Nursing Home Abuse Frequently Asked Questions
In this overview, “Nursing home abuse frequently asked questions,” learn what to look for when choosing a home for your loved one, and the common types of abuse and neglect to be aware of.
What should I look for when selecting a nursing home or assisted living arrangement?
Protecting your loved ones from nursing home neglect and abuse starts when you select a nursing home, assisted living or long-term care facility. If you are the one helping to locate a nursing home or long term care residence for your loved one, do your homework. While accidents can happen at even the best providers, knowing what to look for ahead of time should help you prevent or minimize problems.
Often the decision to move into a nursing home is done on short notice, but protecting yourself or your loved one by choosing the best place is crucial and worth as much time as you can take before moving in.
Be thorough when selecting a long term care residence. Call all of the facilities in the area you’re considering to find out if your family member will be accepted based on their care criteria. For example, if they don’t have dementia specialists, you could not place your parent with Alzheimer’s there. If your loved one can and wants to be able to go out to play golf with his friends, but they don’t allow it, that place is too restrictive for his needs and abilities.
Visit the homes you are considering in person. Take note of the other residents. Of course they may be in various degrees of health, but does the staff seem attentive, helpful and friendly towards them? Do they look clean and dressed appropriately? Do they greet residents when they pass them in the halls? Ask what steps the residence takes to prevent injuries and mistakes. Ask about the schedule for providing fresh laundry, linens, nutritious meals, and personal hygiene services to each resident.
Check with state agencies for previous and current reports of abuse or neglect on file. How have the issues been addressed?
For comparison, ask what the professional staff to resident ratio is. Do they have enough caregivers to handle the number of residents and the types of assistance they require? How skilled and experienced are the employees they have? What is their employee turnover rate? How do they weed out under-performing staff members?
Carefully read the contract. Be sure you understand what is included in the price, how much extra services will cost, how to terminate the contract if your loved one needs to move, and how conflicts are resolved. Many nursing home contracts have arbitration clauses which attempt to take away your ability to sue if something goes wrong.
Once you’ve chosen a nursing home, get to know and show interest in the nursing and administrative staff. Be pleasant and polite, and the staff will be more likely to take personal interest and let you know how your loved one is doing. Ask about the schedule and treatments your loved one is receiving. Let them know you want to be kept informed of any changes. If something seems wrong, they may be more likely to provide a clear explanation, or try to fix the situation before it accelerates. Let them know you appreciate them taking care of your loved one and that you are counting on them to make life pleasant as possible for them. Extra care may be taken if they know you or other family members are actively involved and concerned, and will be checking in often.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
It’s a sad fact that nursing home abuse cases are quite common. It’s reported that more than one in four nursing care facilities are cited at least once annually for some type of abuse. Nursing home abuse comes in various forms; all reprehensible and unacceptable. Only the lowest of bullies would target the elderly, sickly or others that are unable to defend themselves. As the number of nursing home residents continues to skyrocket across the U.S., more and more physical, sexual, psychological and neglectful abuse cases are reported.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes
Each state has their own definitions of what constitutes physical abuse in nursing homes. However, in general terms, it is defined as any action from a nursing home staff member to a resident that causes the resident harm, pain or suffering. Such actions may include, but are not limited to these:
- Pushing or shoving
- Hitting, kicking or slapping
- Biting or burning
- Restraining improperly or restraining for too long
- Disallowing or forcing food and drink
Psychological Abuse in Nursing Homes
There are verbal and non-verbal ways that nursing home residents get psychologically abused. Some staff members mentally abuse elderly residents in ways that induce extreme emotional trauma. More specifically, nursing home residents may be psychologically hurt by any of the following:
- Degrading verbal abuse;
- Repetitive harassment;
- Making threats of physical abuse;
- Excessive patronizing;
- Refusing conversation;
- Forcing isolation;
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
As unthinkable as it seems, sexual abuse is much more common in nursing homes than you might imagine. Sexual assault does not necessary imply penetration. Any type of non-consensual sexual contact with a resident constitutes abuse. Many times, the sexually abused resident is either physically or mentally unable to tell anyone that abuse is occurring, or has occurred in the past. In other cases, the resident may feel extreme shame, guilt or humiliation and not be able to talk about it. And still other sexually abused residents may not make any complaints for fear of retaliation from their abuser(s).
