Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence
All of human life is precious and valuable, even the most vulnerable among us. When someone who cannot care for themselves is bullied or neglected by a person in a place of authority, it is hard to bear. The senior population is particularly at risk for this.
Those of us with relatives in nursing homes want to think that the facility is helping our loved ones, keeping them safe and doing what they can to improve their quality of life.
It’s shocking to learn that sometimes that’s far from the truth. Whether it’s neglect due to poor training, understaffing or blatant physical abuse, it shouldn’t happen. However, you can fight back and learn how to protect your loved ones in nursing homes.
Getting Help for a Senior Loved One
For most people, the decision to place your elderly loved one in assisted care is a difficult one. Even when there is no practical way to provide all he or she needs to live a healthier, more satisfied life, family members are often consumed with guilt for what they are unable to do. Many times, adult children are torn between caring for their own families and tending to an aging parent. Disorders such as dementia, which is highly common in the elderly, can also present unexpected challenges that can include physically aggressive behavior. In other instances, distance might prevent family from visiting or helping.
Whatever the reason may be for hiring outside help, it’s important that family members recognize when circumstances are beyond their control. This is especially true when it’s discovered that your elderly loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of a designated caregiver, such as within a nursing home.
Even a well-informed family member couldn’t possibly anticipate how or when neglect occurs. If you have unknowingly placed your senior loved one in a facility where he or she has experienced abuse of any kind, it is not your fault. The most loving thing you can do now is seek help, which you are likely doing by reading this page. We encourage you to contact our firm with any questions you have for a free, private legal consultation.
If you know someone who has endured abuse in assisted living, you are not alone. Unfortunately, the problem appears to be worse than we actually know.
While statistics say that one in 10 elders in America has suffered some sort of abuse, those numbers may not reflect the full extent of the problem. Only one in 14 cases of elder abuse are actually reported, so in reality, abuse might be much more prevalent. As the aging population increases in the U.S., the problem is likely to increase as well. The global population of persons aged 60 and up is predicted to reach around 2 billion by 2050.
Only one in 14 cases of elder abuse are actually reported.
While knowledge of other injustices such as domestic violence and child abuse is widespread, experts say that elder abuse is much less understood. Past research is limited, which means there is inadequate data to guide trainers, policymakers, and practitioners. Still, what we do know is startling. Elders who are abused, even modestly, have a 300 percent higher risk of death. Even verbal abuse can lead to physical health issues.
Research in this area is growing. As more studies come to light, elder abuse is being exposed as an important social public health issue. Without knowing the exact statistics for the U.S., it’s obvious that elder nursing home abuse is an epidemic. Sadly, it leads to physical and emotional trauma, or even death.
What Is Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse?
Nursing home abuse includes physical, sexual, or emotional harm inflicted upon older citizens, or direct neglect of their needs by the people who are supposed to care for them. In the United States alone, there are more than half a million reports of elder abuse made to authorities each year, with millions more going unreported.
As people age, they become more physically frail and may not be able to care for themselves, stand up to bullies, or fight off an attack. Their physical and mental ailments leave them open to unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of them.
Elders in institutional settings like long-term care facilities may face abuse by the people being paid to care for them. If you suspect that your loved one is not being properly cared for, The Flood Law Firm is here to help. We care for our clients and their loved ones. Call us at (877) 987-9LAW. We’ll stand up to abuse when your loved one can’t.
What Are the Risk Factors for Nursing Home Abuse?
Older adults are at a higher risk of experiencing abuse than others. The following factors have been listed by the National Center on Elder Abuse as elements that can increase a senior’s risk for abuse:
- No spouse
- Poor physical health
- Previous experience of traumatic events
- Lack of social support and isolation
It’s also important to remember that older adults who don’t fall into these categories are not immune to the problem. Any person can be a victim of abuse.
Sexual and Physical Abuse of Seniors
Sexual and physical abuse of seniors can take place in nursing homes and other care facilities. It’s important for loved ones to understand the signs of sexual and physical abuse so you can protect your elderly friends and relatives.
Sadly, older adults don’t always speak out when they’re being abused, for many of the same reasons that victims of other ages don’t. They may be threatened, unable to explain the abuse or feel ashamed by it. At times, seniors may even feel they deserve the attacks or worry that there will be no one to care for them if they report it.
Sexual Abuse Signs in Seniors
Victims of sexual abuse often show the following signs:
- Withdrawn or depressed behavior
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Rectal or vaginal bleeding
- Evidence of venereal disease
- Bruising around the genital area
- Bruising around the breasts
You should also look out for behavioral indicators in your loved one’s caregivers such as not allowing you to be alone with the elder, taking the elder to several medical facilities for treatment, or suspicious explanations for new injuries. These can all be red flags for abuse.
