What Is Nursing Home Abuse?Abuse and Neglect
When you move an elderly member of your family into a nursing home, you have a right to expect that the nursing home will provide adequate care. South Carolina’s Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities indicates that nursing home residents:
- Have the right to choose their personal physician;
- Must not suffer mental or physical abuse;
- May be put under physical or chemical restraints only when prescribed by a physician;
- Must have dignity and respect in their treatment;
- Must have their private possessions stored safely, where they will not come to harm;
- Will get appropriate privacy during treatment; and
- Will not have treatment denied based on race, religion, gender, or national origin.
Unfortunately, not every nursing home provides the high quality of care you expect based on this Bill of Rights. In some cases, seniors may suffer neglect or outright abuse at the hands of nursing home staff. Do you know what nursing home abuse looks like? In this blog post, we describe what to watch out for to make sure your loved one has not been abused.
Key Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse takes many different forms. Understanding the form of abuse can help you get your loved one the right care and put you in a better position to identify abuse.
- Physical abuse involves acts of physical dominance or violence against an elderly individual in a nursing home. Perpetrators may hit, burn, or choke the senior. They may threaten to perform these actions of the senior fails to follow their instructions or tells anyone about other abuse suffered.
- Mental or emotional abuse includes making threats or verbally putting down the senior. Perpetrators may call seniors “worthless” or tell them that “no one wants to visit them.” Sometimes, nursing facilities have an abusive atmosphere. Other times, all appears normal on the surface, while staff members engage in emotional abuse when they think no one is watching.
- Neglect occurs when nursing home employees fail to provide the standard of care necessary to ensure an adequate quality of life for your loved one. Neglect may include inadequate nutrition or inadequate medical care.
- Sexual abuse includes any unwanted sexual contact between nursing home residents and members of the staff. It may take the form of touching a resident’s breasts or genitals, excessive sexual language, or sexual approaches that make the senior uncomfortable. Sexual abuse may also occur through unwanted sexualized physical contact. Some seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, may not have the ability to turn down unwanted sexual advances; however, these actions still count as sexual abuse.
What to Watch For
Signs of abuse can vary based on the type of abuse and the senior’s natural response to mistreatment. Some common signs, however, should draw your attention.
- Your loved one withdraws emotionally. A senior suffering from abuse may not want to talk about the abuse—or about anything else. Communication may decrease, and your loved one may struggle to share anything with you. It may be difficult to engage in conversation when you visit, or your loved one may refuse to answer specific types of questions.
- Your loved one has repeated unexplained injuries. Seniors develop more fragile skin as they age, leading to increased bruising. If you see substantially increased bruising with no explanation, increased cuts and lacerations, or more severe injuries, however, it may indicate abuse. Nursing homes should properly document injuries, especially serious injuries. Seniors who frequently have extreme injuries that require medical care may also suffer from abuse.
- Your loved one suddenly withdraws from physical contact. Your grandfather has never been particularly physically demonstrative, but he now shies away from any touch at all. Your mother cringes away when you try to hug her. If your loved one suddenly develops an aversion to being touched, it could be a sign of abuse.
- The nursing home staff frequently refuses to answer your questions. If you have a question about a loved one’s care, you should receive a quick answer. Even if a staff member does not have an immediate answer for you, the facility should be able to provide relevant information about your loved one’s care within no more than a day-or-so. If you frequently feel put-off or ignored by staff members when you have questions, it may indicate that something else is going on behind the scenes.
- Your loved one complains of abuse. If your loved one complains of abuse, you should always take those concerns seriously. Communicate your concerns immediately to nursing home staff and take any necessary measures to protect your loved one from further harm. If an elderly individual suddenly starts complaining about a particular staff member or does not want that staff member to provide care, it may indicate a problem with that particular individual. Investigate complaints quickly.
- The nursing home has a high level of staff turnover. Most people who choose to work in a nursing home genuinely want to care for elderly individuals. If a nursing home has a high level of staff turnover, however, it could be a red flag signaling poor working conditions, including the presence of abuse. High staff turnover may also indicate overwork, which could result in resident neglect.
- Your loved one doesn’t want to talk when staff members stand nearby. She carries on a normal conversation with you when you take her out alone, but around staff members, she does not want to communicate. If staff members will not leave you alone with your loved one, particularly after your loved one becomes less communicative, it should raise a red flag of potential abuse.
- You receive notice that you cannot visit your loved one. Healthy adults should have permission to visit loved ones whenever they like. If your loved one’s nursing home refuses access, it may indicate an attempt to hide abuse. (Keep in mind, however, there are also legitimate reasons for limiting access to some nursing home residents. During flu season, for example, some nursing homes limit visits from individuals who appear ill or from small children.)
Do you suspect your loved one has suffered abuse in a nursing home? If so, then you may need legal representation and advice to help you file a lawsuit and obtain the compensation your loved one deserves. To learn more, contact Hughey Law Firm today at (843) 881-8644. Our compassionate, determined team of lawyers will set up a free consultation to determine whether we can help you.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.