Many families in Columbus and other areas of Ohio are forced to make the difficult decision to put an elderly loved one in a nursing home. We expect nursing homes to provide the round-the-clock attention and skilled care that families cannot provide on their own.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes betray the trust placed in them by seniors and their loved ones. Residents are frequently subject to abuse and neglect, often with horrific consequences.
If you suspect that your elderly relative is being mistreated in a nursing home, it is crucial to seek qualified legal counsel as soon as possible. The nursing home abuse attorneys at Colombo Law can help. Please call (614) 362-7000 today for a free consultation. Our lawyers serve clients in Columbus and throughout Ohio.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is the mistreatment of residents by caregivers and staff at a care facility. Abuse can take many different forms, including physical, verbal, sexual, and more. Many instances of nursing home abuse rise to the level of criminal conduct, but our attorneys focus on the civil consequences of the abuse (i.e., personal injury claims).
Similar to nursing home abuse, nursing home neglect occurs when staff at the facility fail to provide for the needs of residents. Issues such as understaffing and inadequate training are common causes of nursing home neglect.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
The elderly are an extremely vulnerable population. Those who live in nursing homes typically require assistance with a variety of day-to-day tasks.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for nursing home caregivers and staff to abuse the power they have over elderly relatives. This can lead to the following:
Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes
Abusive members of a nursing home’s staff may use physical violence (or the threat thereof) as a means of controlling residents or retaliating against those who make their jobs more difficult. Nursing home physical abuse could involve:
- Pushing residents
- Slapping or punching residents
- Kicking residents
- Destroying residents’ personal effects
- Forceful handling of residents to get them to perform certain tasks, such as eat or take medication
- Use of physical restraints
Another form of physical abuse is separating and isolating seniors from other residents, members of staff, and even family members. Isolation may not leave physical marks, but it can take a terrible toll on a senior’s psyche.
Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Emotional abuse often starts as verbal abuse. Nursing home staff might make derogatory comments about a resident’s appearance, age, race, gender, etc.
Seniors who are subjected to emotional abuse may experience shame, embarrassment, and a loss of self-esteem. Over time, emotional abuse can even turn into physical abuse.
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Some of the worst cases of nursing home abuse involve sexual violence and exploitation. Examples include:
- Sexual comments and unwanted advances
- Unwanted touching
- Indecent exposure
- Showing residents pornographic materials
- Forcing residents to undress
- Rape and sexual assault
As with the population at large, sexual abuse in nursing homes often goes unreported. Sometimes residents are too ashamed to report the abuse, or they may be afraid of retaliation. In other cases the senior may be non compos mentis (such as those with dementia) and incapable of speaking up against the abuser.
Financial Exploitation in Nursing Homes
The elderly are particularly vulnerable to theft, scams, and other financial crimes. Unfortunately, those who live in nursing homes are often no safer from this type of abuse.
Common types of financial abuse in nursing homes include:
- Theft of money and personal items
- Unauthorized use of checks and credit cards
- Identity theft
Nursing home staff and caregivers may also misuse their position to exert undue influence on an elderly resident. This can lead to the vulnerable senior giving the staffer money and gifts. Sometimes seniors are also manipulated into revising their will to leave assets to the scammer.
Medical Abuse in Nursing Homes
One of the principal responsibilities of nursing homes is to help residents manage their health concerns. This is commonly achieved through the administration of medication, which staff members and caregivers distribute to residents.
Unfortunately, medication theft is a common problem in nursing homes. Staff members may steal meds from the facility to sell illegally and/or for their own abuse. This can result in residents getting the wrong medication, the incorrect dose, or less than they need – all of which can lead to severe health complications.
Another example of medical abuse in nursing homes is the use of certain drugs (typically antipsychotics, sedatives, and other medications) as a form of chemical restraint. Misusing medications in this way can have a number of serious effects, including adverse drug interactions and death.
Nursing Home Neglect
Unlike nursing home abuse, neglect typically occurs because the staff is overwhelmed or incompetent. Outright malice is generally not a factor.
