Protect Your Loved One by Being on the Lookout for Nursing Home Abuse
No one wants to place a parent, family member, or close friend in a nursing home. However, sometimes there is no choice when a loved one cannot take care of himself due to physical frailty, medical conditions, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease. If you are in this situation, you may do what you can to carefully select a nursing home. Unfortunately, you still must be on guard to ensure your loved one is not the victim of nursing home abuse and neglect. If he is like many nursing home residents, he may not realize the abuse and neglect is going on or may not be able to communicate his concerns to other staff or to you.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse and Elder Neglect?
Nursing home abuse and neglect are similar in many ways, but are not exactly the same. Nursing home abuse is the intentional infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment that results in the elderly resident suffering physical harm, pain, mental and emotional distress, and deprivation. It can take many forms, such as slapping, hitting, and pushing, using restraints, sexual abuse, and taking advantage of the person financially or stealing from him.
Nursing home neglect is the breach of the duty to provide adequate care or providing substandard care that causes the patient to suffer injuries. It often involves the person’s needs for shelter, food, clothing, personal hygiene care, and medical care.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Understanding the types of nursing home abuse and neglect can help you step in to protect your family member if the need arises. Some ways the nursing home and staff could mistreat your loved one that constitutes abuse or neglect includes:
- Malnutrition. Sadly, this is a leading cause of nursing home abuse. The problem can be eating an unbalanced diet without the proper nutrients, eating too much of certain nutrients, or having an inadequate amount of food. Nursing home staff must be especially vigilant in supervising elderly resident’s eating because many could have difficulties due to dental conditions, medical conditions, and loss of appetite.
- Dehydration. This is the excessive loss of body fluids and is often caused by nursing home staff either forgetting to or failing to provide adequate fluids to nursing home residents—many who are unable to physically get their own drinks or to communicate their needs for one. Dehydration can lead to other serious medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system, worsened dementia, or bed sores.
- Failure to maintain a clean facility. Keeping a nursing home facility clean and safe is crucial to ensuring that residents remain safe and healthy. This includes a wide range of duties, including staff being diligent enough to clean up spills that could cause slip and fall accidents and monitoring residents to prevent a patient from attacking another one.
- Verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is a common form of emotional abuse that can cause an elderly resident to suffer serious psychological damage. It can include yelling, rude remarks, insults, and criticism. Impatience—such as trivializing patients’ concerns or impatience with their eating—is also a type of verbal abuse.
- Physical abuse. Physical abuse includes many of the things you might expect, such as slapping, punching, kicking, or pinching the senior. It also includes other abusive actions such as the use of physical restraints and the withholding of prescribed medications.
- Psychological abuse. This is also referred to as emotional abuse and can be more difficult to detect than physical abuse because of the lack of physical signs of it. Nursing home staff can engage in this type of abuse by humiliating, demeaning, intimidating, isolating, and ignoring nursing home patients. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in nursing homes that are often understaffed.
- Sexual abuse. This can include unwanted sexual touching, gestures, joking, or rape. The victims are often very vulnerable and may be unable to defend themselves or communicate that the sexual abuse is occurring.
- Financial abuse. Financial abuse is the improper or illegal use of a resident’s property, money, or other assets. It can include withdrawing cash from a resident’s bank account, cashing the resident’s checks, stealing property in the resident’s room, and forging the resident’s signature on legal documents.
- Neglect of basic needs. This involves failing to provide for the basic needs of the elderly patient, such as failing to provide prescribed medications, failing to attend to the person’s bathroom needs, and failing to provide sufficient or proper nutrition.
- Isolation. Isolation is a form of emotional abuse and occurs when nursing home staff ignores a patient or keeps him confined to his room with little social interaction. Untrained and overworked staff may employ this abusive tactic as punishment, an attempt to hide other abuse, or to intimidate the person.
- Wandering. Wandering and elopement—unsupervised wandering where the resident leaves the nursing home—puts the elderly at risk of physically harming themselves or others. Elderly residents can wander around the nursing home or off the property when nursing home staff fails to supervise them properly.
- Physical restraints. While some residents need physical restraints to stay safe, more commonly it is used by staff as a means of convenience when less intrusive methods of care could be utilized. The use of these devices can actually harm patients by decreasing their physical functioning and causing muscle atrophy.
- Failure to provide vaccines. Failing to have nursing home residents vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia can lead to dangerous outbreaks of the flu and patients developing pneumonia—both potentially life-threatening conditions for many residents who have weakened immune systems and other health problems.
- Medication errors. Medication errors are common in nursing homes where staff are often inadequately trained. Failing to give a patient his medication, giving him another patient’s medicine, giving the wrong dosage, or providing medication in a form the patient cannot take are examples of medication errors routinely made. This can cause deterioration in the resident’s medical condition or an adverse medication reaction—sometimes with disastrous results.
If you suspect a family member is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you need to take legal action to protect his rights. Call our firm today at 877-401-6689 to schedule a free consultation to learn how we may be able to help.