When you entrust your loved one to the care of someone else in a nursing home, it’s a big decision. No matter how much due diligence you do, you may not be able to guarantee that your loved one isn’t abused or neglected at the hands of others that you trust.
A New York Times story showed just how prevalent nursing home abuse and neglect can be. It found that several thousand serious incidences – involving nursing homes and injuries to the elderly who lived there – were not factored into the system used by Medicare to rate nursing homes.
This is precisely why it’s vital to know the signs of nursing home abuse and what you can do if you suspect it’s happening to someone you love.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
You should be on the lookout for certain signs when it comes to neglect and abuse in a nursing home, but not all of them will be completely obvious right off the bat. Some signs can be very subtle, while others are not.
However, the first step you can take is to acquaint yourself with the basic telltale signs of something amiss.
If someone in a nursing home is being neglected, or not having their basic needs met and being cared for appropriately, then you may notice certain evidence, such as:
- Bed sores
- Malnutrition or weight loss
- Burns from either the sun or other sources, like hot water or heating pads
- Dirty bedding or inappropriate living conditions
Physical abuse has different signs to check for, such as:
- Open wounds
- Not having medication dispensed properly
- Head injuries
- Injuries that aren’t being treated
- Unexplained injuries, such as broken bones or sprains
- Unexpected death
Of course, it’s not only physical abuse that requires vigilance – you’ll want to look for emotional abuse, as well. These signs can be quite subtle. In knowing your loved one, you may be able to tell if they are displaying symptoms, such as:
- Great emotional upset
- Fear of a caretaker
- Low self-esteem
- Not wanting to speak in front of nursing home staff
- Non-communicative or withdrawn state
While we think of sexual abuse mostly in the context of children, it can really happen to anyone, no matter their age. The elderly are vulnerable to this type of abuse, and you may notice these signs if it’s happening to them:
- Genital infections
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Bleeding that isn’t related to a medical issue
Finally, there are ways that the elderly can be financially abused by caregivers. Signs of this occurrence include:
- Unexplained bank withdrawals, credit card purchases, or bank transfers
- Changes to property titles, wills, powers of attorney, or life insurance policies
What Can You Do About Nursing Home Abuse?
If you suspect someone you love is suffering some form of abuse or exploitation at a nursing home, then there are things you can do.
You can consult with an attorney, as well as report abuse, mistreatment, or neglect to the Nursing Home Complaint Hotline in New York State at 1-888-201-4563. The New York State Department of Health oversees a surveillance system that investigates allegations and complaints.
Remember, if you don’t report suspected abuse, you put your loved one and others at risk of this continuing to happen to them.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
If you want to take independent legal action for damages caused by neglect or abuse in a nursing home, then you should consult with an experienced attorney. They can help determine who may be at fault for the abuse and neglect.
In most cases, it may be:
- The nursing home facility itself
- Individuals employed at the facility, such as doctors, nurses, and other staff
- Contracted vendors
- The parent company of the nursing home
If a nursing home fails to care for your loved one, then that makes them potentially liable for expenses related to medical care, as well as other damages, such as pain and suffering. An experienced attorney can help handle your case and ensure your loved one gets the justice they deserve.
The truth is: it’s suspected that one out of every 13 New York residents has had at least one episode of elderly abuse perpetrated against them over the course of the year. It’s much more prevalent than you may think.
Keep your eyes open, and talk to your loved one if you are concerned. Then, take action to ensure that the neglect and abuse stops.