Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable
Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2020
Are your loved ones safe in a nursing home? OnderLaw explains nursing home neglect and abuse.
Friday, January 31, 2020 – The decision to entrust the care of a parent, spouse, or other family member to a licensed nursing home is one of the most difficult choices many of us face in our lives, yet sometimes it is a choice we must make. When we do have to depend on a care facility to help someone we love, it’s reasonable to expect that they will be safe, cared for, and treated with dignity.
When nurses, staff, or other residents in a facility cause harm through abuse or neglect, it’s a violation of more than just our trust; it’s a breach of duty that strikes us where it hurts the most.
At OnderLaw, we believe that, when loved ones suffer from bedsores, broken bones from falls, malnutrition, medication errors, sexual abuse, or even death due to a failure of nursing home staff to keep them safe, we have a responsibility to protect them — and to protect others. The only way to do so is to hold the corporations that profit from these facilities accountable in court.
What is Behind Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse?
Let’s be clear. Corporations run most nursing homes, and they do so because nursing homes can be extremely profitable. There are licensed care facilities that are run with compassion, kindness, and professionalism, but when profits become more important than people, both the staff and the residents can suffer.
Understaffing is one of the most common problems in nursing homes today. Though laws have been passed that regulate the ratio of residents to employees, both temporary and long-term staff shortages can fall through the cracks. When they do, the burdens on existing staff can become overwhelming — and dangerous to nursing home residents.
Low wages, long hours, difficult working conditions, lack of training or oversight, and extreme physical and emotional demands on staff can create opportunities for even the most compassionate healthcare workers make mistakes. Staff often lacks time, numbers, and energy to provide adequate care and supervision.
All of these factors are preventable, and corporations should never be allowed to cut corners at the expense of the care and safety of those we love.
What is Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse?
Nursing home neglect and abuse can manifest in a number of ways. Most often, what we see are the results of abuse, or of failing to properly care for elderly or disabled residents.
If your loved one has experienced any of the below problems, standing up for them is critical. Contact our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at OnderLaw. Not only can you protect them, but you’ll also be stopping a cycle of abuse or neglect for others in the home’s care.
Bedsores are one of the most dangerous, yet most common forms of neglect in a nursing home, and they are the result of improper care.
Bedsores, also called decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers, most often develop on the back, feet, or hips, and are the result of repeated pressure in a single area..
Left untreated, not only are bedsores significantly painful, they can lead to serious infections, hospitalization, and even life-threatening conditions.
Those who are bedridden or confined to wheelchairs are most prone to bedsores, which is why nursing home staff is trained to turn and reposition residents often. When a loved one experiences bedsores, it’s a sign that they are not being monitored or cared for properly.
Broken Bones and Fractures
The majority of broken bones and fractures that occur in nursing homes are due to falls, and often those falls can be — and should be — prevented.
It is the responsibility of nursing home staff to identify risks and to do everything in their power to avoid falls, including utilizing bed rails, responding to calls for help, and properly supporting your loved one when helping them bathe, transfer to a wheelchair, or move around.
When a loved one is not provided proper nutrition, they are at an increased risk for illness, dehydration, infections, bedsores, and falls.
Malnutrition can be evaluated by your loved one’s physician, but there is plenty that the facility’s nurses and aids can do to ensure residents receive necessary food and hydration. Nursing home staff are required to document how much residents eat and drink each day to help avoid these problems. When a resident is not eating or drinking adequately, options need to be discussed with family members and/or the physician in order to maintain health and wellness.
Most nursing home residents have been prescribed a number of medications they must take daily. Devastating consequences can occur when the wrong medication or the wrong dosage is administered. Unfortunately, these errors happen all-too-frequently when staff members are overburdened or improperly trained.
It isn’t only medication errors that occur in nursing homes. More shockingly, overmedication is a growing problem as staff shortages and lack of oversight continue in care facilities across the country. Giving residents sedatives or antipsychotic medications to subdue them is referred to as providing “chemical restraints.” This is a cruel and terrible solution for keeping residents quiet when they can’t be properly supervised. It also should not be tolerated.
It can be difficult to wrap our minds around the idea that someone might be so heartless as to sexually abuse an elderly or disabled person, but it does happen. There have been documented cases in which staff members have sexually abused residents, but other residents are most often the offenders. In either case, the nursing home has a responsibility to keep your loved one safe from harm.
Nursing home residents, particularly those suffering from dementia, are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse because they often cannot communicate to loved ones what is happening.