Financial Exploitation or Financial Abuse
Resident’s financial accounts may be supervised by the nursing facility management as part of services listed in their living arrangement. Stories abound of seniors being tricked out of their savings by caregivers tricking them into signing documents without the full knowledge or awareness of their content.
Check your contract with the nursing home to confirm which services they are obligated to supply and monitor their activities. Take action if they are not performing as required.
What Is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home negligence is a very serious form of abuse that often results in injury, poor health and even death. Negligence in nursing homes is very common and often overlooked. Many elderly and sickly nursing home residents are either physically or mentally unable to fend for themselves; left alone to endure the neglect in helpless misery.
To gain a better understanding of what nursing home neglect entails, you need to take a look at some of the most common types. There are various forms of negligence that occur in nursing homes all across the country. Seasoned abuse/neglect attorneys deliver justice to victims of all the following types of nursing home neglect:
Neglectful Abuse in Nursing Homes
Neglect is by far the most common type of abuse in nursing homes. Many times, the neglect is simply a matter of not providing adequate hygiene care for residents. In other cases, medical neglect occurs and causes harm and even death. Neglectful abuse in nursing homes happens in a variety of ways including:
- Dehydration and malnutrition;
- Improper hygiene assistance;
- Unsanitary living conditions;
- Unsafe living conditions;
- Untreated cuts and scrapes;
- Persistent bed (pressure) sores;
Regardless of the type of nursing home abuse that occurs, it hurts the lives of the abused. Nursing home residents are very often feeble, disoriented and lack the ability to fend for themselves. They are in a care facility because they need help, and all too often they find themselves being abused in one way or another.
Neglected Basic Needs
Although it’s difficult to believe, one of the most prevalent types of negligence is the neglect of basic needs, like food and water. There are countless cases of malnutrition and dehydration among nursing home residents. Another basic need that is often neglected is the simple provision of a safe and sanitary environment. Many residents are housed in dirty rooms that have safety issues.
Neglected Emotional Health
Elderly, sickly people in nursing homes are very prone to depression. They are faced with declining health, missing their families, feeling burdensome and loads more. It is important for residents to be able to enjoy a peaceful, friendly environment. But all too often, nursing home staff members are not mindful of that. Instead, they often get consumed with their own stress levels and fail to deliver their services with any degree of friendliness and respect. When a resident is forced to remain in the company of uncaring, neglectful staff members, it can be very detrimental to their overall emotional well-being.
Neglected Personal Hygiene
Obviously, residents of nursing homes often have difficulties with mundane tasks including keeping themselves clean. Brushing teeth or dentures, bathing, dressing and using the bathroom can be very difficult, if not impossible for many physically-challenged residents. That’s one of the most common reasons for paying for residency in a nursing care facility! Still, so many are neglected and kept from these basic necessities.
Neglected Medical Care
Family members often take for granted that their loved ones are receiving proper medical care in a nursing home. They have selected the residence based on their ability to provide this care. But unfortunately this is not always so. So many times, residents are not provided their medications with proper consistency. Even insulin shots have been forgotten or delayed to diabetic residents, which could easily cause a diabetic coma, or death. Check-ups and preventative care are not provided and even necessary surgeries are not scheduled. Other medical neglect cases involve chronic bed sores (pressure sores) as well as cuts and scrapes that go untreated. It’s also a fact that not providing regular physical exercise is abusive. Every human needs to move their bodies, even if they are terminally ill and soon to pass.
What are the warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect?
Nursing home abuse and neglect cases are more prevalent than ever before in America. Physical, emotional, sexual, exploitive and negligent abuse happens constantly across the country as more and more baby boomers are entering into nursing homes and assisted care living facilities, and elders are living longer lives with treatable illnesses and injuries. In fact, modern statistics show that more than 25% of nursing homes are cited at least once per year for abuse and/or negligence that results in resident injury or death.
Another sad fact is that many abuse and neglect victims at nursing homes fail to report the acts for one reason or another. Some fear retribution from their abusers. Others feel shame and humiliation because they are no longer able to defend themselves. Still others feel that it would create too much stress for their loved ones at home to deal with efficiently. Many times, the result, for whatever reason, is that abused and neglected nursing home residents do not report their mistreatment. For that reason, it is important for family members of nursing home residents to be aware of, and consistently look for, the warning signs that expose abuse and neglect.
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect
The warning signs that physical abuse is happening are more obvious than the signs for other types of abuse. Cuts, scrapes, bedsores, bruises and broken bones are serious causes for concern. Now, to be 3realistic, elderly people often have thin skin, brittle bones and they sustain injuries very easily at times. Horrible looking bruises can result from simply bumping into a coffee table.
However, if you notice signs that could signify physical abuse consistently, then take your loved one aside and ask them directly if anyone is hurting or mistreating them. Remember that they may well be afraid of their abuser and therefore reluctant to talk about it at first. Watch to see if they act fearful or get quiet around specific staff members or others. Be patient and aware of how the staff interacts with the residents.
Negligence is the most prevalent type of nursing home abuse. Neglect abuse is more difficult to spot than physical abuse. You can look for things like lacking hygiene standards, a dirty living environment, bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, unwashed sheets and clothing. Is your loved one receiving their medications on time and in the right dosage? Check to see what is being delivered to them. Note how they behave, as over or under-dosing of medications can make them behave differently. Assess if they are alleviated of the symptoms their medications are supposed to suppress. If they are acting overly hyper or seemingly depressed or tired mid-day, they may have been given too high or low a dosage.
Communication is the most powerful weapon against any type of nursing home abuse. If you feel that there is any chance that your loved one is being neglected or abused in any way, you should talk with them immediately. Ask specific questions that provoke discussion. It’s also a good idea to consult with an abuse/neglect attorney that is experienced in nursing home cases.
Sexual abuse of nursing home residents is, of course, an extremely cruel form of psychological abuse as well. Victims of sexual abuse by their caretakers are often emotionally stunned to the point that they are unable, unwilling and/or not even interested in reporting the abuse. What about sexual activity between residents with dementia? Are they aware enough to consent to sexual contact? Again, communication and direct questioning are keys to victory. Ask the tough questions. Communicate with your loved one and make sure that they aren’t hiding their abuse due to fear or shame.
Financial negligence may be easier to ascertain. If the nursing home administration is responsible for handling any of your loved one’s finances, be sure to review an accounting of all funds on a monthly basis. Be sure deductions are expected or reasonable amounts, and to whom they are given. Ask the resident if anyone has asked them for money or any of their personal items like clothing or jewelry. Stories abound of seniors giving away their jewelry to their caretakers for being nice, not thinking about the high value of the item or that it has been promised to another family member. Residents should also report missing personal items of clothing, memorabilia, and books which might have been “borrowed” but not returned. Keep an inventory of items that belong to the resident and make sure they are there on every visit. Avoid leaving valuables in the possession to prevent a heartbreaking loss.
All types of nursing home abuse are devastating and atrocious. And unfortunately, abuse and neglect cases are on the rise in number, exponentially. The geriatric population of the US has exploded and nursing homes are overfilled, understaffed and serious lacking in effective governmental monitoring.
If you suspect abuse or neglect in a nursing home, then your best course of action is to consult with an experienced abuse and neglect attorney, someone who understand the kind of trauma your family is going through.
How can I help stop nursing home abuse and neglect of my loved one?
Even after selecting a residence with great care, know that the most highly rated nursing homes and long term care facilities experience accidents or go into decline over time. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, then you need to consider that they may feel lonely, possibly sickly, probably depressed, and generally unable to take care of themselves. They are dependent upon the staff members, and many times these staff members are not delivering the care and attention that they are supposed to. You may also be the only friend or family member coming to visit. Listen to your loved one and encourage them to tell you about their day and the care they are getting in a concerned way.
Realize that they may feel shame, or fear to tell you they think they’re being abused or neglected by the staff. They may be afraid you will not believe them, or that you will say something to the very person who is abusing them! So some patience and gentle coaxing may be in order. They may not come out and say “I’m being abused”, so ask them about their daily routine. Ask specific questions about their meals and activities. Ask when was the last time they received their medication, how often the bed linens are changed, how good the meals are, how friendly or helpful the staff is, which other residents they speak to, etc., in a conversational tone. This will likely reveal any suspicious activities if there are any.
Notice the color and condition of their exposed skin whenever you visit. If they have black and blue marks, rashes, cuts or any other changes, ask them when they appeared and what do they think caused them, and if a nurse has taken a look at them. Make them comfortable to talk with you. Do not get visibly agitated if you think you’ve found something is wrong, or they may stop talking. Ask the staff questions about their experience with your loved one to hear how they respond. For example, you may be alarmed that it’s 9 a.m. and your loved one says they did not bring his breakfast. The nurse may tell you he has tests that need to be taken on an empty stomach that day, and they’ll feed him as soon as they’re done.
