Understanding Nursing Home Abuse
Every year, families across the United States make the difficult decision to place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes and extended care facilities. Seniors make the move into long-term care facilities due to deteriorating health and the need for assistance, care and support.
Sons, daughters and grandchildren—and seniors themselves—generally assume that high standards of attention, care and treatment will be met with professionalism and compassion.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes and care facilities fail to provide the minimum standard of care assumed by residents and their relatives. Instead, abuse of many varieties is perpetrated against elderly residents of nursing homes. In many cases, it puts the individual’s life at risk. Abuse can result in trauma, medical emergencies and even death.
Nursing home abuse is a shockingly prevalent problem that many family members may not even be aware of. Sadly, many families are not actively engaged in the care of their elderly loved ones. As a result, neglect and abuse continue to occur and may go unnoticed.
Statistics regarding nursing home abuse are not concrete because cases of abuse often go unreported. Some statistics indicate that as many as 1 in 3 senior residents have been victims of nursing home abuse. Another study from 2012 found that as many of 85 percent of nursing home facilities reported at least one case of abuse or neglect. This number may actually be much higher; other studies revealed that only 53 percent of incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect actually get reported.
When considering the cost of nursing home care paid by seniors and their families, it can be disheartening and discouraging for victims to think that they are not receiving the standard of care they felt they were paying for.
With information and education, victims and their families can better understand the risks, signs and different types of nursing home abuse committed against seniors. Additionally, education about nursing home abuse provides victims and families with important information about their personal rights and which actions to take to stop and prevent nursing home abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse Types
There are many types of nursing home abuse and neglect that lead to various different symptoms and outcomes. When people think of nursing home abuse, they may automatically think of physical abuse or assault as this may be the most obvious type. However, nursing home abuse is often much less obvious or more discreet.
Here are some of the main nursing home abuse types:
- Emotional and mental
- Financial and material exploitation
- Healthcare fraud
Examples of Neglect or Abuse Complaints in Nursing Homes
Nursing home abuse or neglect complaints vary from facility to facility. Complaints can be filed against many different departments and levels of staffing at nursing homes.
Complaints can be filed against:
- Nursing home care and medical staff
- Nursing home administrative staff
- Other nursing home residents
Many experts go so far as to include poor facility management, improper medication provision and unsanitary and unclean conditions as a form of elder abuse or neglect.
Examples of common complaints regarding nursing home abuse include:
- Failure to respond to residents’ requests for assistance
- Unresponsiveness to concerns about conflicts between residents
- Misadministration of medications
- Inattentive staff members that show disrespect or poor attitudes toward residents
- Poor administrative planning when it comes to moving residents between floors or rooms
Nursing Home Abuse Injuries
Nursing home residents can suffer a variety of injuries when abuse or neglect are taking place. Injuries can range from mild and treatable to severe and life-threatening. The health repercussions of these injuries can be extremely costly. They place unnecessary stress and burden on the resident and their families.
Nursing home abuse can produce the following types of injuries and illness:
- Bruises, burns and welts on the skin
- Bedsores or pressure ulcers
- Cuts, lacerations and skin tears
- Broken and fractured bones
- Head and dental injuries
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Fatigue, insomnia or other sleep disorders
- Illness or infection
Not only does nursing home abuse lead to physical injuries. It can also cause various emotional and mental consequences.
Common emotional symptoms of elder abuse include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Developing aggressive or violent behavior
- Lowered confidence and self-worth
- Trauma and PTSD symptoms
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Nursing home abuse produces different injuries and symptoms in each individual case.
The extent to which abuse is carried out determines the severity of the injuries and symptoms that take place. Some are acute and require immediate medical attention, while others, like emotional suffering, are chronic and go undetected.
Nursing Home Abuse Causes
There are many reasons why elder abuse occurs in nursing homes and care facilities. Typically, it is the result of unqualified and unfit care staff. When staff are not trained or properly educated, they become easily frustrated and stressed. These feelings cause the staff members to neglect their residents.
Other factors that cause nursing home abuse are the chronic staff shortages that many of these facilities face. As a result, caregivers become overwhelmed and feel they do not have the resources to adequately perform their jobs.
Without the proper care and attention that is due to each resident, many elders end up neglected. Over time, this chronic neglect can cause many additional physical and emotional issues. Certain elders are also at greater risk of being abused.
Potential risk factors for elder abuse include:
- Cognitive illness like dementia
- Mental illness
- Physical disabilities
- Being wealthy or having access to wealth
- Being female, a veteran or identifying as LGBT
- Having additional and extensive personal care needs
Nursing Home Abuse Signs
Recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse is critical to protect victims and prevent continued abuse and neglect. Signs of nursing home abuse can range from subtle neglect to full physical abuse.
Often physical signs of abuse are the first to be recognized. This is because injuries like broken bones and fractures or bruises and welts are difficult to hide. They quickly become apparent to family members and others who work with the senior.
Unfortunately, signs of sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse and exploitation are sometimes harder to identify. For this reason, these types of nursing home abuse may persist long-term before the problem is recognized and addressed.
Nursing Home Abuse Laws
Federal and state laws are in place to legislate conduct in nursing homes. Residents of nursing homes hold the right to a safe living environment free of physical abuse, mistreatment and neglect. Additionally, elders residing in nursing homes also have the right to actively participate in decisions regarding their own personal care.
When nursing home abuse laws are not followed, many families and victims take legal action against nursing home facilities to rectify the damage that has been done. It is important for families and victims to know and understand their own personal rights when it comes to conduct within nursing home facilities. This will help them prevent and correct abusive and neglectful outcomes.
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse
While there are many instances of nursing home abuse that go undetected, it is still possible to prevent it from happening or continuing. The key to preventing nursing home abuse is understanding its many forms and recognizing the signs and causes.
Further, it is crucial to speak up if you suspect that you or your loved one is a victim of abuse. Bringing your concerns to the attention of nursing home staff and management places the behaviors and neglect on the record.
As the victim or the family of the victim, it is vital to record all incidents and injuries. Nursing home facilities that are held accountable are less likely to conduct themselves in neglectful and abusive manners.
If abuse and neglect persist without consequence, it creates a culture that accepts nursing home abuse as a way of business. This is why is essential to know your rights and take action when you know or suspect nursing home abuse is taking place.