If you have an elderly loved one who needs skilled nursing care, you might have chosen a nursing home. No doubt you want the best care possible for your loved one. You trust the nursing home to provide professional and compassionate care. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Nursing home abuse occurs far too often.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
According to data from the National Ombudsman Reporting System, in 2014 about 1.4 million elderly adults lived in a nursing home. Many adults who are in a nursing home are well cared for. But unfortunately, some are the victim of abuse.
Older adults who live in nursing homes are especially vulnerable to abuse because they may have conditions that limit their cognitive and physical functioning. They are often dependent on others and may be unable to defend themselves. Also, some elderly nursing home residents may not report abuse out of fear.
Although abuse may come at the hands of staff, resident to resident abuse also occurs. Even more alarming is that in some instances, state regulators missed signs of neglect or abuse during nursing home audits.
There are different forms of nursing home abuse including physical, emotional and neglect. Physical abuse may include intentionally hitting, kicking or slapping a patient. Physical abuse may also include the overuse of restraints.
Physical abuse is not the only problem nursing home residents may encounter. Elderly adults can also be the victim of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse may not be recognized as easily as physical abuse but may include shaming, yelling or degrading a patient. Isolating a patient from other residents or ignoring them is also a form of emotional abuse.
Neglect is also a type of abuse. Neglect involves not meeting a patient’s needs. For example, not regularly bathing a patient, changing bedding after incontinence or ignoring call lights are considered neglect. Whether neglect is intentional or unintentional due to poor staffing, it can contribute to medical problems.
Consequences of Nursing Home Abuse or Negligence
The consequences of elder abuse or neglect are significant. Abuse can increase the risk of medical problems. Older adults who suffer abuse may develop physical complications, such as bedsores, sleep difficulties, and nutritional issues. Abuse can also increase exacerbations of existing medical problems. Additional consequences of abuse may include an increased risk of falls, higher rates of infection and failure to thrive.
Nursing home abuse may also leave an elder fearful, depressed and anxious. Negative emotions can have an impact on cognitive functioning and overall quality of life. Psychological effects can also leave adults with learned helplessness or post-traumatic stress.
Most significantly, elder abuse also increases the risk of premature death. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elders who suffered abuse have a 300 percent higher risk of death than those who were not abused.
Signs of Abuse
Since not all elderly adults who are victims of abuse speak up, it’s vital for friends and family members to recognize the signs of abuse. It’s also important to trust your gut. If something does not seem right, it may require further investigation. The signs of elder abuse can be obvious or subtle. Signs of abuse may include:
- Unexplained cuts or welts
- Dislocation or sprains
- Marks from restraints
- Weight loss
- Poor hygiene
- Sudden change in personality, such as becoming fearful or anxious
- Loss of interested in activities
- Evidence of being overly medicated
Preventing Nursing Home Abuse
There are things you can do to decrease the chances of your loved one becoming a victim of nursing home abuse. For instance, do your research on a skilled nursing facility before your loved one moves in. Determine if the facility has any health or safety violations and read reviews from other residents.
Show up often to visit your loved at different times of the day. Ask about any concerns they may have. It’s also helpful to talk with staff and get to know those who are taking care of your family member. Look for changes in your loved one’s behavior, which may indicate a problem.
Even if you take all the correct precautions, abuse can occur. Elderly adults are often hesitant to come forward, which is why it’s essential family members step in. If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, we may be able to help. We are knowledgeable and experienced in enforcing the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and holding those negligent care facilities responsible for any abuse or neglect. Please call our office at 312-698-3694 for a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys.