According to the World Health Organization, elder abuse is higher in institutions like nursing homes and long-term care facilities than in community settings. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports a prevalence of 33.4% for psychological abuse, 14.1% for physical abuse, 13.8% for financial abuse, 11.6% for neglect, and 1.9% for sexual abuse.
However, NCEA observes that the statistics could be understated as many incidents go unreported for varying reasons, including reluctance due to embarrassment, inability to report due to cognitive impairment or physical limitation, and fear of retaliation by the offender, among others. According to their reports, for every reported case, 24 others remain undetected.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect?
Nursing home abuse is an act or inaction that causes harm to a resident. Abuse is often executed by a caregiver or any other staff member in a trust relationship with the elder. The abuse may take many forms, including physical, psychological, or financial abuse and neglect.
- Physical abuse – Involves acts that cause bodily harm (cuts, bruises, and broken bones), such as slapping and hitting, misuse of physical restraints, etc.
- Emotional abuse – Involves acts that distress the resident, like yelling at them, insults, isolating them from family and friends, and harassment.
- Financial abuse – Occurs when a nursing home employee accesses the resident’s bank account discreetly and steals their money. Older people with conditions like dementia are more vulnerable to financial fraud.
- Sexual abuse – Nursing home residents can be sexually abused by staff members or fellow residents.
- Neglect – An unintentional act or inaction that causes harm to a resident. A recent report found that out of the complaints filed that year, gross neglect was the fourth highest incidence coming after physical abuse, resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual), and psychological abuse. Though unintentional, nursing homes can be held responsible for any neglect not limited to abandonment, personal hygiene, medical neglect, social or emotional neglect, and neglect of basic living needs.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
Signs of abuse depend on the type of maltreatment meted out. The common ones include:
- Physical abuse: Sores, bruises, unexplained injuries, dehydration, poor resident hygiene, unusual weight loss, unsanitary living conditions, unattended medical needs, broken bones, and frequent falls.
- Financial abuse: Unusual financial transactions or situations such as unpaid bills or loss of finances.
- Emotional abuse: Isolation from friends and family, withdrawn behavior, increased anxiety, unusual depression, increased fear (being scared of certain staff members or residents), and withdrawal from everyday activities.
- Sexual abuse: Tears around the genital areas, increased fear around particular residents or staff members, unusual sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Legal Options Available to Victims of Abuse & Neglect
Local, state, and federal nursing home laws protect elders from abuse. For instance, federal regulations require nursing homes to report and investigate cases of elder abuse within their facility. State laws also expect nursing homes to guarantee residents’ safety and well-being, such as upholding their rights and hiring competent staff members, among other requirements.
Once a victim experiences abuse or a loved one suspects they might be facing mistreatment, they should report it immediately. Not only does reporting bring the responsible parties to justice, but it protects the resident’s well-being, as persistent abuse can be detrimental to their health. In addition, the victim can receive financial compensation for medical expenses and other damages suffered.
As mentioned earlier, most abuse cases go unreported due to fear of retaliation from the abuser. Generally, the first step should be to inform the nursing home administrator about the abuse. However, if one fears retaliation, they could notify the authorities and move to another facility where they can feel safe. Other than the nursing home administrator, one has the option of reporting the abuse to any of the following:
- 911 – In case of life-threatening danger, one can call the police to rescue the resident to a safe location. The police can also investigate the abuse allegations and bring the offender to justice.
- Adult protective services (APS) – One can complain to the APS office for non-urgent incidences. Usually, the office investigates such complaints and advises on the way forward.
- Long-term care ombudsman – The other option is contacting a local ombudsman, who can help investigate the claim for further legal action.
The Role of an Attorney in Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Nursing home abuse constitutes a crime. It entitles the resident or their loved ones the right to sue the offender. In this case, working with a nursing home abuse lawyer is always recommended for legal guidance and protection of the victim’s rights. Among other things, the attorney can help with the following:
- Evaluate the claim – An attorney can help assess the claim to determine whether the case has merit. In most cases, a nursing home lawyer offers a free case evaluation.
- Gather evidence – Evidence is required to establish the liability of the offender. Once the attorney takes up the case, they investigate the claim and gather all the necessary evidence to build a strong case.
- Negotiate fair compensation – Based on the evidence available, an attorney can help with the negotiations and ensure the resident receives a fair settlement to compensate for medical bills, mental health therapy costs, lost savings, and other losses incurred due to the abuse.
- File a lawsuit – Often, the attorney can help reach an out-of-court settlement, but if this fails, they can assist with filing a lawsuit against the nursing home before the statute of limitations lapses.
- A victim of nursing home abuse & neglect can pursue justice against the offenders and seek financial compensation for any losses incurred due to the mistreatment.
- The law protects nursing home abuse victims and provides guidelines for reporting and pursuing justice for physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse, or neglect.
- The victim can report the abuse to the police, adult protective services, or the local long-term care ombudsman.
- A nursing home abuse lawyer can also help with the legal process and fighting for fair compensation.
If you are dealing with a nursing home abuse claim, contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation.