What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is common in the United States. Older adults get hurt, are neglected, and even die in the same facilities where they should be receiving proper care.
According to the federal government, “nursing home abuse means the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinements, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.” Nursing home abuse involves harm or injury done to an older adult intended to cause pain, suffering, or impairment.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that nursing home abuse:
Nursing home abuse can take many forms. The NCOA states that nursing home abuse includes:
- Physical abuse, which can be made apparent by bruises or unexplained falls
- Sexual abuse, including any sexual activity without consent
- Neglect, indicated by matted hair, dirty bedding, and so on
- Emotional abuse, such as verbal threats and harassment
- Financial exploitation, such as forged financial documents or missing personal belongings
How common is nursing
Nursing home abuse is a pervasive problem in the U.S. A 2019 bipartisan Senate investigation, leading to reform efforts, found that poor resident care is “common” in about 5% of the nation’s care facilities.
According to the NCOA, approximately 5,000,000 elderly persons are abused every year.
In an Atlanta Long Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program study of 80 residents in 23 Georgia-based nursing homes, 44% of the respondents experienced abuse, while 48% experienced mistreatment. In addition, 38% percent of respondents witnessed fellow residents abused, while 44% had seen others being mistreated.
Overall, elder abuse affects hundreds of thousands of families annually. In 2013 alone, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) noted approximately 10,000 care facility complaints related to elder abuse.
Recent Cases of Nursing Home Abuse
- Striking with objects
- Refusing or denying food
- Failure to administer prescribed medication or treatment
- Neglecting hygiene
- Not providing adequate supervision
- Forced nudity
- Forced observation of pornography or masturbation
- Taking sexually explicit videos, audios, or photos
- Forged financial documents
- Missing property and belongings
What causes nursing
The causes of elder abuse depend on the quality of the care facility, its policies, staff members, and operation and management. Regardless, there tend to be some common contributing factors, such as:
When there is not enough staff to care for the nursing home residents, aides can be overloaded and overworked. The prevalence of understaffing can make it hard for employees to respond properly.
Unfortunately, understaffing in nursing homes is on the rise. A report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group noted that 20% of U.S. nursing homes were understaffed as of December 2020.
When care facilities fail to screen their employees properly, they can endanger their residents. Aides with a history of abuse or drug addiction are more likely to abuse people in long-term care facilities.
Risk Factors in Nursing
- Odd behavior
- Control by the caregiver
- Fear of the caregiver
- Extreme agitation
- Panic attacks
- Suicide attempts
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Unexplained change in behavior
- Increased nightmares
- Bruises around the inner thigh, breasts, or genital areas
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
- Difficulty walking or sitting down
- Torn, bloodied, or stained underclothing
- Missing items
- Sudden changes in financial situation
- Significant fund withdrawals
How can you prevent
nursing home abuse?
Nursing home abuse prevention is complex. It requires the involvement of different parties, including residents, nursing staff, and the government. There are many ways to proactively prevent abuse, including the following:
- Understand the different forms of abuse that can
occur in a care facility
- Learn nursing home policies, services, and
- Express concerns about abuse to staff members,
administrators, social workers, doctors, and nursing directors
- Inform a loved one that you believe abuse is taking
- Document evidence
- Reach out to state survey agencies or a long-term
Friends and Relatives
- Review different care facilities and choose a
- Visit long-term care facilities to ascertain their
- Visit and check in on your loved one often
- Take any complaints from your loved one seriously
- Notify relevant authorities about any abuse
- Has written procedures and policies that prevent, prohibit, and investigate abuse
- Trains staff members on what constitutes elder abuse and steps for reporting incidents
- Screens every employee thoroughly before hiring
- Adopts policies that foster abuse disclosure in a non-victimizing manner
- Posts contact details for all relevant authorities dealing with nursing home abuse
- Maintains a sustainable staff-to-resident ratio
- Implements caregiver support interventions.
- Implements caregiver training on Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Installs quality monitoring systems
There are no fail-proof ways of preventing elder abuse, but the above strategies can serve as a starting point for seniors and their families.
Nursing Home Abuse Laws
Several national laws have been enacted in America to ensure every citizen is treated with respect and dignity, regardless of age. Elder protection laws include:
- All nursing home aides to report suspected cases of elder abuse
- Care facilities to provide a written notice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services 60 days before any permanent closures
- Improve services for abuse victims
- Enact community response for elder abuse victims
- Cross-train (for organizations created to help abuse victims)
- Boost prosecution training programs
State Laws & Statutes
Individual states also have laws that help prevent elder abuse in care facilities. Elder protective services (EPS) or Adult Protective Services (APS) are present in all states. Some states have multiple statutes and laws; thus, the level of abuse support varies by state. Overall, the APS and EPS help ensure a base level of older adults’ protection.
In addition, long-term care ombudsman programs exist in all states. They ensure high-quality care in nursing homes. The programs also protect the rights of elderly persons by investigating abuse and neglect complaints and holding nursing homes responsible for their actions.
Finally, institutional abuse laws, criminal laws, and mandatory reporting laws vary by state, but exist to protect victims of abuse.
Can I sue a nursing home for abuse or neglect?
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 states that care facility residents have the “right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.” If a facility or its staff members violates this law, they may be liable for elder abuse.
On their end, care facilities are obligated to hire caring aides and train them to provide the best care possible. They must also employ enough caregivers to cater to residents adequately.
Thus, a long-term care facility can be liable for abuse in cases of:
- Negligent hiring
- Medication errors
- Inadequate training
If a staff member harms a resident intentionally or through neglect, they may be liable for the abuse and associated damages. The same goes for any hired contractors.
How can a nursing home abuse lawyer help me?
- Identifying signs of abuse
- Investigating reports of abuse
- Establishing legal theories
- Quantifying damages
- Reporting damages
- Exploring options to determine the best course of action
Your loved one has a legal right to be treated well. If you believe a family member was injured due to elder abuse, maltreatment, or neglect in a nursing home, contact us for a free case evaluation.