Nursing home abuse and neglect are, sadly, not uncommon. In 2020, over 15,000 complaints were filed with nursing home ombudsmen throughout the country (the ombudsman is someone who handles long-term care complaints in each state). Undoubtedly, many more cases go unreported.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), nursing home abuse complaints in 2018 included:
- 29% physical abuse
- 22% resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
- 21% psychological abuse
- 14% gross neglect
- 7% sexual abuse
- 7% financial exploitation
Not everyone is equally at risk. Per the NCVC, 66% of elder abuse victims are women; nearly 50% of dementia patients experience abuse or neglect; and those who depend on Medicaid tend to be in lower-quality nursing homes where abuse and neglect are more likely to occur. Surprisingly, those who have experienced trauma in the past are also more likely to be abused.
Examples of neglect and abuse
The CDC defines elder neglect as “failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs. These needs include food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and essential medical care.” Many nursing homes provide excellent care and treat their residents with respect. However, even in higher-quality establishments, mistakes can happen and residents can be overlooked. Other facilities have ongoing neglect issues. Insufficient training, understaffing, and negligent hiring practices that do not properly screen applicants are common factors that lead to increased incidents of neglect and abuse in nursing homes.
Types of neglect include:
- Basic needs neglect: failure to provide sufficient food, water, clothing, warmth, or physical comfort; leaving an immobile resident in bed or in a wheelchair unmoved for hours; failure to provide a cane, walker, or other device to help the resident remain mobile and active; unclean common areas
- Hygiene neglect: failure to provide help with personal care such as washing, brushing teeth, and changing clothes; not helping a resident relieve him/herself and/or leaving the person in his/her own urine or feces; neglecting to provide clean sheets or keep the resident’s living area clean
- Emotional or social neglect: ignoring the resident, leaving the resident alone; not ensuring regular social interaction; emotionally mistreating the resident, verbal abuse; deterioration of cognitive function due to lack of stimulation
- Medical neglect: failure to provide proper medication or prompt medical care; failure to prevent and/or treat bedsores, infections, injuries, slips and falls; improper care that brings on additional health problems such as the onset of diabetes, hemorrhoids, etc.; neglecting to call a nurse or doctor for help when the resident needs medical attention
Neglect is a form of abuse, but more in the sense of omitting necessary care. Other forms of abuse involve committing acts that harm the resident:
- physical abuse (including shoving, pushing, or slapping)
- sexual abuse (sexual comments, unwanted touch, being forced to view porn, rape)
- emotional abuse (shouting, insults, demeaning comments, prejudiced remarks, threats of violence)
- financial abuse (using the resident’s credit card or accessing their bank account, identity theft, changing their will, signing assets over to someone or to the institution)
Signs of nursing home abuse or neglect
Watch for signs of nursing home abuse or neglect, including:
- Injuries, broken bones, or complaining about pain in a limb or other part of the body
- Bedsores, pressure ulcers
- Bruises, burns
- Dehydration, malnutrition, sudden weight loss
- Withdrawn behavior, change in personality
- Anxiety, depression
- Fear when an aid enters, or when a particular person comes near
- Changes in personal hygiene; smelling unclean, bad breath, tooth problems, glasses not on or nearby to be easily reached
- Immobility – no cane, walker, or wheelchair to allow resident access to other areas
- Poor environment, such as poor lighting, dirty environment, unsafe furniture or flooring in common areas or in the resident’s room
- Money missing, personal items missing
- Medication not being administered, worsening medical conditions, worsening mental health, unexpected cognitive decline
Protecting your loved one
According to the NCVC, elder abuse triples the risk of premature death and causes unnecessary illness, injury, and suffering.
Elders are less likely to be abused or neglected if they have frequent visits from friends or family. So the first defense against elder abuse or neglect is to visit frequently and arrange other family and friends to visit as well.
If you and most of your family live far away or out of state, this can be difficult, but it is critical that your loved one receives regular attention. Make friends with the staff at the facility and ask them to make sure they keep an eye on your loved one. Make arrangements with the resident’s nearby friends to visit often, send you pictures and videos, and keep your loved one company. Instruct them to watch for signs of neglect.
Make sure you have power of attorney and a health care directive so you can be involved and notified. Keep a close eye on your loved one’s bank accounts and credit cards.
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, act quickly to secure your loved one’s safety. Alert the institution’s staff and the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman. If your loved one has already experienced injury or neglect that has led to serious harm, reach out to me as soon as possible so that I can help you redress the injury and receive compensation for your loved one.
As a Florida personal injury lawyer, raised in this great state, I am committed to helping Florida residents throughout the state receive just and fair compensation to help them cope with the injuries they have sustained due to someone else’s negligence or abuse. Contact me at (954) 448-7288, 24/7 for a free consultation to see how I can help you.