In January 2018 the CBC aired a Marketplace investigation concerning nursing homes, Crying Out for Care. The program documented the disturbing reality at some nursing homes today. According to the report, violence, abuse, and neglect are experienced by seniors and disabled people far too frequently.
Seniors and disabled people confined to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities have rights, and claims can be advanced by them or by their families to recover damages caused by abuse or neglect. Anyone who has reason to believe a loved one has been the victim of abuse should contact the police without delay. And if a loved one has been physically or emotionally harmed by abuse or neglect in a long-term care facility, they should also seek legal advice. In certain cases, it may be appropriate to advance a civil claim to recover compensation from the facility for pain and suffering and other damages.
Long-term care facilities in Ontario are governed by the Long-Term Care Homes Act (the Act). The Act and the regulations associated with it set out the standards these facilities need to meet. The Act has very specific rules ranging from the care and services that are to be provided to residents in homes, to the actual procedure associated with admitting residents.
Long-term care facilities are also inspected on a regular basis. It is unlikely that inspections disclose all of the violations and problems at these facilities, but they do create a written and public record of facilities’ documented problems. The inspection reports are available online at the following address: http://publicreporting.ltchomes.net/en-ca/default.aspx
The Act also sets out a standardized complaint process. A complaint can be an important first step in documenting an unacceptable practice or condition at a long-term care facility. At a minimum, it puts the facility and its managers on notice of a certain condition or problem and creates an important written record that it has been brought to their attention. Complaints can be delivered to either the facility itself and, in appropriate cases, to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as well. Facilities are bound to provide a patient Ombudsman who can mediate more minor disputes between residents (or their families) and the facility.
It is important that Long-term care facilities are properly supervised and regulated. Far too many vulnerable people are at risk if unsafe or improper practices are undetected and aren’t stopped. Accordingly, if anyone has reason to believe their loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect it is important to raise the alarm and demand answers, for their benefit and for the benefit of other residents. In some minor cases, it may be sufficient to bring the matter to the attention of the facilities managers and/or the Ministry of Long-Term Care. In cases of abuse or more serious neglect, it will be appropriate to contact the police. In either case, if a resident has suffered physical or psychological damage, it may be appropriate to contact a lawyer and get an opinion about pursuing a civil claim. In cases where a resident is unable to manage their own affairs, a litigation guardian can be appointed to pursue the claim on their behalf.
Lawsuits can be an important tool in recovering damages for those injured through abuse or neglect, and they can also serve the broader social good of holding these facilities to account and protecting other potential victims. Lawsuits against nursing homes and long-term care facilities can include claims for assault, negligence, psychological or emotional abuse, breach of contract or breaches of privacy.
More attention needs to be paid to the treatment and care of the elderly and disabled members of our society. We can recommend the Marketplace episode referred to above, which can be viewed by clicking on the following link: https://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/episodes/2017-2018/crying-out-for-care
If you have reason to believe that a friend or loved one in a long-term care facility is being abused or neglected, take the appropriate action. And if they have suffered physical or psychological harm, as a result, contact us at McNally Gervan and schedule a free consultation.