Aging loved ones are in a vulnerable place when they enter a nursing home. You trust the employees to take great care of your family member or, at the very least, meet the standard of care required by state and federal laws. Unfortunately, a staggering one in ten seniors falls victim to elder abuse or neglect in the United States.
Our nursing home abuse lawyers at Colombo Law have helped many families seek justice and compensation on behalf of nursing home residents and their residents. We can pursue a claim against those responsible for your loved one’s injuries and the damages you and your family have incurred.
It is often difficult to recognize when a family member is being mistreated. Keep reading for more information on how to prevent abuse and neglect in a nursing home, or speak to our lawyers promptly if you suspect or have evidence of abuse.
1. Understand the Types and Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Abuse can take on many forms. Some are immediately noticeable, such as a bone fracture or bedsores, while others, such as financial and psychological abuse, may not show signs for quite a while. Understanding the various types of nursing home abuse and the injuries and behavioral changes they cause can help you identify the warning signs and stop your loved one from being hurt again.
Physical abuse may involve an employee or another resident hitting, pushing, scratching, kicking, or restraining the victim without reason. Injuries from physical abuse may manifest as bruises in various states of healing, scars, and scratches. Photograph these injuries right away for proof of the abuse.
Financial abuse is a rampant problem that often affects nursing home residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A nursing home employee may steal money from the resident’s wallet or persuade them to give them money or personal banking information to use online. Most banking institutions train employees to watch for signs of financial elder abuse, but if your loved one isn’t going to the branch or is robbed electronically, it may take weeks or months to discover the theft.
Emotional or psychological abuse can be extremely dangerous. The nursing home staff may mock, humiliate, ignore, or insult your loved one, leading to depression and a decline in mental health.
Abuse may also be sexual; this is more common than many people realize. A sexual act committed on or with a nursing home resident without their consent or knowledge is sexual abuse. False imprisonment is another form of abuse in which the resident is confined to their room, restrained to their bed, or their source of mobility (such as a wheelchair or cane) is taken away.
Warning signs of elder abuse often include unexplained trips, falls, injuries, and mood changes. Victims of nursing home abuse may communicate less with family members or refuse to see visitors for fear of retaliation. They may also exhibit signs of neglect, including poor hygiene, bedsores, significant weight loss, dehydration, and recurring infections.
- 27.4% of complaints involved physical elder abuse
- 22.1% of physical and sexual abuses were resident-on-resident
- 19.1% of cases involved emotional abuse
- 15% of complaints found gross negligence in providing care
- 7.9% involved sexual assault and abuse
- 7.9% of reports included financial abuse
If you notice any of these warning signs of nursing home abuse, act quickly to prevent your loved one and other residents from being harmed further.
2. Check In with Your Loved One Regularly
You won’t be able to watch as closely for wrongful acts when your family member moves into a nursing home like you would if they were cared for at home. As such, regular visits are essential for protecting them.
Nursing home residents who receive sporadic or sparse visits from their families are more likely to experience abuse because their relatives and close friends aren’t checking in on them as often. During these regular visits, you can monitor their physical and mental health for signs of nursing home abuse.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that up to 5 million people are affected by elder abuse each year. However, many cases and medical errors go unreported, meaning these numbers could be far lower than the actual instances of abuse at nursing homes. Many residents don’t want to report their experiences or don’t have the mental capacity to explain what’s happening. Some worry the abusive staff will retaliate against them if they tell someone about the abuse or file a complaint.
During your visit, make sure you speak with your family member away from the staff and note any employees who linger around you to hear the conversation. Your loved one needs to talk freely without fear their abuser will listen to them talking with you.
3. Bring Up Concerns to Staff and Management Immediately
Whether you notice that a nurse didn’t change a bedpan, they skipped a medication dosage, or you want answers about an unexplained trip or fall, don’t sit on the information. Talk with the nursing home management and staff right away to voice your concerns and ensure they understand that you are paying close attention to how your loved one is treated at the facility.
When nursing home abuse and neglect occur, it may be traced back to poor training, lack of proper background checks, understaffing, poor facility maintenance, and other inadequate circumstances throughout the nursing home. The nursing home facility can prevent abuse and neglect through improved patient care policies and procedures, fostering a welcoming environment for volunteers and social workers, and training employees on elder abuse and neglect. They may install quality monitoring systems to prevent resident-on-resident abuses as well.
If you believe your loved one is not receiving the standard of care required by state and federal laws, you can bring it up to the facility managers to rectify the situation. However, signs of abuse or neglect should also be investigated and reported to the appropriate bodies. This may include the Ohio Department of Aging, Adult Protective Services, and/or emergency services.
Remove your loved one from the situation immediately if you suspect abuse. You should also speak to a lawyer about your right to bring a personal injury claim.
4. Look for Red Flags When Choosing a Nursing Home
Choosing the facility to care for your aging family member is difficult, and your finances may limit you. As you tour the nursing homes in your area and weigh your options, consider these tips:
- Use the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Nursing Home Compare feature and the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide by the Ohio Department of Aging to evaluate the facility and staff.
- Pay attention to the employees’ actions when you tour. Do they appear frustrated, exhausted, or overworked? Do their interactions with current residents seem manipulative or harmful? A 2020 World Health Organization study reports 64% of nursing home staff members admitted to some form of abuse or neglect on a resident.
- Ask management and staff questions and get to know them by name to build a rapport.
- Look at the current residents and ask yourself whether they seem happy. Also, do they appear to be trustworthy? Keep in mind that elder abuse is also committed by other residents. In a 2021 case, for example, a nursing home resident was a registered sex offender and assaulted another resident several times. The nursing home failed to report the assaults to the police.
An ineffective administration, poor policies, improper hiring practices, and understaffing can have severe consequences for your loved one. Do thorough research on the nursing home before choosing the facility to care for them. That includes reading online reviews and speaking with past or current residents and their families.
5. Know Your Loved One’s Risk Factors for Nursing Home Abuse
While any older adult in an assisted living center or nursing home facility can fall victim to abuse and neglect, there are risk factors that increase the likelihood of being mistreated. These include:
- Gender: 66% of elder abuse victims are women, according to the NCVC.
- Socioeconomic status: Research shows a link between elder abuse and lower socioeconomic status. Someone relying on Medicaid for nursing home care may be placed in a lower-quality center with inadequate staffing and training.
- Previous trauma: Victims of abuse or those who experience a traumatic event are more likely to be subjected to abuse again, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).
- Health problems: The NCEA reports that health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia make seniors more vulnerable. Nearly half of elders with dementia become victims of abuse or neglect. Poor mental and physical health increase risk.
- Environmental concerns: Eldercare facilities with limited resources and a lack of trustworthy staff are more likely to have instances of abuse or neglect. Employees who feel stress, resentment, or burnout may foster negative attitudes and unsympathetic environments that lead to nursing home abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse Has Severe, Sometimes Deadly Consequences
Nursing home residents who experience abuse or neglect are 300% more likely to suffer fatal consequences and just as likely to be hospitalized. Elder abuse may lead to disabilities and medical issues and increase depression and other psychological problems in the future. Seniors who are abused are also four times more likely to end up living in a nursing home.
Why You Need a Lawyer for Your Nursing Home Abuse Case
Nursing home residents have state and federally mandated rights. Our law firm can determine which regulations and laws were violated and make sure all responsible parties are brought to justice.
If you suspect nursing home abuse, don’t wait. Remove your loved one from the situation, report the abuse, and get in touch with Colombo Law even if you don’t have physical proof or evidence. Your suspicions may prove correct.
For a free case review, please call (614) 362-7000 today. Our nursing home abuse lawyers serve clients in Columbus and throughout Ohio.