You will likely want to speak with the attending staff and management, as well as other residents and their families about something that appears out of line, but be careful to think it through, and do not compromise the trust your loved one has placed in you. Don’t be accusatory when questioning staff about suspected abuse, and you will likely get a more direct and truthful answer. Make note of any unreasonable or questionable responses that raise your suspicions. Comparing what the dayside and night attendants have to say may be helpful in getting at the truth.
What Are The Rights Of Nursing Home Residents?
You do not forfeit any of your human rights when you decide to live in a nursing home. People get old, and sometimes they lose their abilities to take care of themselves. Sometimes it becomes necessary for a family member to move into a nursing care facility because the level of care required is beyond the expertise and capability of other family members. The necessity and potential advantages of nursing care homes are many and include:
- In-house medical care;
- In-house nursing care;
- Assistance with grooming, dressing and other personal hygiene-oriented tasks;
- Having others around for conversation/companionship;
Now there are more cases than ever concerning nursing home abuse and neglect. Each state in the U.S. uses their own determining factors to define abuse and neglect, but they all agree on specific rights that all nursing home residents should never go without.
- The primary right of every nursing home resident is to be treated with respect. Your fundamental civil rights are not stripped away if you decide to live in a nursing home. Everyone has the basic right to be treated with courtesy and kindness.
- Every nursing home resident has the right to live free from any physical, emotional, sexual or negligent abuse. Elderly abuse in nursing homes is at all-time high levels. And while there are several ultimately-manageable reasons for this sad statistic, the goal must always be to provide a safe, abuse-free environment for every resident in every home.
- Every resident has the right to receive quality medical and nursing care. This care is to be provided without discrimination over race, gender, preferences or anything else. Additionally, the resident has authoritative power when it comes to any treatments or medications they receive. Residents are encouraged to be involved in their own long-term health care plans.
- Nursing home residents have the right to make their own financial decisions. Of course, many residents have relatives or other loved ones that help them take care of their financial responsibilities. The nursing home must provide full disclosure to all residents concerning their financial matters. All costs associated with living at the home must be accounted for and understood by a given resident, or by a representative of the resident.
- Residents at nursing homes are entitled to full privacy, especially when it comes to personal acts like bathing, receiving medical treatments and other personal matters. Further, residents are fully allowed to conduct business, meet with family and friends, practice their preferred religious ceremonies, vote and more.
In essence, nursing home residents have the same human rights that everyone else does. Just because someone gets older and needs assistance with everyday tasks doesn’t mean they should be stripped of their rights. And they are not legally allowed to be. If you feel that a loved one has had their rights violated in a nursing home, then it’s best to seek the professional assistance of a seasoned nursing home neglect attorney.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse Or Neglect?
It’s no secret that nursing home neglect and abuse are at the highest rates ever. It makes sense because there are more nursing home residents than ever before. As the nursing home industry continues to expand, so do the chances for any given resident to experience some type of abuse or neglect. Because of this, it is imperative for all residents, and their family members, to understand what to do if abuse occurs.
Dealing with Nursing Home Abuse
First, it is important to know what to look for. Please take the following warning signs very seriously:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Cuts, bruises and scrapes
- Changes in appetite
- Being uncommunicative
- Improper hygiene standards
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Sudden behavior changes
- Sudden weight changes
- Sudden Fearfulness, withdrawal
It’s the law that the administrators of any nursing home must address any and all concerns about abuse and neglect. These facilities are based on the provision of care giving and providing a safe, clean environment for residents to live in, so it is mandatory that they provide the services you’ve contracted for.
Every nursing home is required to have a written policy outlining the protocol for addressing issues of abuse and neglect. Nursing home administrators are aware that abuse and neglect happen, and they are legally responsible to have a plan in place to deal with any issues. In fact, every resident should obtain a copy of this policy and become familiar with it before ever moving into the home.
Be especially concerned if any staff member at the nursing home ever attempts to keep you from visiting your loved one. Go to a manager immediately for an explanation. You should even be extra concerned if the staff member is reluctant to leave you alone with the resident during your visits, as they may be intimidating the resident so they won’t report a problem. If you do not receive a satisfactory explanation for any signs of abuse or neglect that you have noticed, it is time to investigate further and bring in outside help.
