Physical abuse at nursing homes is a serious problem. It can be very difficult to prevent or stop abuse in situations when the victim feels afraid or secluded and does not report what is happening to supervisors or their family. In these types of situations, professionals and family members must be knowledgeable about the risk of abuse and the signs that physical abuse has occurred.
In the most serious cases of physical abuse, the actions constitute assault and battery, which are criminal offenses. Whether the victim received the assault from a caregiver, a visiting family member, or another resident, it is up to others that are close to the victim to help him get protection from the abuser.
Assault and battery is a common criminal offense, but many people do not know the legal definition of assault and battery. Assault is the intentional act of making someone fear that you will cause them harm. You do not have to actually harm them to commit assault. Threatening them verbally or pretending to hit them are both examples of assault that can occur in a nursing home.
Battery is the intentional act of causing physical harm to someone. Unlike assault, you don’t have to warn the victim or make him fearful before you hurt them for it to count as battery. If a nursing home attendant surprises the patient and pushes the patient from behind, that would qualify as battery. Assault and battery occurs simultaneously when an individual threatens to harm someone and then physically harms that person.
Finding evidence of assault and battery in a nursing home is not an easy task. Those who are committing the abuse may target patients who have difficulty talking, have few visitors, or who suffer from dementia or impaired memory.
When you visit a nursing home resident, you should keep an eye out for certain warning signs. For example, if the nursing staff delays you significantly before letting you see the patient, it might suggest that they recently had committed a form of physical abuse. If a nursing home staff member refuses to leave you alone with the patient that is another sign that your loved one might be being abused. No matter what, you will also want to examine the patient yourself and see if there are any physical signs of assault and battery.
When you find out that the nursing home staff is committing assault and battery, you should remove the patient from the nursing home immediately. After accusing the staff of abuse, they may act in retaliation against the patient. Assault and battery is a criminal offense, so you should quickly inform the authorities, so that they can prosecute the offenders and prevent them from harming any other patients.
You may also be able to file a civil suit against the staff members for committing the assault and battery. If the nursing home was aware of the abuse or knew that these staff members had a history of abusing patients, you may also be able to file a negligence suit against the facility. A lawyer who is experienced with nursing home lawsuits will be able to help you determine what legal options are available.
“Elder Abuse and Neglect.” HelpGuide.org. HeHelpGuide.org, n.d. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/elder_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm>.
“Elder Abuse: Prevention Strategies.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Jan 2014. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/prevention.html>.
“Stop Abuse.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/stop_abuse/index.asp&xgt;.