Is Your Loved One Being Abused? Know the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
The Family Caregiver Alliance, a National Center on Caregiving, reports that over 1.383 million Americans receive long-term care in a nursing home facility. Another 1.2 million reside in hospice care while over 700,000 live in residential care communities. It is expected that this figure will increase dramatically in the coming years as more and more baby boomers hit the age at which they may require long-term care. Nursing homes are intended to provide a caring place that can meet the needs of residents who can no longer safely live at home on their own. The decision to place a family member in a nursing home is never an easy one, but most people feel they are making the right choice when they select a reputable facility that provides quality care for their loved ones. However, instances of nursing home abuse and neglect are shockingly common.
At Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law, our Atlanta nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers understand how devastating it can be to discover that your relative is being mistreated. You trust the nursing home facility you selected to act in a professional and reasonable manner. When your relative ends up injured, it can be extremely upsetting. Fortunately, there is legal action you and your loved one can take to seek justice for the injuries inflicted and help prevent others from experiencing similar abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect—Statistics
The National Center on Elder Abuse (downloads a PDF file to your computer), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, considers elder abuse a tremendous national problem. The agency defines elder abuse as intentional actions that harm or create the risk of serious harm to vulnerable elderly individuals. The agency looks at elder abuse occurring in all settings, including nursing homes. However, the true incidence of elder abuse is hard to calculate because so many cases go unreported. Here are some alarming facts about nursing home abuse and neglect:
- The agency reports that one in three nursing homes across the United States have been cited for violating federal standards that had the potential to cause harm or had already caused harm. One in ten nursing homes had violations that caused residents serious harm or placed them at risk of death.
- In a study that involved interviews of some 2,000 nursing home residents, 44 percent reported that they had been abused, and 95 percent said they had been neglected or witnessed the neglect of another resident.
- Shockingly, over 50 percent of the staff admitted to mistreating, which includes physical abuse and neglect, residents within the year before the study.
- A survey of certified nursing assistants (CNA) revealed that 17 percent of CNA's had shoved, pushed, or grabbed a resident while over half yelled at residents and another 23 percent swore or insulted residents.
All of these studies involved surveys, interviews, and self-reports. With this in mind, it is likely that true rates of nursing home abuse and neglect exceed even these alarming statistics. Every nursing home resident is at risk of mistreatment. This makes it vital for caregivers to know the types of abuse that may occur and how to spot signs of abuse, especially if your loved one is suffering from dementia or another condition that could prevent them from informing you or an authority figure at the nursing home or care facility.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
If you or someone you love is the resident of a nursing home, you should be aware of the common types of nursing home abuse. These include, among others:
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse of a resident involves the actual infliction of injuries or the threat of physical harm. It can involve hitting, shoving, pushing, the use of excessive restraint, or harming the person's physical body through the withholding of vital food, fluids, medication, and more. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, physical abuse comprises approximately 25-30 percent of all elder abuse.
- Neglect: Neglect is without a doubt one of the most common forms of nursing home abuse. Neglect involves failure to meet a nursing home resident's basic needs, such as providing food, shelter, fluids, hygiene, medication, exercise, and security. Gross neglect comprises about 15 percent of all abuse complaints. Neglect is often one of the most difficult forms of abuse to spot as it may not inflict clear physical markers.
- Emotional and Psychological Abuse: This type of abuse involves the intentional infliction of emotional distress through either verbal or non-verbal means. It could include cruel taunts to the resident, continual neglect that impacts the resident psychologically, and much more. This is another form of abuse and neglect that is difficult to spot.
- Over medicating: Many nursing home residents are on prescription medications. Some residents are prescribed tranquilizing type drugs to assist with anxiety and stress that can be associated with aging or memory loss. Nursing homes must closely monitor a resident's prescription drugs. At times, nursing homes will over prescribe or over medicate patients so as to make them more "manageable." This can greatly harm a resident's mental state and quality of life.