Signs of sexual abuse include:
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Genital bleeding
- Cuts, bruises, or welling in the genital area
- Extreme fear of a staff member or of another resident
There is no question that elderly people who are neglected or abused in nursing homes are at greater risk for life-threatening situations that can lead to death than those who receive proper care. There is no greater tragedy than a preventable death.
If you have reason to be concerned that a loved one died due to abuse or neglect, contact OnderLaw. We will evaluate your situation at no cost and with no obligation to you. If we believe your case can be proven in court, we will fight for you.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Statistics
- About 1.6 million U.S. residents are currently living in nursing homes.
- Nearly 70% of nursing homes are operated for profit.
- Nursing home residents are more likely to be physically or sexually abused by other residents than nursing home staff.
- In a study by Atlanta Long-Term Care Ombudsman 2000, 44% of nursing home residents reported abuse; 48% reported they had been treated roughly.
- The same study found that 38% of residents said they had seen other residents abused.
- In 2007, more than 90% of nursing homes were cited for health and safety violations.
Nursing Home Neglect Warning Signs
Common signs that nursing home staff is not adequately caring for residents’ needs include:
Unsanitary or Unsafe Living Conditions
From living areas to laundry, residents should be living in a clean facility. Bedding should be clean, and resident rooms should be dusted and tidy. Floors should be clean and common areas should be free of dirt and clutter. Rodents, insects, and mold are all warning signs that the facility is not keeping up with basic maintenance.
Lack of Proper Resident Hygiene
Often, nursing home residents need help with daily hygiene tasks like bathing, brushing their teeth, using the toilet, and doing their hair. All of these necessary chores take time, however, and can be overlooked, particularly if there are not enough staff members to adequately provide for each resident.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
Hair loss, thin, dry skin, increased irritability, fatigue, and complaints of being cold are all potential signs of inadequate food or hydration. If you notice these symptoms, take time to evaluate your loved one’s nutritional intake.
Nursing homes should have policies and programs in place that encourage and enable residents to retain or rebuild as much mobility as possible. These programs help them to remain active so that they don’t lose critical muscle mass. When a nursing home is understaffed, residents often remain in bed or are left sitting for long periods of time. Ultimately, the result is a loss of mobility.
Preventable falls and physical abuse by staff members or, more commonly, by other residents often cause injuries that residents are afraid or unable to report. When a nursing home is understaffed, or if staff is not properly trained or vetted, injuries are less likely to be prevented or reported. Unexplained injuries are a warning sign that a nursing home may be neglectful.
Fear or Depression
Even residents who are unable to communicate well can show signs that they are afraid of a particular staff member or resident. And, like other victims of abuse, they may sink into an unusual depression. Sleeping excessively, refusal to eat, and loss of interest in normal activities are all signs of depression that should not be ignored.
What to Do About Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect is a widespread problem. You can help by remaining vigilant. Listen to your loved one’s complaints, and take them seriously. Visit them frequently, and at irregular times. Also, simply being aware of the signs of abuse and neglect can help you to identify red flags that your loved one is being denied the safety and proper care the nursing home is entitled to provide.
Report Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Don’t be afraid to report signs of abuse or neglect. You just may be saving the life of your loved one, or of someone else in the nursing home’s care.
If you believe someone is in imminent danger due to nursing home neglect or abuse, contact police, or call an ambulance if necessary.
You can also contact Adult Protective Services in your state. APS will investigate non-urgent complaints. If necessary, they will engage a local version of social services or elderly services to address safety and health concerns.
No matter where you are in the United States, if you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact one of our nursing home abuse attorneys at OnderLaw by calling 800-799-2824 or (314) 963-9000. We will provide a free, no-obligation consultation.
Consult a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
You may wonder how hiring an attorney can help if your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home.
When corporations cut corners by failing to provide adequate staff, failing to properly train employees, or by hiring unqualified or even dangerous applicants to fill positions, they are putting your loved ones in danger. The only way to hold them accountable is to hit them where it hurts the most: in their profits.
Change happens because of lawsuits. Your willingness to seek justice can provide justice for your loved one, and it can also save countless others from suffering.
Seeking compensation can also cover the costs of medical bills, mental health services, moving expenses, and other costs that resulted from the neglect or abuse.
Contact OnderLaw Elder Abuse Attorneys
No one should spend their most vulnerable years suffering due to neglect or abuse, especially at the hands of a nursing home that has been entrusted to care for those we love.
If your loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or neglect while living in a nursing home, you have an obligation to stand up for them. Contact OnderLaw for a free case review today! We will evaluate your case for free, and you won’t pay a dime unless we win compensation for you.
Call 800-799-2824 or (314) 963-9000 today. Let OnderLaw fight for you.