Physical Abuse Signs in Seniors
The following are signs that your loved one may be a physical abuse victim:
- Odd injury explanations, such as “He ran into the doorway.”
- Pressure marks
- Broken bones
Keep watch for a history of dislocations, sprains, or broken bones and sudden tooth and hair loss, especially if the explanations don’t fit or the injuries are unexplained. Also be on the lookout for the same behavioral issues on the part of the caregiver that are signs of sexual abuse.
Staying connected with elder family members can help ward off depression and lower their risk of abuse.
Emotional or Verbal Abuse Signs in Elders
Signs that your elderly loved one may be experiencing emotional or verbal abuse include the following:
- Forced isolation by the caregiver
- A caregiver who yells or snaps at the elder
- Tense or strained relationship between the caregiver and the elder
- Fearful or nervous behavior, especially around the caregiver
- Unusual behavior, such as rocking or biting
- Apathy or withdrawal
Emotional abuse can be anything from verbal insults to aggressive verbal attacks. It may also include isolation or threats of physical harm.
Behavioral Signs of Senior Abuse
Recognizing the signs of abuse is crucial in providing help for victims. Sometimes professionals can miss the symptoms of abuse because they overlap with signs of deteriorating mental health. Recognizing elder abuse is central to stopping it and reducing its impact on a senior’s physical and psychological well-being. Behavioral signs can be the best way to detect neglect and abuse in elders who have communication challenges. They are often the first indicators of abuse.
Older adults who are being abused may become apathetic or withdrawn. They may dart their eyes and startle easily or avoid eye contact altogether. Physical abuse can lead to depression, nervousness, anxiety, fear, and anger.
Another common indicator of abuse is psychosomatic complaints, where victims suffer pain without physical cause. Men may complain of stomach aches, and women will sometimes complain of headaches. Both sexes might show changes in showing affection such as a fear of being touched, or inappropriate or unusual displays of affection. Victims of abuse may also have nightmares or difficulty sleeping.
Symptoms May Mimic Other Disorders
Behavioral symptoms of nursing home abuse can overlap with symptoms of mental deterioration such as frailty or dementia, but they shouldn’t be dismissed. Changes in your loved one should be taken seriously as victims all respond differently to neglect or abuse. You know your elder friend or relative best. If you suspect abuse, call the Flood Law Firm at (860) 346-2695.
When assessing a potential victim’s behavior, use their usual actions as a behavioral baseline to determine whether a clear change has taken place since they’ve been under new care. Consider changes in duration and intensity of behavior, as proper assessment and diagnosis can be the difference between neglect and suitable care.
How Do You Protect Older Loved Ones from Abuse?
Unfortunately, elder abuse is all too common, but you can protect your senior friends and relatives. By staying in touch and paying attention to the situation, you can help prevent verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse in older adults.
Stay connected with elder family members and friends, as it can help ward off depression and lower their risk of abuse. Having someone there to see what might be going on can deter would-be abusers. The best ways to stay connected include:
- Making regular visits
- Speaking on the phone regularly
- If you’re separated by distance, try making video calls
- Be sure the older adult is settled in a senior community or nursing home near family
You should also encourage socialization and group activities. Seniors with social support may have the confidence to turn to a friend or family member if something seems strange with a caregiver.
Screen caregivers carefully. Ask questions to be sure the person caring for your loved one doesn’t have a history of anger issues, violence, drug problems, or other destructive behaviors that might put an older adult in danger.
You should be encouraging mobility and independence when possible. There are mobility devices and other tools that can promote senior independence and strengthen their memory and ability to move on their own. Elder adults who are independent are less likely to be abused.
Report Elder Abuse
If you believe an elderly relative or friend is in immediate, life-threatening danger by a facility or caregiver, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) recommends dialing 911 immediately. If you suspect that abuse is occurring or has occurred but the danger is not imminent, you can relay your concerns to the police, a long-term care official, or your local adult protective services agency.
We are available to assist out of state family members who have loved ones in Connecticut nursing homes.
Never confront the abuser yourself. Doing so without an elder’s permission may put them in more danger. Always wait until you can move them to safe, alternative care.
An attorney’s job is to protect the vulnerable. When abuse happens at nursing homes, legal action against the facility may be the best way to demand accountability and, hopefully, prevent this from happening again to another family. All 50 States now have laws in place to protect against elder abuse.
Contact The Flood Law Firm
If someone you love is being neglected or abused in a nursing care facility, the Flood Law Firm is here to help. We help you protect your loved one and fight back against bullies, so your friend or family member can get the safe and loving care they need. Call us today at (860) 346-2695. We collect no fees unless you win your case.
We also take on cases for those who live out of state and have a loved one in a Connecticut nursing home. Simply dial (877) 987-9529 and speak with a qualified attorney who’s ready to help.