However, the effects of nursing home neglect can be no less extreme. Residents may be deprived of food, water, medication, clean clothes and bedding, and other necessities. In particularly egregious circumstances, seniors may become sick or get injured and not receive the medical care they need until it’s too late.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Identifying nursing home abuse and neglect can be a challenge. Abused seniors are often reluctant to speak up, and abusers are very good at covering their tracks.
Regular visits are the best way to keep your loved one from suffering harm in a nursing home. Not only does visiting often allow you to stay close to your relative, but it gives you the opportunity to watch for common warning signs of nursing home abuse:
1. Physical Injuries
Unexplained injuries are the most obvious sign of possible nursing home abuse. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Cuts and scratches
- Marks on the neck, wrists, and ankles (potential signs that your loved one has been restrained or grabbed forcefully)
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries
- Head injuries
Some injuries genuinely do occur as a result of accidents. For example, seniors with poor mobility and balance issues are at a high risk of falling to the ground and sustaining injury.
However, it is important to scrutinize any account the nursing home offers for how your loved one was injured. Even an accidental fall may be an indicator of neglect on the part of caregivers.
Read More: Ohio Nursing Home Injury Statistics
2. Bed Sores
Also known as pressure ulcers, bed sores develop due to prolonged contact between the skin and another surface. Seniors who are unable to get out of bed or adjust positions on their own are at a high risk of bed sores.
If your loved one develops a bed sore, the nursing home staff may be neglecting his or her well-being. Without prompt medical intervention, bed sores can lead to severe pain, a high risk of infection, and other complications.
3. Depression and Anxiety
Any kind of mistreatment can negatively affect a senior’s psychological health. If you notice that your loved one is sad, withdrawn, on-edge, or behaving erratically, it is important to get to the root of the problem as soon as possible.
4. Poor Hygiene
Seniors in nursing homes often need help dressing themselves, bathing, using the bathroom, doing laundry, and performing other activities. If you notice that your loved one looks disheveled, has body odor, and is wearing clothes that are soiled or torn, these could all be signs of neglect on the part of caregivers and nursing home staff.
The same is true of your relative’s living quarters. If the bedding, furniture, carpet, and other items in the room are consistently dirty or in disarray, the nursing home is clearly not meeting its duties to provide a clean, safe place for your loved one to live.
The effects of aging, some medical conditions, and certain medications can all lead to chronic thirst. However, nursing homes are responsible for ensuring that residents are provided with adequate hydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, difficulty urinating, confusion, fatigue, and more. These issues could indicate that the nursing home is neglecting your loved one’s physical health and medical needs.
Nursing home residents are entitled to meals that provide proper nutrition, meet their tastes, and conform to their personal and religious beliefs. Unfortunately, nursing homes sometimes fail to meet these obligations. Worse yet, understaffed and poorly run nursing homes may fail to provide residents with meals on a regular basis.
In addition to unexplained weight loss, symptoms of malnutrition include fatigue, loss of muscle mass and bone density, a compromised immune system, and more. These issues can lead to a wide range of serious health effects.
7. STIs and STDs
Sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted disease may arise through consensual sexual activity – even among older people. However, an STI or STD diagnosis may also be indicative of sexual abuse.
Survivors of rape and sexual assault often experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. If your relative is diagnosed with an STI or STD and exhibits significant behavioral changes, it is important to take steps to protect your loved one from further abuse.
8. Financial Irregularities
Nursing home staff who engage in financial abuse and exploitation will often target vulnerable residents with limited capacity to make decisions and manage their own money. As a result, financial improprieties are sometimes mistaken for errors on the part of compromised seniors.
If you participate in your elderly loved one’s financial affairs, it is important to keep an eye out for suspicious bank withdrawals, unusual purchases, checks that go uncashed, and other irregularities. Speak honestly to your relative about what you see and make sure he or she is not being taken advantage of by a caregiver.
9. Damage to or Loss of Personal Items
Theft is a common complaint among nursing home residents. Unfortunately, the issue is often not taken seriously (frequently as a result of stereotypes about the elderly). Families with loved ones in nursing homes should always heed any complaints the resident has about missing money, jewelry, etc.
