What is nursing home abuse?
Every day, families across the nation place loved ones in the care of nursing homes. They trust these facilities to provide a safe, nurturing environment and quality care. Yet almost daily, news reports tell disturbing stories of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse and neglect suffered by nursing home patients. Nursing home abuse refers to any intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or other person in a residential facility for elders that cause serious harm or death to a vulnerable adult. Sokolove Law and our network of nursing home abuse attorneys represent individual victims who have been injured due to nursing home abuse and neglect.
How serious is the problem of nursing home abuse?
In 2008, a federal investigation revealed that more than 90 percent of the 15,000 nursing homes nationwide were cited for violations of health and safety standards. Of the 37,150 complaints received 39 percent were substantiated. Twenty percent of those were serious enough to directly harm residents or place them in immediate danger of injury or death. Even more alarming are the nursing home abuse statistics showing that the majority of all nursing home abuse incidents are never even reported. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is on the rise with no sign of slowing as reports of abuse increases with the nation’s aging population. Elder abuse is an unfortunate reality in our current care system which is why we work on behalf of injured patients to help them get the justice and financial compensation they deserve.
Who are the victims of elder abuse?
The typical nursing home victim is age 65+, and is often mentally and/or physically disabled. Victims of elder abuse are unable to protect themselves from physical attack or sexual assault and are sometimes unable to tell family members that the abuse occurred.
Who are the abusers?
Abusers are usually paid professionals or staff members who have a legal or contractual obligation to provide elder residents with care and protection. Abusers can be medical professionals, nurse aids, physical therapists, and other support staff. What are some of the causes of nursing home abuse and neglect? While there is no excuse for nursing home abuse, there are many theories as to why it happens, including:
- Understaffed or poorly staffed facilities
- No abuse prevention policy in place
- Caregiver burnout due to high patient caseloads, low wages, and excessive overtime
- Caregiver burnout is considered to be the primary cause of nursing home abuse and negligence.
Greater risk is present in homes with no abuse prevention policy, inadequate staff training, insufficient background checks, a high staff turnover rate, a history of complaints, and an unsafe environment. Some theories also suggest that certain patients are at greater risk of abuse than others. Elderly patients, those with dementia or disruptive behaviors, highly dependent patients or those with significant need for assistance, and those who are more socially isolated may be at higher risk for abuse.
What are some warning signs of abuse or neglect?
Rampant neglect or obvious physical abuse is rare. The more signs you are aware of, the more you can do to help stop the abuse. Some signs of elder abuse include:
- Staff not allowing visitors to be alone with resident
- Frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person
- Complaints about painful blisters or abrasions (bedsores)
- Poor hygiene
- Weakness or inexplicable weight loss (malnourishment)
- Soiled bedding
- Unexplained new or frequent injuries such as bruises, pressure marks, burns, cuts or broken bones
- Sudden personality changes
- Uncharacteristic anger, lack of interest, or anxiety
- Fear of being alone
- Overwhelming sadness, frequent crying
- Change in alertness
Learn more about identifying warning signs of nursing home abuse.
How can I get help for my family member or loved one?
After you have removed your family member from the abusive situation, reported the abuse to the authorities and have your elder situated in a new care facility, you may want to consider contacting a nursing home abuse attorney to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. Lawsuits can do far more than punish abusers and help get your family the justice you deserve – they can prevent the abuser from ever harming another elder. Our nursing home abuse case specialists offer families and nursing home abuse victims a free evaluation of their case and referrals to nursing home abuse attorneys who can help them. These attorneys often have experience or certification to practice elder law, the area of law dedicated to protecting seniors. Learn more about working with a nursing home abuse attorney and about what you can expect to happen in the legal process.