What to do when you are concerned a Virginia Nursing Home is providing bad or negligent care

I get the following call with frequency:

Caller: I am not sure whether you can help me. I’m not really interested in
filing a lawsuit but I don’t know what else to do. My Mom is a resident at Virginia Nursing Home INC LLC and they don’t take good care of her.

I usually inquire as to specifics the person has observed, try to get additional information about Mom’s medical history, length of stay at the facility, means of payment etc. 

Most of the time our conversation ends with me saying something like the following:  

Me: I’m glad you called. Thankfully, what you have described does not rise to the level of negligence such that you would have a lawsuit. Nor do I recommend getting a lawyer involved – but let’s be more direct and organized in getting her better care. 

Why would I – a lawyer who does in fact make a living from filing lawsuits, be glad the caller does not have a lawsuit? Simply stated, you only have a lawsuit when someone has experienced a permanent and life changing injury. 

Even in a nursing home – not all falls rise to the level of a lawsuit. Just because there is a pressure ulcer, doesn’t mean there is a lawsuit. Medication error doesn’t always mean lawsuit. Hospital admission doesn’t mean malpractice suit 100% of the time. 

Under the law, there must be MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE (negligence) – THAT CAUSES (causation)  – PERMANENT OR LIFE CHANGING INJURY (damages). 

So when someone doesn’t have a lawsuit, that usually means their loved one will either get better (not permanent injury) or perhaps difficult to claim it was caused by negligence etc.

So what advice do I give to the folks who really just want help in getting better care? See below. 

There are ways to be an effective advocate for a loved one in a facility.

  • Threatening a lawsuit does not help. 
  • Threatening a nurse does not help
  • Getting angry doesn’t help
  • Getting organized, does help
    • Ask for a meeting with Director of Nursing and Administator
    • Carefully document concerns and details (times, nurses names, issues)
    • Keep notes during visits
    • Attend Care Plan meetings (by phone or in person)
    • Ask to be notified on all Changes in Condition (Caps = term of art, the facility will understand!)
    • Have your loved one examined by an outside provider
    • Have their medication list examined by an outside provider


Once you have documented attempts at trying to get better care, and consistent follow up from expressing concerns to the facility – you can determine whether or not the care meets what your loved one needs. If not – leave. Find a new place. Do everything you can to get the care your loved one needs. 

If your efforts are for naught, and permanent injury happens – then you can call a lawyer to inquire about a potential lawsuit. Otherwise, spend your time and energy on getting better care. 

We are able to help the families that were active in their parents care, (daily calls and visits), organized in expressing concerns, and dedicated first and foremost to loved ones care and wellness. If god forbid, a horrible accident or injury occurs (and they do!) we believe in accountability through Virginia’s legal system. 

Questions – feel free to call us. We would be honored to help determine what can and should be done next. 

Lauren Ellerman 


Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.