Filing an abuse and neglect complaint is a serious act, and it needs to be done with specific legalities in mind. If you are not familiar with these legalities, schedule a free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. He or she will have the necessary resources, knowledge and skills to assist you in pursuing justice for your family.
What types of documentation do I need to file a nursing home abuse or neglect claim?
As you move forward with your strategy to prove abuse and/or neglect in a nursing home, begin documenting everything about the case. Letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, photos, personal notes of observations and everything else you can think of can be very useful.
Filing a claim of abuse or neglect against a nursing home is a serious matter which can be very complex. Nursing homes have insurance companies with powerful attorneys to defend them against abuse claims. So, if you are convinced that your parent, spouse or other loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home, then you need to know that the process of lodging a formal complaint, and then getting the case to a court trial, is not a quick procedure.
For that reason alone, it is always best to communicate with the management staff at the nursing home before taking your complaint further. Nursing homes are generally staffed with caring individuals who attempt to treat the residents respectfully and kindly. However, there are a lot of inexperienced workers in the rapidly expanding nursing home industry.
If, after you speak with management, your complaint has not been satisfactorily addressed, contact a nursing home abuse attorney.
The documentation that you provide will have a vital impact on the success of your case. You need to document and photograph everything you can that could even remotely affect the case. The more information, the better. Here are some of the types of documentation that will be the most helpful:
- A detailed account of your complaint. What is wrong? How did you discover it?
- Any photos or other proof of neglect or abuse, like bed sores, cuts, bruising, etc
- Dated photos of any unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
- When you started to suspect the abuse
- What your loved one told you about the abuse
- When you approached the nursing home staff about your concerns
- What changed, or didn’t change, after you spoke with management
- Who you spoke with. What’s their title?
- Names and job titles of any nursing staff member(s) that you believe to be responsible for the abuse
- Names of witnesses, including other staff members, other residents, their families and visitors.
If your claim is valid, then the real work of proving your case begins. Your attorney will investigate the nursing home, its staffers, the medical records of the resident (going as far back as a decade) and much more. By the time the case reaches trial, thousands of pages of medical records, financial documents, personal background checks and more will have been thoroughly scrutinized.
Nursing home negligence attorneys are prepared for these types of charges. They know all the state laws that may pertain to your case. You need a team of experts of your own, representing your loved one’s interests. You could fill out some paperwork from a state agency and then wait for them to follow up. Or you can work with a team of professional attorneys that are experienced in proving abuse and neglect cases and getting justice for your family.
Is it necessary to hire an attorney to successfully sue a nursing home for abuse or neglect?
Nursing homes, and especially the large chains, have their own attorneys on hand to protect them from litigation and intimidate you into dropping or minimizing your lawsuit. Many nursing home contracts have arbitration clauses that take away your right to sue and force you to submit to binding arbitration. A lawyer may be able to help you get around that clause in some cases.
Professional Research Skills
In most nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuits, there are literally thousands of documents to meticulously comb through for every relevant piece of information. Any little detail could prove to be what makes the case winnable. Most of the documents are years’ worth of medical charts and reports, filled with complex medical terminology that must be thoroughly understood. There is loads of documentation to be researched concerning the history of the nursing home. And then there are the background checks of all involved employees, among many other items to evaluate. A professional law firm has researchers and an entire team of experts to rake through all of that information to help you win your case.
Most nursing home negligence lawyers make their living by continuously engaging in research, litigation and various other field-specific skills. The connections and other resources of an attorney experienced in nursing home abuse and neglect cases will be indispensable in your cause to deliver justice for your abused loved one. Their familiarity with state laws, courtroom protocol, and knowledge of the legalities of the nursing home industry make it virtually essential to have representation in order to win your case.
Our nursing home contract contains a binding arbitration clause. Can we still sue?
Nursing home administrators, and the parent companies that often employ them, will do everything they can to stop residents from being able to sue them. Many have added a binding arbitration clause within their standard contracts to make it more difficult for residents to launch successful lawsuits, even when abuse and/or neglect could be proven. If you are about to sign a nursing home contract, be sure to notice if this clause is included and consider refusing to accept that term. They should not be able to deny you residence.
These clauses basically state that, no matter what happens to the resident while in the nursing home, neither the resident nor their representatives will initiate any lawsuit against the home or its staff. Instead, if abuse or neglect is experienced, the resident must have the complaint decided upon by an arbitrator, not a judge and jury. This may not be completely binding in every case. If the facts support a claim for negligence, your attorney may still take your case. If the patient has deceased, and your lawyer is representing their estate, there may be ways to get around the provision.
If you have a contract with a binding arbitration clause, and abuse or neglect has occurred, consult with a law firm to find out if the clause is enforceable in your particular case, and what steps you can take to reclaim your right to sue for damages.
How Much Does A Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Cost?
Nursing home abuse and neglect cases are not simple cases to win in court. In order to even get a nursing home abuse case to trial involves a massive amount of research, investigation and more. Literally thousands of pages of medical documentation must be gone through in detailed fashion. There’s also a lot of tedious work involved with reviewing the nursing home’s history along with performing background checks on all involved staff members. All that work has to be done before the case ever sees a courtroom.
Nursing home abuse attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means that they will not charge you – unless they win your case – and then they will get paid from your settlement amount without you having to lay out big fees in advance. If the case is lost, you owe the attorney nothing.
This makes the attorney motivated to win your case, but also he or she will want to be sure that you have a strong case to begin with. They are not going to invest all the time and effort necessary to prove a case if they are not confident that some type of settlement will be awarded.
What is the average financial settlement amount on nursing home abuse and neglect cases?
Nursing home abuse and neglect cases yield some large settlement amounts because juries are angered by those who have deliberately targeted and caused harm to the helpless. They also have little tolerance for nursing home staff members that have neglected a patient to the point where injury or death occurs, or what is legally referred to as “cold indifference” towards a person in their care.
Many considerations go into the awarding of negligence settlements. The national average amount of a nursing home negligence case settlement for non-economic damages is $329,000. Some states have put a cap on the amount of non-economic restitution that can be awarded in a negligence case in an attempt to make settlements more equitable and not dependent of the emotions of a jury.
The majority of nursing home negligence cases do not consider economic damages because most residents are on fixed incomes and not generating employment income actively anymore. In cases of financial abuse, financial losses are looked upon separately by the court, and are not subject to the caps mentioned above.
Your attorney will evaluate your case and advise you on the amount he or she will be seeking as restitution to your loved one.
How many nursing home residents are affected by abuse and neglect each year?
No one is sure just how many nursing home residents are abused and neglected each year. We know there must be times when residents who are physically or mentally unable to defend themselves, are also unable to report the abuse to a loved one or trusted staff member. With that in mind, here are the most recent statistics available from the U.S. government’s Center for Disease Control (CDC):
- Between 7.6% and 10% of nursing home residents regularly experience some type of abuse.
- Of those abused, only 1 in 10 are not, in some way, financially exploited.
- 41 residents per 1000 incur “major” financial exploitation
- All types of elderly abuse cases are increasing in number.
- An overwhelming proportion of nursing home resident abuse, neglect and/or exploitation goes unreported and therefore unaddressed or documented.
- By some estimations, only 1 out of every 14 abuse and neglect cases gets reported to the authorities.
- One New York study hypothesized that for every case of abuse or neglect that was addressed, 24 more were never reported or detected.
These shameful statistics show no sign of improvement, as the demand for nursing home care is only going to continue to grow. There will be heavier demand for educated, experienced healthcare workers, and employers may be forced to accept less than professional workers to fulfill the need. If your loved one shows signs of abuse or neglect, contact us right away to get help in stopping the abuse and getting restitution.
Why are nursing home abuse and neglect so common?
There could be many reasons, but the most common are understaffing and inexperienced workers. Nursing home work is labor intensive and requires a high degree of physical exertion on the part of nurses and nurse’s aides. This can lead to a high turnover rate of these professionals which can only negatively impact the care the residents receive. As with many occupations that require the use of professionals, you ideally want your employees to be happy and to stay with you rather than starting and training new employees all the time. There is bound to be a learning curve when new employees start, so the level of care is likely to suffer during these periods. A staff of stable employees is important to the health and wellbeing of the patients. They are more likely to observe changes in a patient’s condition, and are more likely to bring them to the attention of the attending physician’s attention.
As more than 75 million baby boomers continue to age and develop age-related health challenges, the demand for nursing home care is skyrocketing. This demand will be met by the entrance of new nursing homes, as well as other types of assisted living facilities. There will also be increased demand for skilled nurses, nursing assistants, doctors and administrators with experience in elder care. However, as the demand fuels industry growth, that same rapid growth allows for many administrative and operational cracks to be left open – and nursing home abuse and neglect cases are at all-time high rates. Will there be enough trained and experienced medical personal to support the industry?
