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When we trust our loved ones in the hands of nursing home employees and caregivers, the last thing we want to think about is the risk of neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, cases of nursing home abuse and neglect inside our country’s nursing and assisted living facilities are more widespread than you might think. Approximately 10% of all seniors experience some type of elder abuse. This amounts to roughly 500,000 abuse cases per year. Abuse and neglect can come in many forms and can affect each victim differently. Here is what you need to know about the different forms of elderly abuse and neglect that commonly occur at nursing homes and long-term care facilities:
Physical abuse is generally the easiest type of abuse to identify and prove in court. You’ll be able to see telltale signs of abuse in the form of bruises, scars, restraint marks, broken bones, cuts, scrapes, and ruined clothing. Physical abuse in nursing homes usually involves staff members who hit residents, forcefully mishandle them, or improperly use restraints.
Emotional abuse is more difficult to prove and see signs of, but it’s one of the most devastating ways in which the elderly are often abused. This type of abuse can result from staff members who ridicule and humiliate your loved one, intimidate and scare them, or even excessively ignore them and/or isolate them from other residents. Any type of demeaning behavior technically qualifies as abuse, especially if it can be proved that your loved one has experienced emotional trauma as a result. Signs of emotional abuse can vary significantly and largely depend on the victim’s demeanor. Any major, sudden changes in mood, noticeable signs of fear, or emotional outbursts when particular staff members are near your loved one may be signs that some form of emotional abuse is going on.
Financial abuse is generally more common in non-institutional caregiving situations, but it isn’t unheard of at nursing homes. In a nursing home, it can take the form of a staff member pressuring a loved one to divulge personal information including bank account information as well as stealing money or personal property from the individual. Any time an elderly victim is coerced to make changes to a deed, will, or trust this also counts as financial abuse. There are many telltale signs of financial abuse.
Sexual abuse occurs when non-consensual sexual acts take place inside a nursing home. Most victims are taken advantage of or forced. Emotional abuse and physical abuse are often linked to sexual abuse. Signs of sexual abuse include torn or ripped undergarments or bruising in the groin area.
Nursing home employees are commonly overworked and aren’t always able to give each resident the full amount of time they deserve. Despite this fact, nursing homes and caregiving facilities have a responsibility to provide adequate medical care, physical/emotional assistance, and nutrition to each and every single resident. When these basic responsibilities aren’t met, this is called nursing home neglect or negligence. Neglect can cause serious health issues to a loved one and often results in physical and emotional abuse. Signs of neglect include many of the same signs as abuse, but malnutrition, dirty/unclean conditions, and signs that proper medical care isn’t being provided may be more obvious.
It is not unusual for nursing home residents to wander. Patients with dementia and other mental deficits often lose track of where they are and find themselves in and out of other patient rooms and in areas of the nursing home where hazards can cause substantial harm. Worse, patients can leave the facility if not properly monitored and end up outside the nursing home out in the elements. All nursing homes are required to take care to protect patients who wander and ensure they do not leave the facility.
Violation of Nursing Home Resident’s Rights
One other common form of nursing home neglect happens when a resident’s rights are violated. In Kentucky, every resident who stays at a long-term care facility is legally protected under the 1987 Federal Nursing Home Reform Law as well as state laws (KRS 216.520). Under these laws, all Kentucky nursing home residents are entitled to the following rights:
- To be treated with dignity and respect
- To participate in his or her own care
- To privacy, confidentiality, and personal possessions
- To receive or refuse visitors
- To be fully informed of rights, as well as rules and regulations of the facility
- To present grievances and file complaints without fear of reprisal
Employees at long-term care facilities do not often go out of their way to remind residents and family members about these rights. If these rights are violated in any way, the family of the resident is fully entitled to pursue legal action for damages.
Taking Appropriate Action
If your loved one has suffered from any of the above forms of abuse or neglect or you have reasons to believe they are suffering, take action quickly. Speak to your loved one and find out the facts. Gather as much information and evidence as possible immediately after the incident occurs. Retain any documentation or medical records of reported incidents. If signs of abuse are evident and ongoing, your first step should be to protect your loved one and remove them from the nursing home or facility. Afterwards, contact Kentucky’s Elder Abuse Hotline. This will help protect other potential victims by letting the authorities know if need be. It may also be a good idea to file a complaint with adult protective services. After the above steps are taken, it’s best to contact a Louisville, KY nursing home abuse lawyer like Tad Thomas who can help you ensure that the abusive or negligent nursing home and staff members never harm anyone again. Filing a lawsuit will help guarantee that your family makes it through this troubled time and finds a new, safe long-term facility for your loved one. Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices has helped many families through difficult times and can help you and your family by providing peace of mind and providing the legal assistance you and your loved ones deserve. Contact Tad Thomas today for a free case evaluation.