Elder abuse is a common but often silent problem. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. One study even suggested that only one in 24 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. When a loved one is under the care of the staff at a nursing home, the expectation is that the nursing home resident will be treated with compassion, respect and receive proper medical care.
Unfortunately, elder abuse happens and it can occur inside of nursing homes. Elder abuse takes many forms and can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial, neglect or any combination of these. Elder abuse is not exclusive to nursing homes, others -- especially those that the abused trusts -- can also be perpetrators of elder abuse. Learn what loved ones should look out for to recognize the types of elder abuse in nursing homes.
Physical abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse reported in nursing homes. The National Center for Victims of Crime found that 27% of nursing home abuse complaints involved physical abuse, the highest of all types of elder abuse. Physical abuse includes any type of shaking, choking, scratching, biting, shoving, hitting, or kicking. Keep in mind that the nursing home has a legal obligation to keep residents safe. This includes preventing harm from other residents or visitors, who could be the ones committing the physical abuse.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, look out for signs of physical abuse, including:
- Cuts, scrapes, bite marks
- Redness around the neck or wrists from choking or restraints
- Bruises and black eyes
- Signs of self-treated injuries
- Sudden hair loss
- Pattern of similar injuries requiring medical care
- Tooth loss
Emotional and Psychological Abuse
Any intentional act that causes mental pain, fear or despair is considered emotional elder abuse. In a long term care setting, this could be seen in behavioral practices by the nursing home staff such as isolating residents or denying privileges or meals as a form of punishment. Staff may also be verbally threatening, scaring or humiliating residents which then causes emotional distress. Signs of emotional and psychological abuse include:
- Mood changes
- Fear of certain people or nursing home staff
- Seeming depressed or withdrawn
- Avoiding eye contact
Understaffed nursing homes can lead to neglect and increase risk for elder abuse. If your loved one is experiencing pain, foul odors, bruises, or weight loss, this could be a sign of nursing home neglect. These symptoms may be evidence of a fall, inattentiveness to the resident. For instance, if a resident experiences weight loss due to malnutrition or suffers kidney or UTI issues due to dehydration, this could be due to neglect or deliberate abuse by nursing home staff.
Sadly, long term care residents, especially those with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other disability that prevents the elderly person from consenting to sexual contact, are most at risk for sexual abuse. Like any type of elder abuse in a nursing home, another resident could be the abuser. The nursing home, however, has an obligation and owes a duty of care to all residents to keep them safe. Panic attacks, problems walking or sitting and any injury to the pelvic region could be cause for alarm if you see this in your loved one.
Financial abuse can take the form of stealing items from the resident’s room to coercing an elderly person into changing their will, deceiving them into signing a financial contract or stealing their identity. If you’ve noticed unusual financial activity, fluctuating bank accounts or new collections or bills coming in, you should speak with the nursing home administration immediately. Financial abuse could be carried out by a staff member or sadly, another family member or close friend.
Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
There are several types of elder abuse in nursing homes. Don’t wait to act if your loved one is experiencing neglect or abuse in their care facility. Our nursing home abuse attorneys can explain your legal options, investigate your case, and help you file a claim. Don’t let injustices against your loved ones continue. Contact us today for a free consultation.