- Resident to Resident Abuse: Between 14 and 22 percent of complaints filed by residents are for abuse by another resident. Nursing homes have the duty to provide residents with a safe environment, which includes protecting residents from other residents that threaten their safety or their emotional state.
- Financial Abuse: Nursing home caregivers have been known to financially exploit residents. Instances of outright theft of valuables or monies are not uncommon while other nursing home staff go even further to pressure residents into providing financial gifts. There have even been instances of stealing the resident's identity for financial gain.
- Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse has been documented in nursing homes across the country. Staff members are the most frequent perpetrators, though other residents will also sometimes commit sexual abuse to another resident.
Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Some forms of abuse will be easily recognized, such as physical wounds, but many others are more insidious and can be hard to detect. The prompt discovery of abuse or neglect will best be made by frequent visits to the nursing home facility. You may catch staff restraining or overmedicating your loved one, or engaging in other mistreatment, if you stop by often. Ask your loved one about their care if they can recall and communicate. Be on the lookout for the following potential signs of abuse or neglect, among others:
- Open wounds
- Bed sores
- Frequent bruises
- Burns or abrasions
- Loss of hair
- Poor hygiene, such as lying in soiled clothes or sheets, dirty appearance, or the smell of urine and feces within the room
- Decline in physical health, including loss of teeth
- Stained, torn, or bloody clothes or sheets
- Unresponsiveness or listlessness that may indicate overmedication
- Excessive hunger or thirst
- Odd financial transactions
- Missing items
- Fear of another resident
- Decreased activity
- Changes in a resident's will
- Changes in power of attorney
- Financial problems, such as unpaid bills
- Fear or silence around nursing home staff
- Emotional withdrawal
- Fear of physical touch
- Strange behaviors
These are just a few potential signs. As the caregiver or relative, you will know your loved one best and be in a better position than others to identify out of character behavior that might indicate abuse. Never brush aside genuine concerns or a feeling that something is amiss, as this might be the first indications of an abusive situation.
What You Can Do If You Suspect Your Loved One is Being Mistreated in a Georgia Nursing Home
If you suspect your loved one is being abused, you must take action to report the situation immediately. The National Center on Elder Abuse has a directory of numbers you can call to report the abuse to a national center that can help. Georgia law in O.C.G.A. 30-5-10 specifically authorizes Georgia agencies to develop training and educational programs concerning abuse or exploitation of those over the age of 65.
Reporting the abuse is not your only course of action. You can seek the assistance of a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney who could assist your loved one in filing an action against the nursing home. A nursing home abuse attorney can help you recover compensation for the injured resident's medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the facility. By filing a claim against the nursing home, you can also deter the nursing home from allowing similar abuse to occur in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
My loved one has suffered from several falls since entering the nursing home, does this mean he or she is experiencing abuse?
Possibly. Falls do occur, and some are the result of pure accident. However, the nursing home facility is required to evaluate your loved one's fall risk and take steps to guard against falls. If your loved one is falling due to overmedication, lack of assistance getting around, slippery floors, or similar reasons, this could be a sign of neglect or abuse.
Another resident is yelling at my relative and generally upsetting him or her, is this an instance of abuse?
It could be. While the nursing home cannot be held accountable for the resident's behavior, it must take steps to protect residents from the misbehavior of fellow residents. If your relative has reported the behavior and the staff are aware that it is frequently occurring and inflicting distress, they have a duty to take action to protect your loved one. Moreover, the failure in such an instance to take any action could be a form of neglect, dependent upon the precise circumstances.
How can I protect my loved one from financial fraud?
It may be wise not to send valuables to the nursing home where they might be stolen. Keep minimal cash in your relative's room. Frequently look at your loved one's finances, including bank and credit card statements, valuables, and more so that you will catch instances of fraud right away if it occurs.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 37 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Case!
If you suspect your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, the Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, are here to help. For over 37 years, our firm has represented injured nursing home residents across Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.