Many “good” nursing homes provide dedicated and competent care for the seniors that live there. These nursing homes devote time and resources to getting things right. However, too often, even the best nursing homes cut corners at every possible juncture and do everything they can to maximize their profits at your loved one’s expense. Instead of hiring qualified and capable staff who will treat your loved one with care, they may employ incompetent or aggressive people who harm your family member. If your loved one has be abused or neglected as a resident of a nursing home or retirement community, contact Lucas, Macyszyn & Dyer today to speak with a nursing home negligence attorney.
Nursing Home Abuse Often Goes Unreported
Statistics may not even tell you much about nursing home abuse, as victims vastly underreport abuse. Many nursing home residents who are abuse victims don’t report it because they do not have adequate verbal or cognitive abilities. Others are living in fear of their abuser and are too scared to say anything. Families should never think that abuse cannot happen to their loved ones. It can and does far more often than they know.
Families must be vigilant for nursing home abuse at all stages of their loved one’s care. Before they select a nursing home for their loved one, they should carefully review publicly available inspection reports. When their senior receives care at a nursing home, they should vigilantly look for any signs of abuse to report them to the nursing home or relevant authorities. Federal regulations strictly prohibit any form of nursing home abuse. Nursing homes may face severe repercussions if they fail to abide by the rules.
The Reasons for Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse happens for several reasons. The nursing home has a legal obligation to screen and perform background checks on the people who are working with the elderly. However, the nursing home may have been careless or not even completed the background check in the first place.
Some staff members have their own emotional issues and take their aggression out on powerless seniors. In other cases, the nursing home is chronically understaffed, and staff members lose their composure and mistreat the people under their charge.
Regardless of the reason, nursing home abuse is both wrong and illegal. Your family may have a legal cause of action against the nursing home when your loved one has suffered harm due to abuse. To learn more about whether you can sue a nursing home for abuse, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
Here are the types of nursing home abuse you should be aware of that can happen to your loved one.
One of the most common forms of nursing home abuse is physical. For whatever reason, some staff members may be unable to control their emotions. Some may lose their temper, while others may feel powerful when they physically mistreat those in a far weaker position.
Physical abuse does not just mean striking a nursing home resident. Of course, it most often involves staff members making physical contact with a helpless senior.
It can also include the following behaviors:
- Roughly handling a resident (such as when transporting them from bed to wheelchair or vice versa)
- Physically restraining them with straps or ties
- Pushing or shoving a resident
Another form of physical abuse that families may not even realize is against the law is chemical abuse. Nursing home staff may not want to deal with a resident they perceive to be complicated or cause them to work too much. Staff may use chemical restraints to control residents and make their work lives easier. They may administer potent sedatives to keep a resident sedated, so they do not have to work as much. Federal regulations give residents the right to be free from unnecessary medications.
Sexual abuse of nursing home residents is one of the most reprehensible types of conduct imaginable. Staff members take advantage and violate the elderly and infirm for their own gratification. Women comprise over two-thirds of nursing home residents (primarily because they live longer than men). Those with dementia are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse because the perpetrators believe that no one will ever catch them. It is difficult for sexual abuse victims to describe the conduct, either because they cannot or because they are embarrassed.
Here are some examples of nursing home sexual abuse:
- Unwanted intimate touching of any kind to any part of the body
- Taking sexually explicit photographs or audio/video recordings of a resident (this can include the resident in any form of undress)
- Rape, penetration, or sodomy
- Forced nudity
Some staff members may sexually harass residents as a form of abuse with unwanted comments, jokes, or embarrassment.
It is up to you and your family to spot the signs of sexual abuse.
Here are some indicators that your family member may be the victim of sexual abuse at a nursing home:
- Bleeding from the genital or anal area
- Sudden unexplained changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Extreme fear around a specific nursing home staff member
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
- Depression and withdrawal from daily activities
Financial abuse is when a person takes a nursing home resident’s money or possessions from them. It can take the form of stealing money from their wallet or accounts.
Nursing homes have strict obligations regarding safeguarding their residents’ property and possessions. Nursing home residents have the right to manage their financial affairs, and the nursing home must give an accounting of any transactions made on their behalf.
At the same time, seniors are vulnerable to manipulation. When nursing home residents suffer cognitive decline, unscrupulous staff members can take advantage of them. Some staff members may gain a resident’s trust and coerce or pressure them into changing their will. Family members may not realize this has happened until they have opened the will.
You should meticulously inspect account statements and look for any signs of misconduct. You should not hesitate to close accounts if you notice anything that appears out of the ordinary. You should also speak to the nursing home about your concerns. They should be responsive to your concerns because the authorities can punish the nursing home for violating federal regulations.
