It is normal to feel a cascade of emotions when deciding to place a loved one in a nursing home. You may feel a mixture of relief, grief, and anxiety.
During such a difficult time, the last thing you want to consider is that the nursing home staff may abuse your loved one.
Unfortunately, elder abuse within nursing home facilities is more common than we would like to believe. In 2014, the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) reported that 7.6% of complaints reported to Ombudsman programs involved abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.
Most nursing homes provide quality care for their residents, but if you suspect abuse, it is time to take action. Do not let your loved one become a statistic. Consider scheduling consultations with nursing home abuse lawyers.
Types of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
Neglect and abuse can take place in many forms. Nursing home abuse can be classified into five main types, each varying in degrees of severity.
1. General Neglect
Neglect is different from abuse. Abuse is a deliberate act performed against someone with the intent to cause harm. However, neglect is usually defined as oversight, indifference, or carelessness.
There are several ways nursing home neglect can manifest:
- Leaving residents unattended for long periods
- Not cleaning residents after bowel movements
- Not providing the necessities of life (food and water)
- Continually forgetting or improperly administering medications
- Failing to provide regular showers or baths
- Not keeping residents’ rooms clean
- Dismissing residents’ complaints
- Not reporting injuries or illness to medical staff or family members in a timely manner
- Failure to provide safety and security to residents
2. Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is performing an act that causes bodily injury or trauma. These acts are committed against all residents, but those with cognitive disorders may receive the brunt of this treatment.
Physical abuse may arise in a nursing home in the following ways:
- Hitting, striking, or slapping
- Biting, kicking, or punching
- Pushing, grabbing, or shoving
- Restraining or confining with ties, straps, or other restraint
- Using an object to hit or cause another injury
3. Psychological Abuse
If someone uses words to cause distress, fear, and mental trauma to a resident, they are performing emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse.
Here are the ways emotional abuse is carried out in nursing homes:
- Insulting residents on their appearance or intelligence
- Isolating residents from others or their family
- Exerting control by limiting or taking away the use of resources
This type of abuse has the potential to cause long-term psychological effects. These devastating effects can damage residents’ confidence and their ability to live a fulfilling life.
4. Sexual Abuse
Intentionally violating a resident in an unwanted sexual capacity is classified as sexual abuse. Full intercourse does not have to take place for the abuse to be considered sexual. Oral intercourse and unwanted touching, groping, and feeling is also classified as sexual abuse.
This abuse can cause physical symptoms such as scratches, lesions, bruises, or lacerations in and around the genitals. Sometimes, residents contract a sexually transmitted disease.
Sexual abuse is not only physically damaging to victims. It takes a psychological toll, too. While sexual abuse can be inflicted on a cognizant resident, in many cases it is committed against a resident who is unable to give consent.
5. Financial Abuse
Those who commit financial abuse intentionally exploit and manipulate residents to exert financial control over them. They obtain illegal and unauthorized use of the resident’s finances often without the resident noticing. This is because perpetrators usually befriend the resident to gain their trust and gain access to their accounts.
Once the abuser has control over the resident’s finances, several crimes can be committed:
- Not allowing the resident to access their own funds
- Stealing the resident’s personal documents (such as tax forms or banking statements)
- Misuse of power of attorney
- Forgery of documents
- Convincing the resident to give over control of their money
- Theft of the resident’s money and/or possessions
It is important to know the signs of neglect and abuse to help prevent or stop it before your loved one is a victim. Abuse will vary depending on the case and the victim.
One of the indicators below may not necessarily mean your loved one is being neglected, but if you notice a combination of them, there could be a problem:
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Poor personal hygiene
- Loss or lack of mobility
- Physical issues that stem from a lack of nutrition
- New psychological issues
- Unexplained injuries (especially bruising)
What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse
Never allow suspected nursing home abuse to go unchecked. If you suspect your loved one is being or has been abused at the nursing home, this is what you should do.
It is easy to lose your temper when you suspect someone you love is being abused when you have left them in a care facility. It will not do you or your loved one any favors to lose your temper.
Stay calm and focus on getting the facts before you decide how to handle the situation.
If you think you see signs of abuse, ask the staff and management about it. What you see as abuse may not be after all, so it is important to listen to their explanation before making any judgments.
Management should be able and willing to explain any situation you see as negative. If they refuse to answer your questions or explain the situation in a way that satisfies you, consider formal action.
Talk to Your Loved One
Make a point to speak with your loved one privately. If you are not given privacy or the management will not allow it, you should see this as a red flag. Report the abuse or reach out to an attorney who specializes in elder abuse and neglect.
Keep in mind that your loved one may not want to discuss the abuse. They may feel embarrassed or unwilling to worry you. Be understanding of this but try to gain their trust so you can help them.
It is time to get nosy. If your questioning is rational and respectful, quality caregivers will not mind answering you. If you see something that concerns you, take written notes. Take pictures, jot down names and positions of staff members you speak to, and chat with other residents.
If you see something that worries you and you record it with written notes, take those to management. If management does not cooperate, your next step is an attorney or the authorities.
Call the Police if There is Imminent Danger
If you have reason to believe that your loved one is in impending danger or harm, call the authorities immediately.
They should ask if you want to file a complaint, at the very least. Usually, they are willing to intervene to protect the residents.
Report Abuse to the State
In the U.S., each state has a set of protective services for adults. The National Center on Elder Abuse can let you know who to contact in your state.
By law, each nursing home must post the contact information of the local Ombudsman, the person responsible for the investigation of neglect and abuse in long-term care facilities. If you do not see this information, ask a nurse for it or call your local law enforcement agency.
Consult a Lawyer
Your loved one is entitled to protection and, sometimes, compensation under the law. You may also be entitled to compensation, depending on your relationship with them.
While reporting abuse is essential, most nursing home facilities do not change their practices until they suffer the implications of legal action.
Take Action with Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
A nursing home should be a safe place where your loved one is cared for when they are no longer able to take care of themselves. It is heartbreaking to discover they have been mistreated by people you trusted to care for them.
Whichever way you choose to handle the situation, do not just wait to see how it turns out.
If you think your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, take action. Reporting this behavior is the only way to stop it, especially if they cannot be an advocate for themselves.
We are familiar with the state’s regulatory standards and statutes governing nursing homes and long-term assisted living facilities. Our nursing home abuse lawyers have many years of experience representing those who have experienced neglect or abuse.
To learn your legal rights and see if you have a case, contact us for a free case evaluation. Time is short on these types of cases so call us today for a free consultation!