Do You Suspect Abuse at Your Loved One’s Nursing Home?
Unfortunately, abuse in nursing homes happens more frequently than we might want to believe. Many cases of abuse go unreported because the victims aren’t able to speak for themselves, they don’t have family to help or they aren’t taken seriously by staff. Abuse can exist in a variety of forms including physical and financial abuse. Some abuse like emotional abuse can be hard to see and define too.

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse
This kind of abuse is one of the easiest to see. There will be repeated bruises, cuts or injuries to the resident. In some cases, even though it’s easily to see, residents might be fearful or ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse. Family members have to be willing to ask hard questions of the staff and follow-up and report suspected abuse.

Financial Exploitation
When a staff member takes advantage of a patient’s financial information, it’s considered financial exploitation or theft including a staff member who uses the patient’s information to get a credit card.

Emotional Abuse
Staff members who emotionally abuse residents are often cruel, mean and degrading to the resident. They might scream at the resident or heap criticism on the elder, which can make them become withdrawn and ashamed.

Sexual Abuse
Any unwanted sexual attention is considered sexual abuse. It could include attention towards a patient who has dementia or is otherwise unable to express their wishes to refuse the contact.

Warning Signs:

  • Physical signs like bruising, cuts, welts or broken bones
  • Mood swings or outbursts
  • Refusal to take medications
  • Refusing to speak or eat
  • Unexplained and sudden fear
  • A caregiver that won’t leave patient alone with others
  • Poor appearance

This is also a form of abuse since it leaves the elder hurt. While it can happen due to understaffing, it’s still serious and can result in injury or death. An elderly resident who has been neglected doesn’t have their basic needs met like personal hygiene or food and water on a regular basis. Medical neglect can lead to bed sores and infections that aren’t treated properly.

Warning Signs:

  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Unusual behavior changes
  • Lack of interaction with others
  • Hazards in the environment like poor lighting

How to Report Abuse
A family member or anyone who has noticed abuse should be contacting the authorities to investigate further. The New York State Department of Health is responsible for investigating complaints of abuse. The Department will conduct interviews, review the medical records of the resident and make an on-site visit to the facility.

Talk to a Lawyer
Sadly, there are so many cases and complaints of abuse in nursing homes that the Department isn’t always able to spend time digging deep into the facility. In other cases, the facility might be determined to be at fault for minor transgressions that don’t address the problem.

A family member who is concerned about abuse can hire a lawyer to ensure that the facility is held accountable for abusive practices. The attorney will gather all the nursing home’s documents including the resident’s medical records, incident reports, doctor’s notes, nursing notes and care plans.

Personal injury or wrongful death suits can be brought against the facility and the staff due to abuse and negligence against your family member. The nursing home can be sued to stop them from abusing other residents as well as paying for medical expenses, losses from theft, and pain and suffering from abuse.

Lack of adequate staffing should never be used as an excuse for the lack of care that an elderly resident receives in a nursing home. They are regulated by federal and state laws and have rules they have to follow. When a resident has been abused, steps must be taken to ensure that the abuse doesn’t continue and the guilty party is punished. If you’re unsatisfied with the care your loved one is receiving, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the abuse and neglect stops. A lawyer can help you do that.