Private nursing homes are for-profit entities. They provide services and they make money for doing so. They are entitled to make a profit for their efforts. But the rapid expansion of the industry has created a lot of issues that must be dealt with in order to decrease the amount of abuse and neglect happening in nursing homes.
Issues contributing to nursing home abuse:
- High demand for service leads to the hiring of inexperienced employees
- Cuts in spending for equipment and human resources leads to inferior quality care
- Lack of qualified management decreases operational efficiency and the quality of care given
- High-quality staff members often become overworked and overstressed, causing a loss of interest and often making them seek other employment opportunities
- Illnesses that once killed us can now be treated, keeping us alive longer. Seniors are living with more complicated conditions and treatments that the staff may not be experienced in handling.
Basically defined, nursing home abuse occurs whenever any employee or staff member, with knowledge, intention and/or negligence acts to cause injury, or even the risk of death to a resident of the home.
The shortage and unmet demand for experienced healthcare workers for the rapidly expanding nursing home industry is leading to an increase of abuse and neglect. It’s also important to remember that most nursing home employees are certainly not abusers or intentional neglecters. Many times, harm and injuries occur with absolutely no intention at all.
If you believe that someone you love is being abused or neglected, intentionally or unintentionally. Let our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys help you. They know how to handle these types of cases and can deliver the professional services you need to ensure protection and compensation for your loved one.
According to the Census Bureau, just about 4.2% of older people (65+) live in nursing homes at any given time. If you add in assisted living facilities and other types of care homes, the percentage is closer to 5%. Almost 50% of the most senior among us, those 95+, are likely to live in a nursing home, and are least able to take care of themselves and their finances.
If the baby boomers move into nursing homes at the rate of 5%, you can see the numbers are increasing rapidly. Five percent of 78 million baby boomers means about 3.9 million seniors will be heading for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as they age.
Along with the fact that people are living longer with treatable, if not curable illnesses, nursing homes and assisted living residences are going to need many more trained, skilled and caring healthcare workers to take care of them.
What can be done to minimize the risk of a patient falling?
There are a number of measures that can be taken by nursing home staff members to help reduce the number of falls. For instance, all residents who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease should be watched very closely for any potential fall situations. Simple actions, such as making certain the residents have access to any walking aids they need and that they are wearing correct footwear can go a long way to ensuring their safety.
In some cases, it might be advisable to have the patient fitted with hip pads to reduce the chances of a hip fracture from a fall. It is essential that these be properly fitted to each individual. You could also inquire if they have alarms available to alert them when a patient leaves their bed while unattended.
You are the first line of defense in dealing with potential falls of your relative. When you visit, observe whether the staff is monitoring other patients who are walking around and how they are moving them in and out of bed. They should be attentive and careful.
Even though it is impossible to prevent every fall, it could be an indicator of nursing home neglect. Ask your loved one if they have fallen, or see if they are afraid to move around which might be a telling factor that they have fallen in the past.
What can be done to reduce the incidence of wandering or elopement?
Improve security: It has been learned that the design of nursing homes from years past would increase patient wandering. For example, long narrow hallways with the nurse’s station a great distance from the patient’s rooms is not an optimal layout. Also, older buildings may have no central receiving area where entry and exit to the building can be easily monitored. To compound the problem even further, an older building may be located in a high crime area or with a busy thoroughfare right outside the property. When originally built, it may not have been in such a location; however, neighborhoods and thoroughfares change as areas develop. Also, cramped and confined spaces for patients may increase the tensions between the residents and could increase the risk for wandering.
There are ways to prevent or at least minimize the risk of a patient exiting the facility without being noticed. These include:
- The facility should have a security system to monitor the opening and closing of exterior doors.
- Exterior fencing of some sort would help to secure any patients who were able to leave the facility itself.
- All patients should have identification, such as a wristband, so that if they are able to leave the premises, someone finding them could easily see where they belong.
- Increasing physical exercise during the day for patients may reduce the propensity for them to wander away at night, some experts say.
- Try to improve the patient’s quality of sleep at night. If they have disturbed sleep, it is believed that they may be more likely to wander.
- Something as simple as a sign that says, “Stop,” or “No Exit,” might be enough to turn some patients around.
Look around the nursing home and be sure these precautions are in place, and speak to management if you notice anything out of order.