The purposes of nursing homes is to provide a high level of care for the elderly of society. Many adults enter a nursing home when they think they cannot live safely and easily on their own anymore. Most nursing homes are clean, safe and comfortable. But not all nursing homes are the same.
There are some facilities that are dangerous and dirty, and others where caregivers may engage in acts of abuse and neglect. The purpose of this article is to describe the types of nursing home abuse that commonly occur across the country.
Overview of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is a growing problem. Surveys suggest that up to 40% of nursing home residents have experienced some type of abuse, and more than 90% have reported that residents in the facility are regularly neglected.
According to the National Center of Elder Abuse (NCEA), there are six major types of nursing home and elder abuse:
Some of the most common types of physical abuse in a nursing home are:
- Bedsores: These are also known as pressure ulcers. These are not a normal part of aging or living in a nursing home. There are serious issues to the skin and underlying tissue that is caused by long term pressure on certain areas of the body. Bedsores occur in the elderly when they are left in bed too long without changing position. Bedsores are common on the ankles, heels, backs of legs, buttocks and hips. This is a strong sign that the loved one is not being cared for.
- Dehydration: If the person does not get enough water each day, they have a higher risk of serious medical problems. Older people may become irritable and confused, and possibly develop low blood pressure and fast breathing. In the worst cases of dehydration, they may lose consciousness or become delirious. Long term dehydration can lead to brain swelling, kidney failure and death.
- Malnutrition: This can happen in nursing homes when the patients are not being fed properly. Everyone needs a healthy diet to stay in good health. But for older people with medical problems, a good diet is essential to keep them alive. Malnutrition can make the person’s medical problem worse and can lead to worse problems and even death.
- Positional asphyxia: This is when a person is not getting enough oxygen to certain body parts because of restraints or body position. Loss of oxygen to body parts can lead to cellular death and amputation. If the person is restrained by the neck, it can lead to brain damage and death.
- Improper restraints: There are legitimate times when workers at a nursing home must restrain the nursing home resident for their own safety. For example, a restraint could be used to ensure a patient with dementia will not fall out of a chair or bed. But restraining the patient too much for too long can be dangerous. It may cause physical pain, bed sores, mental pain, suffering and possibly death.
- Chemical restraint: Some nursing homes may use medications improperly to keep difficult residents sedated. This practice is very dangerous and should be avoided except in the most extreme circumstances. Receiving high levels of narcotics or sleeping medications can present serious medical consequences. Chemical restraint may cause decreased cognitive abilities, mental health problems and overdoses.
Elderly people in nursing homes are at higher risk for sexual assault because they do not have as much mobility and may be unaware of their surroundings. Some elderly may be aware but lack the ability to communicate that they are being abused. All of these issues can cause a physically able worker to take advantage of the nursing home resident who cannot fight back.
Financial abuse is more common among family who are caring for the loved one at home, but it still can occur in a nursing home environment. Financial abuse is the improper and illegal use of the assets of the person. This type of abuse may include cashing the person’s Social Security check or pension check; taking property or money from the person; coercing or forcing the resident into giving up property and signing legal documents, etc. Financial abuse is 12% of the elder abuse that occurs in the US each year.
Elder abandonment is when a caregiver who has assumed legal responsibility for caring for the senior and does not do so. If the elderly person is usually left alone in the nursing home and has no interaction with others, or is left to wander rooms and halls with no supervision, this qualifies as abandonment. Most seniors who are abandoned and neglected in a nursing home will show serious physical signs of neglect, such as dehydration, poor hygiene and malnutrition.
Neglect in a nursing home is the failure of workers and supervisors to take proper care of the senior. This can include failure to feed and provide water, provide medications, bathe and clean the person and ensure their personal safety. Neglect in a nursing home can lead to serious mental and physical problems and even death. Common signs of neglect at a nursing home include most of the physical symptoms highlighted above: bed sores, poor hygiene, malnutrition and dehydration.
Emotional abuse in a nursing home can be more challenging to spot. But it is just as terrible as any physical abuse. Such mistreatment happens when the worker purposely causes anxiety and stress to the person and leaves them in emotional pain. Verbal abuse is the most common type of emotional abuse. It involves threatening and shouting; ridicule and humiliation; blaming the resident for things that are not their fault; and completely ignoring and isolating the resident.
Nursing Home Abuse And Victims’ Rights
It is important to remember that nursing home abuse victims have rights. If you put your spouse, grandparent or other loved one in a nursing home, you have a reasonable expectation that the facility will provide a certain level of attention and care. If you think your loved one is being mistreated in a nursing facility, you may pursue compensation for their pain and suffering through a personal injury lawsuit.
Nursing home and elder abuse is a serious matter under US law, and it is a criminal act. But the law does not always provide the victims all the justice they deserve. Depending upon the nursing home abuse case, you could be entitled to compensation for medical costs and pain and suffering. With the assistance of a personal injury attorney, you may consider filing a lawsuit for your loved one.
Additional Nursing Home Abuse Articles
- Types and Examples of Nursing Home Abuse
- Nursing Home Abuse: How to Report or File a Complaint
- Wrongful Death vs Neglect in Nursing Home Abuse Cases
- Elderly Abuse in Nursing Home Homes