While not all mistreatment of seniors can be prevented, there are some steps you can take to help prevent nursing home abuse and protect your elderly relative. Many seniors in nursing homes depend on the love and care of their families, and a vigilant and observant family member is typically the first to notice when something is amiss with their loved one. Family members of a loved one in the nursing home can help prevent nursing home abuse by:
- Knowing about the types of nursing home abuse and the signs and symptoms
- Communicating with their loved one regularly via phone or in person
- Immediately raising any concerns with the staff or the authorities
- Visiting regularly and observing caregivers interact with residents
- Taking note of the general appearance and cleanliness of the nursing home
Unfortunately, even though relatives may visit and call their loved one regularly, abuse and neglect can still occur. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect in their nursing home, you can consult with a nursing home abuse lawyer about your next best steps.
Nursing Homes Should Prevent Abuse and Neglect from Ever Happening
The nursing home is generally responsible for what happens on the property, including the safety and security of residents. The nursing home should also have procedures and policies in place that protect residents from abuse, whether it is done by staff members, other residents, visitors, or other persons. The nursing home should also take steps to ensure that there are enough employees to see to the needs of residents.
The nursing home should vet all new employees and train employees adequately.
Employing Adequate Numbers of Staff
Nursing homes should have a staff-to-resident ratio that allows caregivers and other employees time to help seniors with their basic daily needs and any other requirements they might have. Cost-cutting and the wish to maximize profits should not come before the health and emotional well-being of residents.
Background Checking and Vetting Employees
Abuse and neglect can occur when employees are overworked and exhausted. However, abuse can also occur when a nursing home fails to background check employees, which can result in convicted abusers or violent individuals working with vulnerable seniors.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a staggering one in ten Americans over the age of 60 now suffer from some form of abuse each year. However, nursing homes have a legal responsibility to ensure the well-being of their residents.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 is just one of a series of federal and state laws that seek to protect seniors, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). According to the act, a skilled nursing home must be free from abuse and neglect and ensure the “highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
In order to help prevent nursing home abuse, relatives should be aware of the various types of abuse and typical signs. Nursing home abuse and neglect can include:
Physical violence is perhaps the most shocking crime against a vulnerable and defenseless nursing home resident. Physical abuse is the intent to harm the senior with intentional use of violence, which can include kicking, hitting, shoving, and unlawfully restraining a senior. The signs of physical abuse can be detected relatively easily as violence can leave evidence, such as bruises, fractures, dislocations, and other injuries.
Emotional abuse, while not causing visible physical injuries, can lead to a mental, emotional, and physical decline of a senior. Emotional abuse can include threatening a senior, humiliating them in front of others, or isolating them. Unfortunately, emotional abuse may be tough to spot.
However, if your relative recently showed signs of anxiety or depression or another marked change in character, they could suffer from verbal or emotional abuse.
Sexual abuse can include a variety of sexual acts and other non-consensual behaviors, including but not limited to:
- Unwanted touching
- Unwanted nudity
- Sexual photographs or videos
- Forcing a senior to watch sexual acts
Signs that your loved one suffers from sexual abuse can include bloody or torn underwear, genital bruising, sexually transmitted diseases, and character changes.
General neglect can lead to various health problems, including malnutrition, dehydration, and avoidable infections. Neglecting to help a senior with daily tasks, such as eating and drinking, or inadequate personal hygiene can lead to a marked physical decline, as well as preventable medical conditions. A common example of nursing home neglect includes failing to regularly turn and reposition residents to prevent bedsores.
While financial exploitation does not necessarily affect the health of a nursing home resident, it can cause severe distress for the resident and their family. Financial abuse typically includes the use of a senior’s funds by theft or by exercising undue influence. Signs of financial abuse can include unpaid bills, missing valuables, and missing funds.
An Attorney Can Aid You in Your Fight for Justice
When the unthinkable has happened and your loved one has become the victim of abuse or neglect in their nursing home, you can demand justice. Nursing homes have the responsibility to care for your loved one and keep them safe from harm. Unfortunately, lawsuits against nursing homes can be challenging to prove and may require considerable resources, a great deal of research, and the help of expert witnesses.
We can help with all aspects of your claim and build a case against the negligent nursing home. If you are considering taking legal action against a nursing home, call Bernstein & Poisson today for a free case review at (702) 633-3333.