney, contact the Martin Law Office, S.C. by calling 414-856-4010. You have a limited amount of time to act.