Emotional abuse can have a devastating effect on nursing home residents. Even if a senior is unable to articulate their emotions, it does not mean that poor treatment has no impact on them. This type of abuse can also impact a resident’s physical health.
Emotional abuse can take on a number of different forms, including:
- Actively berating and calling a senior names
- Mocking a nursing home resident in their presence
- Bullying and intimidation
- Punishing a nursing home resident like a schoolchild
- Singling out a particular resident to blame for everything
In addition, there are nonverbal ways of committing emotional abuse. Staff can isolate a particular resident from everyone else. Staff can punish a resident to the point where they live in fear daily.
It is often difficult for families to spot the signs of emotional abuse because staff will not do these things in front of the family. You must pay close attention if your loved one shows signs of mood changes or sudden changes in behavior.
Many people think of abuse as some type of overt act that a nursing home staff member consciously does to a resident. Families are often surprised to learn that what a nursing home does not do can also be a form of abuse. Neglect is perhaps the most common type of nursing home abuse.
Nursing homes have legal obligations to their residents. Federal regulations govern every single aspect of care. Nursing homes must follow every single one of these rules. However, nearly all nursing home residents report that they have been neglected or have seen others receiving this treatment.
These regulations touch on both medical care and the activities of daily life. One of the most critical rules pertains to bed sores. Although the name does not give the right impression of their severity, bed sores can be life-threatening conditions. Also known as pressure ulcers, bed sores happen when there is extended pressure on a bonier part of the resident’s body. Nursing homes must follow a pressure ulcer prevention plan. If the resident develops a pressure ulcer, nursing home staff must treat it to prevent it from developing into a serious infection. Neglect causes both bed sores and severe infections that can kill seniors.
In addition, the failure to clean and change residents can lead to severe infections. Nursing home residents commonly develop urinary tract infections, even when they are receiving better care. They are more susceptible to illnesses when they are left filthy or unkempt.
Families can often directly connect the poor care that their loved ones received to the illness that injured them. If you notice that your loved one is left soiled or unwashed, you should immediately bring your concerns to the nursing home staff.
Neglect can also include abandonment of your family member. In some extreme examples, nursing homes have literally thrown residents out on the street. They may have done this because of unpaid bills or their inability to control a resident. While a nursing home can discharge a resident, they must only do this after adequate planning and when the resident has another care option. The nursing home may be liable for any injuries that your loved one suffers when the care facility has carelessly or recklessly discharged them.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
Proper nutrition and hydration or keys to your loved one’s physical well-being. Dehydration can lead to infection and skin breakdowns that cause pressure ulcers. Malnutrition causes sudden weight loss, making your loved one more vulnerable to illness and their bones more brittle. Nursing homes have strict rules that they must follow about feeding and hydrating residents. If your loved one cannot physically eat the food they prepare, the nursing home must specifically accommodate your family member to ensure proper nutrition.
Nursing home abuse can occur at the hands of staff or other residents. Nursing home employees do not commit many cases of sexual abuse. Instead, fellow residents commit them who inappropriately touch or assault others. Some may even get physically violent with other residents, causing them injuries.
It does not matter who committed the assault or harmed your loved one. The nursing home is still responsible for providing a safe environment for your family member, and you can make them pay for what others in the care facility have done to your loved one.
Your family can receive financial compensation when your loved one has suffered an injury due to nursing home abuse. However, many steps must happen before you can conclude your case successfully. One of the essential steps is investigating what happened and gathering evidence proving the abuse. It is even more difficult when your loved one is not verbal and cannot describe the conduct.
Often, it is up to an experienced personal injury lawyer to investigate and assemble the case against the nursing home. It is certainly not impossible, as many families have successfully recovered from the harm done to their loved ones by a nursing home. Often, people have the attitude that this cannot happen to them or their loved ones. The problem with this thought is that nursing home abuse is more common than many think.
Filing a lawsuit against the nursing home is a major way that your family can get justice and accountability for reprehensible behavior. If you do not do something about the conduct, not only does the nursing home get away with it, but they may do the same to other seniors in the future. Bringing this behavior to light is both public service and a way to legally enforce standards of decency and conduct.
Contacting a nursing home abuse attorney is the first step to take in the process of initiating the necessary legal process against the nursing facility. Without a Florida injury lawyer, you may not get far in your attempt to get justice. More often than not, a nursing home abuse lawyer in your area will offer a free consultation for cases involving nursing home abuse, so you will incur no risk by calling for help.