Seniors and their families put a great deal of trust in nursing homes. Many of them believe that the decision to spend old age in these facilities would allow the elderly to receive proper care and attention as they live through the final phases of their life. This very reason is why it’s so heartbreaking to learn that many nursing home residents suffer abuse from the very hands that are supposed to care for them.
Personal injury attorneys across the country handle hundreds of thousands of nursing home abuse cases each year. According to Nursing Home Abuse Justice, approximately 10% of all elders over the age of 60 have experienced abuse, which tells us just how rampant this problem is in the United States.
Is your elderly loved one living in a nursing home?
Here are things you should know to protect them and their rights against nursing home abuse.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Physical abuse is defined as the intentional use of violence or excessive force on an elderly patient, resulting in pain, injury, or any form of harm to the victim.
All nursing home residents are at risk of physical abuse by their caregivers, but it’s usually those with cognitive disorders who experience this.
Hitting, slapping, punching, pushing, shoving, or using any form of restraints on a patient against their will are some of the most common forms of physical abuse.
Family members must detect physical abuse immediately, as this may lead to severe or life-threatening injuries to the victim — or worse, death.
Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse, and it can be either verbal or non-verbal.
Any words or actions carried out with the intent to terrorize, intimidate, ridicule, or cause distress to the resident is considered emotional abuse.
Psychological abuse is much harder to notice because it does not leave any marks, but it’s often more damaging than physical abuse. Threats, violent words, and humiliation can shatter a patient’s confidence and cause them long-term distress.
Some of the more telling signs of emotional abuse are lack of appetite, mood swings, lack of eye contact, and low self-esteem. If you notice these sudden changes in your elderly loved one’s behavior, raise your concerns with the nursing home director or resident psychologist immediately.
Any act of intentionally taking advantage of or violating a nursing home resident in an unwanted sexual capacity constitutes sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse can be anything from unwanted or malicious touching and groping to oral or full-on intercourse. Most often, it is committed to incapacitated residents w/ inability to provide consent.
The damaging effects of sexual abuse can be both physical and psychological. Aside from the emotional trauma, it can also result in bruises and lesions around the genitalia or cause the patient to contract sexually transmitted diseases.
Financial abuse happens when there is a clear intention to exploit and manipulate a resident’s finances.
Most incidents of financial abuse in nursing homes involve the illegal and unauthorized use of the patient’s personal finances, like:
- Preventing the resident from accessing their funds
- Forgery of financial documents
- Stealing the resident’s money or personal possessions
- Inappropriate use of Power of Attorney
Financial abuse can be very devastating to nursing home residents and their families as the money is often intended to pay for their long term care.
Neglect is more of a breach of duty than an intent to put a patient to harm. Usual cases of nursing home neglect include failure to take care of the resident’s hygiene or provide their basic needs. Moreover, leaving the resident feeling alone, ignored, or berated can be considered emotional neglect.
Regardless of whether the neglect is deliberate, it can still have damaging physical, emotional, and psychological effects on an older person.
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
The law requires social workers and healthcare professionals to report any form of nursing home abuse as soon as possible. However, if these people fail to notice or act immediately, you can take matters into your own hands by raising your concern to the right authorities.
Taking Legal Action
After reporting the abuse, your next step should be to hire an experienced nursing home attorney to handle the case.
Nursing home abuse and neglect falls under several areas of law, including personal injury and medical malpractice.
No amount of money can ever compensate for the trauma and suffering that your elderly family member went through in the hands of abusive nursing home staff. However, filing a lawsuit is your best chance of punishing the party/parties involved and bringing things to justice.
About the Author
Andrea Williams is the Community Manager at The Law Offices of Alcock & Associates P.C., a premier law group in Arizona that provides legal services to clients involved in Personal Injury, DUI, Immigration and Criminal cases. She enjoys cooking, reading books, and playing minigolf with her friends and family in her spare time.