Nursing Home Law

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

It can be a difficult decision to put an aging parent in a nursing home. However, a residential care facility may be the only option to keep older family members safe when they can no longer care for themselves. Nursing home care is expensive, and many families don’t have many options to place a parent. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes provide the best care.

Abuse of nursing home residents is a crime, but it is often under-reported. Some nursing home staff and administrators are never held accountable for abusing nursing home residents. It is crucial to report nursing home abuse so older people are protected and treated with respect. To learn about older adult rights and legal options, talk to a local older adult law attorney with experience in nursing home abuse cases.

What Are the Different Types of Nursing Home Abuse?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers older adult abuse “an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.” Nursing home abuse can take many forms. Common types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse

Abuse of older people in residential care facilities is a common problem but often goes unreported. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), about 1 in 10 people aged 60 and older suffer abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Victims of abuse cases may not report abuse because they fear retaliation. Others may be unable to communicate due to mental impairment or Alzheimer’s.

Nursing home abuse can cause physical harm and mental health problems that continue for years. Many victims of nursing home abuse suffer emotional distress, depression, and anxiety.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can include hitting, slapping, or injuring older adults. Restraining a nursing home resident against their will or locking them in a room can also be considered physical abuse. Signs of nursing home abuse can include:

  • Unexplained bruising
  • Unexplained burns or scars
  • Broken bones
  • Injuries to the face, neck, or around the wrists or ankles

Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Emotional abuse can include making threats, humiliation, yelling, or ignoring residents in an assisted living facility. Isolation is another type of psychological mistreatment by keeping someone from seeing their friends or relatives. Signs of emotional or verbal abuse can include:

  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Seems withdrawn
  • Changes in behavior
  • Reacts in fear to nursing home staff

Financial Exploitation

Older people in nursing homes are also targets for financial abuse. Nursing home staff members or members of the older adult’s family may exploit the older person by taking money or property. Financial abuse can include taking property by fraud, theft, or threat of harm. Signs of financial exploitation may include:

  • Change in banking practices
  • Unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money
  • Including additional names on a bank account or credit card
  • Sudden change in a will or trust

Identifying Neglect in a Nursing Home

Nursing home neglect involves a caregiver failing to provide for the older adult resident’s physical, emotional, and social needs. Neglect can include failing to provide food, water, access to clean facilities, medication, and health care. In a nursing home facility, neglect may involve not staffing the facility with enough qualified workers.

Neglect of older persons can be challenging to identify. Neglect can be occasional or gradual but can also be severe. Signs of abuse and neglect in a nursing home can include:

  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Untreated bed sores
  • Poor hygiene
  • Over-medication
  • Untreated health problems
  • Unsafe living conditions

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Some older people in long-term care facilities are vulnerable to sexual abuse from nursing home staff or other residents. People with disabilities or memory problems can be at higher risk for sexual assault. Sexual abuse can include forcing an older adult to participate in sex acts or watch sexual activity. Warning signs of sexual abuse may include:

  • Bruising around the genitals or breasts
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases
  • Blood on sheets or clothing

How to Recognize Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home residents may not report their abuse because they have problems communicating, memory problems, or out of fear. Some residents worry their reports of abuse won’t be taken seriously or believed. It may be up to friends and family members to look for signs of different types of older adult abuse.

Nursing home administrators and staff members can be very good at covering up signs of abuse. They may appear to care a lot for the health and well-being of residents, only to act the opposite behind closed doors. If you think there is a chance someone is suffering abuse, report it.

Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse is a crime. If you suspect abuse, neglect, exploitation, or other forms of abuse, report your concerns to your local authorities. Your state adult protective services (APS) can step in to protect vulnerable adults and stop the abuse. In some cases, state authorities may prosecute those involved in abuse so they face criminal penalties.

How Can Children of Nursing Home Residents Protect Their Parents?

If you suspect your parent may be suffering abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you may be able to help your loved one by talking to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Even if you aren’t sure if there is abuse, take your observations and questions to a nursing home abuse attorney for an initial consultation.

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