Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
Unfortunately, elder abuse occurs more frequently than documented and reported. According to the CDC, more than 500,000 older adults (60 years and above) are believed to be abused every year. With many elder abuse cases undocumented due to fear, inability to communicate, or lack of evidence, it’s difficult to discern exactly how widespread abuse is.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. Types of elder abuse include: physical, sexual, psychological abuse, or neglect by healthcare providers (primarily nursing homes but often involving caretakers, physicians or nurses).
Most elderly victims are reliant on their caretakers or nursing home staff for their most basic needs and find themselves in very vulnerable positions physically, emotionally and financially. Many abused older people may not even have an outlet or the ability to express their suffering.
How can I protect my loved one from elder abuse?
If you’re looking for a nursing home for your loved one, do your due diligence. A reputable nursing home should be forthcoming about their operations.
Here are a few tips to help you find the best nursing home:
- Browse facilities and read reviews of nursing homes on SeniorAdvisor.com.
- Check inspection reports and state and federal surveys by nursing home regulators.
- Visit nursing homes and ask to see their list of citations (Be wary of a nursing home that is reluctant to show you their records). Check for proper safety equipment like handrails and call buttons near toilets and showers.
- Review the Consumer’s Union Nursing Home Watch List to see which nursing homes have a higher rate of inspection reports that raise suspicion.
- Inquire about the patient to staff ratio. If a nursing home has too many patients and too few nurses, patients’ needs may be neglected. There should be one nurse per 6-8 patients (depending on level of care).
If your loved one is already in a nursing home or assisted living facility, staying vigilant is key. Some signs of elder abuse may be more obvious than others. It is strongly recommended that you visit your loved one often, unannounced, and without a recognizable pattern. Examine him or her for bedsores on a regular basis. Keep a log of your visits and write down who you talked to if you notice poor care. Listen to your loved one and believe his or her complaints until proven otherwise.
Here are a number of signs to look for that may indicate elder abuse:
- Depression may well be a sign of neglect.
- Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions and burns are clearly signs of neglect or physical abuse.
- Bedsores, dehydration, and weight loss are often indicative of neglect.
- Lack of timely response to toileting issues often reflects even greater harms.
- Lack of a proper feeding program often evidences neglect.
If you suspect that someone is harming your loved one, call 911 for immediate help. To figure out the next legal steps to take, consult an attorney who specializes in elder abuse. An attorney can help you take action today, protect your loved one from further harm, and hold those responsible accountable for their neglect.
Guest Post by Stephen L. Belgum
Stephen L. Belgum is a personal injury attorney in Southern California. He is committed to utilizing his education and experience to bring justice to those aggrieved in cases involving claims of dependent adult (elder) abuse, medical or legal malpractice, wrongful death or personal injury. Because of this, his practice is restricted to solely representing individuals and families harmed by the negligence of others.