Confronting Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes
When you entrust the care of your elderly family members to the professionals, you expect that they will receive professional-quality care. But although you pay for a high level of care, that may not be what your loved one receives; abuse and neglect in nursing homes are serious threats. According to recent estimates, as many as 5,000,000 elders suffer abuse every year in the United States.
As some of the most vulnerable members of society, seniors in nursing homes can all too easily become victims of abuse and neglect by the very people who are supposed to be caring for them. The staff has a great deal of control over the seniors in their care, who may be unable to physically defend themselves from violent treatment. In addition, some may no longer have the mental faculties to identify or report abuse. Often, it is up to their families to ensure that they are being properly cared for, to recognize the signs of abuse or neglect, and to act swiftly if it occurs.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse occurs when nursing home staff neglects or abandons a resident or intentionally harms residents, and includes physical abuse, psychological abuse, and financial abuse. Physical abuse covers a wide range of behaviors such as neglect, abandonment, assault and battery, sexual assault and battery, unreasonable use of physical restraints, over- and under-medication, and prolonged deprivation of food or water. Financial abuse in the nursing home context usually involves the theft of cash, checks, or personal effects from the victim. Psychological abuse is also widely varied and can involve insulting, demeaning, and ridiculing the victim, as well as isolating the victim by prohibiting him or her from seeing family and friends.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Although every case is different, some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse include:
Pressure wounds/bed sores/pressure ulcers
Bruises, cuts, and broken bones
Lack of proper hygiene
Soiled clothes and bed linens
Injuries to the genital area and breasts
Unexplained weight loss
Sudden fear of being touched
Missing cash or personal effects
Staff who are reluctant to leave the victim alone with visitors
A marked decline in mental faculties
What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is similar to nursing home abuse in that it can cause physical and psychological harm to the victim, except that it involves behavior that is unintentional. Some examples of nursing home neglect include failing to adequately feed, clothe, and bathe the resident; failing to provide proper exercise and stimulation; failing to administer medication properly; and failure to respond to resident requests for assistance One of the most common causes of nursing home neglect is understaffing and lack of proper training among nursing home staff.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
Many of the signs of nursing home neglect are similar to those of nursing home abuse (such as weight loss, bruises and broken bones from falls, etc.), and can encompass:
Bedsores/pressure wounds/pressure ulcers
Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
Self-urination or defecation
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect can have severe consequences for its victims, particularly those who suffer from underlying medical conditions. If you suspect that someone you care about is suffering either, you can report it by contacting:
Nursing home administrators
Your state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman
The victim’s doctors and other medical staff
Local law enforcement
After reporting the abuse to the authorities reach out to elder abuse counsel. The authorities will not pursue all the remedies for an injury that counsel will pursue, including recovering attorney’s fees and costs for bringing your suit.
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