Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes
Placing a loved one in an assisted living facility or nursing home is an extremely hard decision. Families will often spend a great deal of time researching various facilities in order to find the best place for their family member. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nursing Home Care research, there are approximately 16,100 nursing homes in the United States, with a total of 1.7 million beds. The CDC reports that approximately 551,000 of persons 60 and older have experienced some form of neglect, abuse, or self-neglect while in the care of these facilities.
This neglect is often the result of the nursing home placing profits above the best interests of the patients. In an attempt to cut costs, nursing homes often fail to implement proper hiring procedures and background checks, train their employees, and invest in proper safety measures. Regardless of the excuse for the abuse or neglect of your loved one, nothing changes unless you take action.
Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse and neglect takes many different forms. The National Center on Elder Abuse classifies nursing home mistreatment into the following categories:
Physical Abuse: This includes causing, or threatening to cause physical injury or pain. This category also includes depriving an elder of a basic need, such as food or medication. Signs and symptoms of physical abuse may include:
- Lacerations, puncture marks, welts, brushing, and black eyes
- Open wounds, bed sores, broken bones, internal bleeding, and cuts
- Broken eyeglasses or signs of restraint
- Medication overdoes or medication withholding in lab reports
- Sudden behavioral changes, such as a refusal to see visitors.
Emotional Abuse: This category focuses on the verbal or non verbal acts which inflict mental pain, distress or anguish on an older individual. Signs and symptoms of elder emotional abuse may include:
- Extreme Withdrawal
- Emotionally agitated or upset
- Sudden change in behavior
- Non-Responsive persona
Sexual Abuse: Any sexual contact deemed non-consensual. This also includes coercing an elder to watch sexual acts. Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse may include:
- Unexplained anal or vaginal bleeding
- Bruising around the genitals or breasts
- Torn or bloody clothing or undergarments
- Unexplained venereal disease
Exploitation: Illegal stealing, concealment or misuse of assets, property or funds of an elder. Signs and symptoms of exploitation may include:
- Unexpected changes in financial planning, such as wills or trusts
- Sudden withdrawal of large sums of money
- Strange use of elders ATM cards
- Forged signatures and unexplained money transfers
Neglect: This occurs when a responsible party denies or fails to provide protection, shelter, food, or healthcare to an elder. Signs and Symptoms of neglect may include:
- Changes in physical appearance due to malnutrition, dehydration, or routine
- Appearance of bed sores or unsanitary living conditions
- Untreated medical problems
Abandonment: Anyone who deserts an elderly person after they have undertaken the responsibility to provide care or custody. Signs and symptoms of abandonment may include:
- Elderly individual roaming the street or various public locations
- Any other of the many forms of desertion and solitary confinement
While efforts have provided a classification system to the different forms of abuse, many elderly citizens experience a combination of mistreatments. In addition, the signs and symptoms listed above are only a fraction of those reported. It is important to remember that the number one place you should start asking questions is with the abused or neglected person if they are in a capacity to talk. Trust your instinct in these situations. You can never be too careful.
How to Report Elder Abuse and Neglect
Reporting Elder Abuse is extremely important. The CDC estimates that 79% of elder abuse cases go unreported. If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected, you should start by calling 911 if the situation is threatening. Often, the individual needs to be immediately removed from the situation for protection and medical care.
If you are being abused, or abuse of a loved one is suspected, the Adult Protective Services program in Missouri is a great resource. This organization allows Missouri nursing home abuse patients to report abuse and research information on how to get help. Family members of loved ones or anyone who suspects abuse is occurring is encouraged to call. The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services is another great resource when dealing with elder neglect or abuse.
Federal and State Nursing Home Laws
Nursing home residents in the United States are protected by both federal and state law. The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980 was established to protect the civil rights of residents of nursing homes and similar care facilities. Amendments to the act, known as the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act, provided additional safeguards for nursing home resident rights.
In addition to federal regulations, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services provides licensing and regulation safety requirements for nursing homes operating within the State. These nursing home regulations cover the majority of the operations withing nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Legal Help for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
If a loved one has been subjected to abuse or neglect in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, they are entitled to reimbursement for their harms and losses. These may include medical expenses, pain and suffering, future medical care, assisted living costs, and other damages. It is important that all cases of elder abuse are reported to stop the abuse and also to make sure others do not undergo the same mistreatment.
If a loved one has died as the result of abuse or care while in a nursing home, the family is entitled to reimbursement for their loss. A nursing home wrongful death case will help the family with funeral and burial expenses, as well as reimbursement for suffering caused by the loss of your loved one. In addition, it will ensure changes are made at the facility and other residents are protected.
The St. Louis Nursing home abuse lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm have helped numerous victims recover for their suffering. The National Trial Lawyer’s Association recognizes the lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm as Top 100 Trial Lawyers for their compassionate and aggressive legal representation. For a FREE nursing home abuse consultation, call (314) 409-7060, or 855-402-7274 (toll free).