Nursing Home Abuse? What You Need To Look For
Nursing homes are more often than not the last residence for millions of residents. They are designed to offer a comfortable living arrangement, medical care, meals and recreational activities. There are over 5200 nursing home facilities in the US with nearly 2 million residents. Many are for-profit homes though a good number are community-based, non-profit facilities run by churches and volunteers as well as trained staff. Unfortunately, the majority of these facilities have been reported to have some kind of deficiency with many of these resulting in varying degrees of harm to residents.
Nursing home abuse is all too common and, sadly, much of it goes unreported out of fear, indifference by relatives or are overlooked. Seniors are often too frail to fight back or suffer from dementia. Most homes suffer from lack of trained staff or CNAs (certified nursing assistants). In for-profit facilities, staff turnover is a problem because of low wages, which also means that poorly trained personnel or even individuals with dubious backgrounds or criminal records are the only ones hired to take these positions.
As a relative or close friend, you can look for signs of abuse and take steps to see that medical attention is given and that an investigation be performed if warranted. Reports of suspected abuse may be made to Adult Protective Services. Also, consider retaining an attorney who is experienced in nursing home abuse claims.
There are different types of nursing home abuse—physical, sexual, neglect, emotional and financial.
Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse can be as seemingly minor as slapping or pushing a resident to a serious assault and battery. Look for the following signs that may be indicative of abusive behavior by nursing home staff:
- Bruises and cuts on wrists and ankles from use of restraints
- Bed sores or pressure ulcers
- Head injuries and fractures from falls
- Administration of drugs not included in the resident’s plan
- Other unexplained injuries such as welts, black eyes and cuts
- Untreated injuries and infections
- A resident who is chronically in a heavily sedated or medicated state
If you observe any of these, you need to make inquiries, to review the chart and records kept regarding treatment and for explanations for these signs. Check to see what medications are being administered and if any are not being given.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Bullying from staff or from other residents can make life extremely difficult for a resident to whom the bullying is directed. Nursing homes are supposed to be aware of this behavior and if reported, take steps to prevent it. Harassment, making threats or ridiculing a resident can terrorize the individual who may feel helpless to prevent it or report it.
Signs of emotional abuse include:
- Unusual depression
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of appetite
- Expressions of fear around staff or particular residents
- Reluctance to express frustration or report bullying
- Isolation from other residents
- Infantile treatment by staff
- Comments made by staff that are demeaning or insulting
If you suspect such treatment, take the time to spend a few hours with the resident and observe how your loved one or friend is treated by others or staff.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Residents are also the target of sexual abuse by staff members or other residents. Disabled persons are unable to resist or even comprehend what is happening to them. You can look for these signs:
- Bruising around the genital areas, buttocks or breasts
- Inappropriate behavior by a staff member or other resident
- Ripped clothing
- Clothing with blood stains
- Unusual expressions of fear or anxiety when a staff person or other resident appears
- Pain when sitting
- Deep depression and unwillingness to talk
- Diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease
Signs of Neglect
Neglect of a resident’s needs may stem from understaffing or by nursing home employees who become frustrated by caring for seniors who have constant needs or who are constantly complaining. Neglect can include:
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Unwashed clothing and bed sheets
- Presence of infections and untreated wounds or injuries
- Failure to give medications
- Not being informed or participating in home activities
- Lack of medical attention
- Health and safety hazards in the room or area
Any of these scream out for action to be taken immediately to care for the resident and to hold the nursing home facility liable.
Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial exploitation is a sad fact of nursing home abusive practices. You may suspect signs by examining the resident’s bank accounts and credit card bills as well as the accounts and records kept by the facility. Unusual expenditures should be questioned, large withdrawals and credit card charges need to be scrutinized for unauthorized use. If the resident has accumulated too many useless items or somehow purchased time shares or made other senseless purchases, then you need to take steps to protect the resident’s assets from further depletion and to recover what was paid out.
Damages in Nursing Home Lawsuits
Nursing home abuse and injury cases are personal injuries and compensation can be awarded to the injured resident for damages caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of the nursing home facility and its employees. Damages can include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
Few residents are still working but if they were receiving an income and are unable to work any longer from injuries sustained by the abuse, then lost earnings are another element of damages.
Nursing home abuse claims can be complicated since many are owned by large corporations and will employ teams of experienced defense lawyers to challenge any civil claims made against them or insist that their insurers do so. A highly skilled attorney who has had success in claims against nursing homes is necessary if you want your loved one or friend to be compensated for the wrongful behavior that has injured them.
Paul Tetzel is a Boston area nursing home abuse lawyer and a personal injury attorney whom people with loved ones who were abused or injured by nursing home negligence or abusive practices have trusted to handle their claims. Call his office today if you have concerns about possible nursing home abuse.