Damage to belongings is another serious concern, as this could be a sign of physical abuse. This is especially true of items on your loved one’s person, such as eyeglasses, dentures, clothing, etc.
10. Wandering and Elopement
Lack of supervision can be a major problem in nursing homes, especially for residents with balance problems and those who are easily confused. Inadequate supervision can lead to two distinct problems:
- Wandering, where the resident walks the grounds or hallways of the nursing home without supervision
- Elopement, where the resident leaves the facility and may become lost
Wandering and elopement can lead to falls, a senior getting hit by a car, and other serious outcomes. Not knowing where a loved one is takes an emotional toll on the family, and also makes it difficult to find the senior and provide help.
Do I Need a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney?
Nursing homes and their insurance companies will vigorously challenge claims of abuse and neglect. For this reason, it is crucial to hire a knowledgeable attorney to handle the case on your behalf.
Our nursing home abuse lawyers will:
- Investigate the abuse or neglect to determine who is responsible.
- Collect evidence in support of your claim, including medical records, photos, etc.
- Consult expert witnesses to assess your case and offer testimony concerning your loved one’s injuries, liability of the nursing home, the compensation you may be due, etc.
- Calculate the full extent of the damages you and your loved ones have suffered.
- Negotiate with the defendant(s) and their insurer(s); in the event that your case goes to trial, attorneys at Colombo Law will represent you in court.
At Colombo Law, we prepare every case as though it will go to trial. We recognize the value that a timely settlement can have for our clients, and we will always strive to negotiate an offer that is favorable to you and your family. But, in the event that a settlement cannot be reached and your case goes to court, our skilled and experienced team will be ready and able to represent you effectively.
How Much Is a Nursing Home Abuse Claim Worth?
The compensation you and your family may be entitled to in a nursing home abuse claim will depend on the specific losses you have suffered. The nursing home abuse attorneys at Colombo Law will pursue recovery of all of the damages in your case, including:
- Medical expenses
- Wages you have lost to care for and/or relocate an injured loved one
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Tragically, sometimes nursing home abuse and neglect can result in the death of the resident. If you and your family are facing this devastating situation, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim against the nursing home.
Common damages in a wrongful death claim include funeral and burial expenses, the cost of medical care prior to death, and (in certain circumstances) mental and emotional anguish. The court may also award punitive damages if the evidence shows that the nursing home engaged in malice or “aggravated or egregious fraud” (as defined by the Ohio statute on punitive damages).
How Do You Report Nursing Home Abuse?
In addition to taking legal action on behalf of your loved one, it is also important to report abuse or neglect in a nursing home to the authorities. After all, your choice to speak out now could save other seniors and their families from the same harm and heartbreak you are facing.
There are multiple ways to report nursing home abuse and neglect in Ohio:
- File a complaint with the Ohio Bureau of Survey and Certification. The online form allows you to make a complaint anonymously with the state agency responsible for licensing and inspecting nursing homes.
- Contact the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Abuse can be reported by calling the state hotline at 1 (800) 282-1206 or by connecting with the regional care office in your region.
- Report patient abuse or neglect to the Ohio Attorney General.
- In the event of an emergency (i.e., if you witness your loved one being abused), dial 911 immediately.
It is also important to report suspected abuse or neglect to the nursing home administration. Although ideally this would result in the administrators working with you to resolve the concerns you have about your loved one, at the very least it creates a record of the incident(s) that may lead you to take legal action at a later date.
No senior should have to endure nursing home neglect and abuse. However, if you discover that your loved one is being mistreated or neglected in a nursing home or other care facility anywhere in Ohio, it is crucial to speak to a nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible.
For more than 20 years, Colombo Law has represented victims of serious injury and wrongful death. We understand the complexities of taking legal action against a nursing home, and we will fight to recover all of the compensation you and your family deserve.
Our firm is proud to make each client a No Fee Promise. Your initial consultation is free, you pay us nothing upfront to build your case, and you only owe an attorney fee if we achieve a successful result on your behalf.
Please call Colombo Law at (614) 362-7000 for free today. Our nursing home abuse lawyers serve clients in Columbus and throughout Ohio.