When the medical or assisted nursing staff employed at a nursing home fails to provide the appropriate standard of care legally required to patients, issues of elderly abuse or neglect are generally raised in a legal sense, should documentable damages exist.
Nursing home negligence mainly presents itself as physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. An estimated and largely underreported 2.5 million more Americans are victims of elderly abuse by way of negligent nursing home care annually. Since the majority of the patients or residents in assisted living facilities and nursing homes are older, frail and without question a vulnerable segment of the population, the elderly are more reticent than other groups to voice their concerns about negligent care, while framing their concerns in an appropriate legal manner.
Amidst ongoing study by both universities and the government, elderly abuse cases present a clear pattern in terms of the prevalence and manifestation of abuse perpetrated specifically against nursing home care populations. The following outlines the most basic causes to claims of negligence, or reasons to argue that a reasonable standard of care was grossly unmet by a given nursing facility regarding a patient’s care, including:
Physical abuse, in general is the use of physical violence or force that results in bodily harm, pain, injury or some other form of impairment to the victim. Physical abuse against the elderly or residents in nursing homes can even include battery or assault. Typically, physical abuse is evident when your loved one or family member has unexplainable wounds, bite marks, cuts, scratches, burn marks, welts, sores, bruises or visible discolorations on any part of their body, but especially those areas commensurate with defensive wounds.
If your loved one or family member has untreated wounds or scars that not even the caretaker or nursing home director can adequately explain, more than likely residents are being physically abused by members of the nursing home staff. Additional signs or indicators of physical abuse include loss of weight and sudden changes in behavior.
Emotional abuse in nursing homes or assisted living facilities is also known as elder psychological abuse. Unlike physical abuse, it is much more difficult to notice signs of emotional abuse. Moreover, elder psychological abuse can be verbal as well as non-verbal. Often members of the nursing home staff will humiliate, intimidate, terrorize, and ridicule a patient or resident. A nursing home staff member may even go as far as ignoring a resident entirely and isolating them from others or social activities. To ensure that your loved one or family member is not being emotionally abuse, make sure to take note of their overall mood when you visit. Signs of emotional abuse tend to manifest themselves as low self-esteem, lack of eye contact, sudden changes in mood and sleeping patterns. If you notice that your loved one or family member is refusing to eat or speak openly, your concerns should be brought up with the nursing home director and resident psychologist. The resident psychologist can ask your loved one a series of specific questions to determine if he or she is being abused—either emotional or physically.
Nursing home neglect on the other hand is more about a breach of a duty owed then the intent to specifically and intentionally harm a resident. Similar to nursing home abuse, neglect often is emotional, physical or medically related. Emotional neglect is when your family member or loved one is repeatedly left alone, ignored or berated. Physical neglect generally deals with a resident hygiene or basic needs. Patients or resident may not be bathed properly or given food and water. With medical neglect, the nursing home staff is failing to provide the necessary treatment, medication, or prevention for a whole host of known needs for elderly patients, including ensuring patient mobility movements to prevent bedsores among others.
If you believe your loved one or family member is being abused or neglected in any way, the nursing home and its staff should be held accountable for their actions. A negligence suit may be brought if there is a failure to provide a reasonably safe environment, failure to maintain adequate health and safety policies or failure to provide the required standard of care and medical treatment. However, state-specific laws will vary, and as such, consulting with a lawyer practicing in elder abuse prevention will be of great help to protecting yourself or your patient.