When your loved one enters into a nursing home, they do so under the expectation that they’ll be properly cared for. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. Sometimes nursing home staff members take advantage of residents and the results are catastrophic.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”
Elder abuse is, unfortunately, quite common in nursing homes across America. And when it occurs within one of these care settings, it’s called nursing home abuse.
Laws regarding nursing home abuse vary from state to state, but broad definitions account for various types of exploitation, harm, and manipulation, including:
- Physical. Pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, kicking, and forced restraint are all forms of physical abuse that occur in nursing home settings. Signs of physical abuse include bruising, swelling, scrapes, lacerations, and other unexplained injuries.
- Sexual. Rape, molestation, and indecent exposure are all forms of sexual abuse. This is often the most difficult form of abuse to detect in elderly individuals.
- Emotional. Verbal threats and/or actions that cause the victim fear, anxiety, or anguish are considered emotional abuse.
- Financial. Any time an elderly individual is exploited for financial gain, this constitutes financial abuse. It could involve forging documents, spending money, or pressuring the victim into making certain financial decisions.
Neglect is another form of abuse. It deals with the withholding of a specific right to an elderly individual. This may include the refusal to acknowledge certain requests or respect privacy.
How to Respond to Nursing Home Abuse
If you have a loved one who is a resident in a care facility, you need to be alert to the reality of nursing home abuse. While it’s not always openly discussed, it’s fairly common. Should you notice an instance of abuse, take swift action. Here’s the correct way to respond:
1. Tend to the Victim’s Needs
The victim is the number one priority. If there’s physical or sexual abuse, immediate medical attention is required. If it’s emotional or financial abuse, your care and support will go a long way towards bringing the situation under control.
2. Gather Evidence
Nursing home abuse allegations are serious and you want to make sure that you’re able to prove that something occurred. Work with the victim to gather and save any immediate evidence that will be important in building a case.
“Both physical and verbal abuse can be legally actionable,” Nursing Home Law Center LLC explains. “Verbal abuse that is egregiously shocking can be the basis for a legal action, especially if that abuse is intended to degrade or cause emotional harm to a nursing home resident. Certainly, physical abuse that causes an injury could result in compensation for your family.”
In other words, gather any evidence – regardless of whether it’s physical or verbal abuse. You never know what information will be integral to the case.
3. Notify Law Enforcement
As the victim preserves and gathers evidence, it’s also important to notify law enforcement. Local police and law enforcement will help in filing a police report and documenting what’s occurred. This paves the way for a full investigation.
4. Hire an Attorney
Once all of the proper precautions have been taken to ensure that the individual is in a stable situation and no longer faces the risk of continued abuse, you should encourage them to get legal assistance.
“In any situation where an instance of elder abuse is suspected, it may make sense to consult with a lawyer who has experience handling these kinds of cases,” Nolo mentions. “The lawyer can identify the appropriate response in a non-emergency situation, and will ensure that the elder person’s well-being and legal rights are protected.”
Many elderly victims are worried about how they’ll pay for an attorney and therefore neglect hiring one altogether. However, in most cases, nursing home abuse attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. This means the lawyer’s compensation is based on the claim amount or award.
Become an Advocate for the Elderly
The elderly represent one of the most vulnerable classes in American society, yet we often neglect their basic needs. As you become awakened to the brutal reality of nursing home abuse in our country, make it a point to become an advocate for the elderly. Speak up, take action, and don’t be afraid to ruffle some feathers. Nursing home abuse shouldn’t be tolerated. The more we work together as a collective whole, the greater the chances are of curbing this troubling trend.