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Important First Steps – Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

If you believe your loved is being abused or neglected and the facility has refused to correct the issues, you should take immediate steps to protect your loved love.

First, Protect Your Loved One – Protective State Agencies

To protect your loved one, there are a number of resources available in New Mexico.  You should immediately contact one or all of them if you believe that the safety or health of your loved one is at risk:

1.New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Care Department’s Adult Protective Services Division is a very good place to start. There is a lot of very useful information and guidance here

2.New Mexico Long-Term Care Ombudsman office is within the Adult Protective Services division.  The Ombudsman advocates for the rights of individuals living in long-term care facilities.  They will confidentially investigate complaints including visiting nursing homes. They have over 100 volunteers in addition to their staff and will investigate cases throughout New Mexico.

3.    New Mexico Department of Health Incident Management Bureau website has a very specific information on how, when, and where to file complaints.

4.New Mexico State Bar Lawyer Referral for the Elderly has a wealth of information including contacts for various agencies throughout New Mexico for reporting of elder abuse and neglect.    They can help direct you to the proper agency.  They can also direct you toward elder law attorneys who can step in to protect your loved one.

There are many more organizations and agencies available to help you to protect the rights, safety and health of your loved one.  Those listed here should get you started in the right direction.

Steps to Protect the Legal Claims Against the Nursing Home Facility

As you are taking steps to protect your loved one, in cases where serious personal injuries or wrongful death have resulted from the neglect or abuse by the nursing home, you should also take steps to protect your loved one’s rights to recover for injuries and damages resulting from the abuse and/or neglect.

The steps below are very important to take if you can.  In some cases, it may be difficult or impossible without the assistance of an attorney.  However, these steps are very important to take as soon as possible:

1.Document All Injuries:  If there are visible injuries, take pictures immediately.  Take the pictures over time to show the progression of the injuries.

2.Identify Witnesses:  You should obtain names, contact info and even witness statements if possible to support your claims of abuse and neglect. These witness might be family and friends.  They might be the family and friends of other residents and patients.  They might be visiting professionals, counselors, clergy or other professionals visiting the facility and/or your loved one.  There might even be staff that would be willing to support you.  Even if they do not support you, they may be called as witnesses to testify as to what they saw, heard or otherwise witnessed so it is important to identify them from the outset.  Doing so later can prove difficult.

3.Collect Medical and Nursing Home Records:   You should collect these records from every medical provider during the relevant time period, not just those from the nursing home.  Collecting these records can prove difficult for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, there may be HIPPA issues that prevent you from obtaining them without the necessary authorizations.  Second, and unfortunately quite common, the facility may resist providing the records.  This is particularly so where they sense that a lawsuit is brewing.  You may need an attorney to help you here.

Finally, in cases of serious injury or wrongful death, you will likely need an attorney since correcting the issue at hand will not be enough.  A personal injury attorney will be able take care of the tasks set forth above while you attend to your loved one.

Do Not Delay – There is Too Much at Risk! 

Delay in taking these steps has important consequences.  First and foremost, delay could jeopardize the safety and health of your loved one. Second, there are very important and rigid deadlines associated with personal injury.  In addition the deadlines on wrongful death claims may be slightly different.

Because some nursing homes are run by the state, country or local government, it is important to keep in mind that the deadlines for claims against the government are very short with the first running in only 90 days on personal injury claims and 6 months on a wrongful death.  Missing a deadline will bar your claim completely!