When someone you love is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you trust the staff to provide a safe and healthy environment, but nursing home abuse is a growing problem. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that 44% of nursing home residents report being abused and 95% report being neglected. Learning how to detect nursing home abuse and what to do about it is essential to protect your loved one.
Understanding the Types of Abuse
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Nursing home abuse is not always obvious, which is what makes it so hard to uncover and stop. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, mental, and financial. Abuse can be outright, but also includes benign neglect that leads to illness or injuries. There are a variety of ways nursing home residents can be manipulated, harmed, bullied, or threatened. Physical signs of abuse can include bruises, scratches, bed sores, pressure sores, unclean bedding, marks from restraints, weight loss, sexually transmitted diseases, and lack of basic hygiene. A senior who express fear, is withdrawn or isolated, talks about being hungry, or makes sudden changes to finances he or she controls (such as naming a nursing home employee in a will) or is missing money may be abused. Abuse can occur not only by a staff member, but also resident to resident.
Medical Problems and Abuse
Often serious medical problems can be signs of abuse or neglect. Bed sores, septic shock, renal failure, dehydration, UTIs, and other medical concerns that are not discovered or are left untreated for too long are often caused by abuse or neglect. Nursing homes that over prescribe sedative or anti-psychotic drugs to manage residents are committing abuse. A nursing home is supposed to provide competent medical care and if your senior is suffering from an untreated or undertreated health problem or is being overmedicated, this is a concern.
How to Detect Nursing Home Abuse
If you report a medical concern to the staff and it is not handled in a timely manner, this is a sign of abuse. Any injury that occurs in a nursing home must be documented, so always ask to see the documentation if there is a bruise or a cut or a sore. If there are many injuries or the explanations don’t make sense, you should be concerned.
Other abuse can be more difficult to detect. The best way to ensure the safety of a nursing home resident is to visit often and to visit at unusual times. Most people do not visit between 9 pm and 8 am, so this visiting during time frame can be useful. Vary the times you are there and to ask family to stop in at other times unexpectedly. Talk to your senior as well as to his or her roommate and aides and nurses on the floor to find out what is happening. Joining the nursing home’s family council can be a way to connect with other families and hear about concerns they may have.
If you notice an unusual change in behavior or emotional reactions by your loved one, it is a sign that all may not be well. Keep a close accounting of your senior’s belongings and access he or she has to money or financial accounts or legal documents. If something is missing or a change is made, report it. Above all, listen to your instincts.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse
Call 911 for immediate emergency assistance. Your state’s adult protective services can also be called in an emergency. For a non-life threatening concern, it may make sense to report it to the supervising nurse, staff social worker, or administration first so it can be resolved but a pattern of problems requires escalation. If you suspect abuse, file a report with your state long-term care ombudsman. Remember that you do not need to prove abuse is happening. You only need to suspect it. It is the job of state workers to investigate. That being said, any evidence you can gather, such as photographs of injuries, videos of your senior describing abuse or neglect, or notes you have made about the situation can be powerful evidence.
Why You Need an Attorney
Once you’ve taken steps to report abuse or neglect to the state, long-term care ombudsman, adult protective serves, or the police, you need to get an attorney to assist you with your eldercare abuse case. Nursing homes and their employees are not only criminally liable for abuse and neglect, they are also civilly liable and it is important to pursue all the avenues at your disposal. Nursing homes are owned by powerful corporations with large law firms representing them and helping them avoid responsibility. You and the senior you love need an attorney who can stand up to them.
Gartenberg Howard LLP is ready to seek justice in your nursing home abuse case. Call us for a free phone consultation at 201-488-4644 in New Jersey or 212-248-2936 in New York, or fill out our online form and we will contact you.