Nursing home abuse occurs more often than you expect, even in top-rated facilities. Sometimes, some people deliberately inflict pain or control. However, often, nursing home abuse consists of neglect. For example, quiet, well-behaved patients could be ignored in a busy facility because they just don’t attract much attention.
According to experts in nursing homes, the symptoms of patient abuse include:
- A patient who often appears tired, disoriented, ill, or sleepy during hours other patients are active
- Patients who become incontinent but don’t receive prompt changing of their disposable diapers
- Anyone who doesn’t receive help in getting exercise or assistance in taking daily walks
- Poor personal hygiene clearly shown by dirty clothes, unwashed hair, body odors, urine or feces smells, etc.
- Patients who become dehydrated or malnourished and show dramatic weight loss, cracked lips, swollen tongue, and other symptoms of distress
- Patients who develop broken bones, lacerations, scratches, and bruises that might be caused by physical abuse
- Patients who develop bedsores, urinary infections and open wounds
- Patients who experience frequent safety mishaps caused by inadequate supervision
- Patients who withdraw from social interactions or display fear, guilt, or anxiety around certain staff members or other residents
Statistics show that about two million patients live in assisted living facilities for long-term care. Federal regulations were designed to protect these patients from abuse, neglect, physical injuries, corporal punishment, sexual abuse, and emotional distress. The common types of abuse and neglect include the following:
- Abuse: The infliction of injury, confinement, or emotional threats that cause harm, mental anguish, or pain.
- Neglect: The failure to provide adequate care expected by a reasonable person regardless of intentional or accidental.
- Assault and battery.
- Failure to treat existing medical issues.
- Prolonged withholding of food, water, and social opportunities.
- Rape and other forms of forced sexually related activities.
- Abuse of any medications.
- Unwarranted physical restraint or seclusion designed to punish.
Knowing all this, if you suspect nursing home abuse occurring against a family member, you should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. You’re not equipped to investigate the situation on your own, but your attorney can help in every aspect of investigating the suspected abuse and filing a lawsuit for compensation. Most facilities where abuse happens will try to cover their tracks and protect their staff, reputation, and finances. Nevertheless, your lawyer will get to the bottom of things by initiating a formal investigation and engaging the authorities (police, the DA office, etc.).
Financial Abuse of Nursing Home Patients
Elderly patients are often targeted for abuse because frailty makes them less likely to fight back or stand up to bullying tactics. Other patients and staff often target the elderly who have considerable financial resources for scams, con jobs, or attempts to be rewarded in the victim’s will. Unfortunately, these kinds of financial abuse often go unreported or undetected until it’s too late.
Keep a Close Eye on Any Nursing Home Relative
Without behaving paranoid, it’s possible to keep a close eye on your loved one in a nursing home:
- Remain observant about the patient’s health and adjustment to their new life circumstances.
- Watch for signs of sexual abuse, including STDs, bruising around the genitals, urinary infections, and anal or vaginal bleeding.
- Take note of any staff member who yells or displays sharp sarcasm at a patient’s expense.
- Report any instances of controlling, belittling, or threatening behavior to the nursing home administrative staff.
- You should also be aware of possible nursing home fraud where staff order unnecessary tests, treatments, and services.
Nursing homes occasionally take advantage of seniors who have multiple health disorders. Common fraud tactics include billing the patient for expensive medications and sending duplicate bills for the same services or assistive devices. The staff might order too much or too little medication or provide a poor level of care when the patient ordered premium services.
If you suspect a loved one is the victim of abuse – or you see abuse signs in the facility – don’t keep quiet. Instead, make a formal complaint to the board, bring an attorney with you next time, and have serious conversations with the facility’s administrators. If they deny everything despite the obvious abuse signs, you can consider calling 911, pressing criminal charges, and getting police officers and prosecutors to take a close look at things.