The number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the United States has proliferated in recent years. As baby boomers age, an increasing elderly population is turning to nursing facilities for the care, social stimulus, and positive environment that can provide them with numerous benefits. While some nursing homes provide excellent care to their residents, unfortunately, not all nursing homes and staff treat residents with the care and respect they deserve.
Nursing home mistreatment can take many forms, including physical or emotional abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and sexual assault. While statistics show that nursing home abuse is far more common than most would believe – with roughly 1 in 10 Americans 60 years of age or older experiencing some form of abuse, according to the National Council on Aging – many problems still exist when it comes to preventing and stopping mistreatment.
Underreporting of abuse can be caused by numerous factors, including vulnerable residents who are too scared or physically or mentally unable to voice their complaints. According to a recent investigation by CNN, there are also systemic failures in how nursing homes and law enforcement handle alleged abuse. Because elderly victims face difficulties in reporting mistreatment, it becomes vital for families to be vigilant of their loved one’s state of health and making sure they received the care they need.
Below are a few warning signs of mistreatment in nursing homes:
- Neglect – Neglect refers to the failure of care providers to deliver the services necessary to ensure the health and safety of residents, as well as failures to respond appropriately to dangerous situations. Signs of neglect can include dehydration and malnutrition caused by prolonged deprivation of good or water, infections, pressure ulcers (bed sores) caused by inactivity and neglected hygiene, falls, frequent illnesses, and unsanitary or unclean conditions. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to reasonably ensure the safety and security of residents, and when they neglect their needs, they can be held accountable.
- Abuse – Abuse can be physical or verbal, and it can cause patients to suffer serious physical or psychological injuries. Signs to watch for include unexplained injuries, unusual behavioral changes, self-isolation, depression, anxiety or agitation, reluctance to speak In the presence of staff members, heavy medication or sedation, and other signs of unusual physical or emotional symptoms.
- Sexual Assault – Sexual abuse occurs in nursing homes far more than is reported or discussed, but because victims are in vulnerable states of health, and are often unable or unwilling to discuss abuses, it can be difficult to identify. Families should take allegations from residents as seriously as possible, and should also watch for signs of emotional or psychological changes, including depression and increasing isolation, anxiety, unusual sexual behavior, and suicidal ideation. There may also be physical signs of sexual abuse, including pelvic injuries, bruising around the genital area, stained or torn undergarments, and STDs.
- Financial Exploitation – Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to deceptive or forceful tactics that enable financial exploitation. In order to take action when suspicions arise, families should pay close attention to their loved one’s financial health and watch for signs that include opening of new bank accounts or titles of possession, missing personal belongings, unexplained transfers of money or assets, frequent checks written to individuals, unexpected banking withdrawals, and a reluctance to discuss financial issues that were once routine.
Nursing homes are ultimately responsible for the safety of residents, and for the conduct of staff. Should you suspect your loved one is experiencing abuse or mistreatment, taking immediate and decisive action is critical to stopping the abuse. By pursuing a nursing home abuse lawsuit, your loved one and family can secure justice and compensation for damages, and play a vital role in preventing similar abuse or mistreatment from going unreported and happening to others.
Our Cleveland nursing home abuse lawyers at Spangenberg, Shibley & Liber represent victims and families throughout the state in a range of matters involving elder abuse. If you have questions about you particular situation and rights, contact us for a free consultation.