For most families, the decision to place an elderly loved one in a nursing home is a wrenching one. People want to do right by their parents, grandparents, or disabled family members, but keeping them at home isn’t always the best solution. This is especially true when the person needs around-the-clock care or has complex medical needs. When families finally decide on nursing home care, they do so with the understanding that is where the loved one will receive the best care. It is a devastating betrayal of trust when the nursing home staff neglects or abuses that person instead.
Defining Abuse and Neglect in a Nursing Home Setting
Every human being deserves respect, no matter what their age or limitations. The federal government states in its nursing home regulations that every person who lives in a care facility has the right to an environment free from mental, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse. Further, the regulations state that nursing home staff are not to use involuntary seclusion or corporal punishment.
The federal definition of nursing home abuse includes:
- Intentional infliction of injury
- Involuntary and unreasonable confinement
- Physical or verbal intimidation
- Deprivation of care and services
- Punitive punishment resulting in physical pain or mental anguish
The following actions constitute neglect according to federal guidelines:
- Failure to provide a resident with the services and care needed to ensure he or she doesn’t experience pain or harm
- Failure to react to situations with a high probability of danger that causes the resident to experience anxiety or actual harm
The above actions don’t have to be intentional for the nursing home or its individual employees to be guilty of neglect.
Common Types of Abuse and Neglect in a Nursing Home Setting
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1.4 million Americans lived in a nursing home in 2014. It listed 15,600 licensed nursing homes for the same reporting period, with approximately two-thirds of them operating as a for-profit business. Abuse and neglect of the elderly is a national concern due to the sheer number of people living in them. The following are some of the most common types of abuse reported by families of nursing home residents:
- Assault and battery, including beating, slapping, pushing, pinching, shaking, kicking, verbal abuse, or threatening behavior
- Using a psychotropic medication or physical restraint to control the resident that has not been approved by his or her doctor
- Refusing to treat existing medical problems
- Isolating the person from other residents or using excessively forceful physical restraint
- Sexual assault or rape
- Depriving residents of food or water
Indications Your Loved One Could Be a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse
No one is going to come right out and admit they are abusing nursing home residents in their care. Additionally, you can’t always depend on the person experiencing abuse to tell you about it due to feeling fearful or humiliated. Many people living in nursing homes have cognitive losses that affect their ability to communicate effectively or at all. It’s up to you as a loving family member to look for possible signs of abuse or neglect. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Bed sores from unreasonable restraint or being forced to stay in bed for hours each day
- Sudden behavior changes that are out of character for the person
- Displaying extreme agitation or completely withdrawing
- Offensive body odor and other signs of staff ignoring basic grooming needs
- Frequent unexplained falls
- Unexplained injuries in various stages of healing
- Sudden or extreme weight loss or gain
- Unwilling to speak in front of certain staff members
- One or more instances of wandering away unsupervised
- Frequent untreated illnesses not reported to the resident’s physician
While only staff members can be guilty of neglect, the same is not true of abuse. One resident could physically or sexually assault or intimidate another or make that person feel anxious due to hostile behavior. However, the responsibility for addressing the situation still lies with nursing home staff.
Contact Us to Discuss Your Confidential Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Case
If you have reported your concerns to the nursing home administration or local law enforcement and don’t feel satisfied with the response, you may wish to consider legal action. Wilson, Frame & Metheney represents nursing home residents and their families in personal injury lawsuits. You may be eligible for compensation to cover the increased cost of care, mental anguish, and more. Please request a free initial consultation to discover if this is the right path for your family.