We’d like to believe that nursing homes will care for our loved ones as if they are family. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Nursing homes are often understaffed, which means they lack the time and resources to thoroughly monitor each patient. Many staff members also lack proper training and are ill-prepared to deal with medical emergencies. Yet, perhaps the most alarming trend in these facilities is the prevalence of nursing home abuse.
Nursing home abuse is greatly underreported in the United States. Estimates indicate that as many as one in three residents experience some form of abuse, but oversight, reporting and largely outdated research fail to account for the true scope of the problem. Abuse in nursing homes can range from verbal taunting to unspeakable acts of sexual abuse.
Inspectors often fail to substantiate allegations of abuse, neglect or other problems among elderly residents who require care. In the wake of nursing home resident protection, families often must take cases of neglect into their own hands by speaking to a nursing home abuse attorney.
If your loved one is in a nursing home, it’s important to be able to recognize signs of elder abuse and to act immediately if you believe your loved one is being mistreated. The Khalidi Law Firm knows how important cases involving nursing home abuse are to concerned family members, and our team is here to help.
Nursing Home Abuse: What to Look For
Nursing home neglect or abuse may include any of the following:
- Bed sores or pressure ulcers. Bed sores are caused by excessive pressure on the skin, occurring when the patient has been lying in bed too long. Bed sores are typically located on the hips, tailbone or feet.
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or fractures. These injuries are a hallmark of abuse in nursing homes. Cuts and bruises can be caused by physical abuse from staff members or other residents. These injuries might also be a sign that a resident has fallen and been neglected by a nursing home’s staff.
- Dehydration, weight loss and hunger. A busy staff member may skip a patient’s room, leaving him or her without proper nourishment. The patient can become hungry, thirsty and show signs of weight loss from a lack of food. In some cases, staffer members might refuse a patient food, water or medicine as a form of punishment.
- Sepsis or severe infection. Elderly residents are susceptible to infections and should be monitored frequently, especially if they are experiencing changes in behavior or appetite. Signs of an infection include fever, decreased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, pain and difficulty breathing.
- Patient withdrawal or depression. If you notice your loved one seems unusually sad or antisocial, he or she may be suffering from physical or verbal abuse. Elderly patients might have trouble communicating these incidents to others – even family members. If you notice this change of behavior with your loved one, you should speak with management to determine the cause of the problem.
- Unsanitary living conditions. Staff members should be assisting your loved one with personal hygiene as well as keeping the environment clean. Germs and bacteria are common in nursing homes, so cleanliness is a primary responsibility of staff members.
- Staff restricting family access to resident. If a facility’s staff restricts a family’s access to their loved one in a manner that is not in accordance with guidelines, it is a violation of the resident’s rights and a possible sign that abuse has occurred. A nursing home should offer transparency to family members and adequate access to loved ones.
- Injuries requiring hospital or emergency room care. It might be common for a resident to suffer a minor bruise or scrape, but if injuries are severe enough to warrant emergency medical treatment, it is a sign that a resident has suffered serious abuse or neglect.
- Resident heavily sedated or medicated. One of the most common examples of wrongful medication in nursing homes is the use of antipsychotic drugs, which are often administered to patients to keep them sedated and easily managed. As AARP reports, some researchers estimate that as many as 20 percent of nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs that are unnecessary and harmful for elderly patients.
- Sexual Abuse. CNN recently reported that over 1,000 nursing homes in the United States have been cited for mishandling cases of sex abuse. Like many other forms of nursing home abuse, sexual abuse is likely largely unreported by victims.
- Unexplained death. When a resident dies unexpectedly and a nursing offers no explanation, it could be a sign of wrongful death. Wrongful death is a legal term meaning that a death is the result of someone else’s negligence. In these cases, surviving family members can file wrongful death claims against a facility.
According to research from one nursing home safety advocacy group, resident-to-resident elderly mistreatment (RREM) is vastly underreported in the United States. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care defines RREM as “negative physical, sexual, or verbal interactions between long-term care residents that in a community setting would likely be construed as unwelcome and have high potential to cause physical or psychological distress in the recipient.”
Most studies of nursing home abuse focus on staff treatment of patients, though it is possible that resident-to-resident abuse is as prevalent if not more prevalent than abuse by staff.
Nearly half of the suspected abuse is verbal, while 26 percent of reported abuse was physical assault.
Has Your Loved One Been Neglected or Abused in a Nursing Home?
The Khalidi Law Firm has years of experience helping victims of nursing home abuse. If you suspect that your loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, get legal help as soon as possible. The Tucson nursing home abuse lawyers at The Khalidi Law Firm are here to help. Call (520) 629-9909 today or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.