Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is more prevalent than you might think. The World Health Organization reports that 2 out of 3 staff members at nursing home facilities admit to committing abuse in the past year.
About a third of adults who live in institutional settings report psychological abuse, about 14 percent report physical abuse, and just under 14 percent say they’ve been financially abused.
What can you do to keep your loved ones in nursing homes safe? The National Institute on Aging recommends being aware of the warning signs of elder abuse so you can recognize them quickly and take action:
The patient seems withdrawn, isolated, or depressed.
An elderly loved one has unexplained bruises, cuts, or abrasions.
You notice the patient seems dirty, malnourished, or in need of medical attention (despite being in a medical facility). They may also be dehydrated or appear to be excessively medicated.
The patient has bedsores or other preventable problems.
If you help an elderly relative with banking or bookkeeping, you might notice a change in spending patterns or unusually large withdrawals.
It’s easier to notice these signs if you can visit your relative frequently. The best way to discourage nursing home abuse is to regularly but randomly drop in unannounced, even if it’s just to say hello to your relative and chat for a few minutes.
If the staff know that you only come on Saturdays from 2-3 PM, they know you won’t be around to see what they do any other time. But if you include more random visits, they can expect you to walk in at any minute and may be more careful with your loved one.
However, we understand that some people don’t live close to their relatives’ nursing homes or have other obligations with that make it hard to visit often. If this is the case, you might ask other relatives or friends to check on the patient at random times and watch for signs of trouble.
Call a Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
If you even suspect an elderly relative is abused or neglected in their nursing home or care facility, please contact us immediately. We can advise you on the next steps, including working with a skilled investigator to gather evidence of abuse in the facility.
Once we have evidence, we can help you contact the appropriate authorities and file a civil case against the facility.
What Should You Do If You Believe Your Loved One Is Being Abused in a Nursing Home?
It might be tempting to accuse a staff member of abusive behavior, but we recommend that you don’t do this immediately. An abusive caregiver is unlikely to admit if they have abused your relative, and you might make things worse for the patient after you leave.
Take pictures of any injuries, ask your loved one what happened, and record them describing any abuse. Make a plan to visit as often as possible, with the help of other relatives if needed, and look into other treatment facilities in case you need to transfer your loved one elsewhere.
Sometimes people have the idea to hide a camera or other recording device in their loved one’s room to find out what the staff is doing, especially if their relative struggles to communicate and can’t speak for themselves.
Using these devices is a bit more complicated than it looks on TV, and hiding them effectively can be difficult. It’s best to have professional help if you consider taking this step.
Additionally, you should speak to a lawyer before putting any recording devices in your relative’s room.
Although these bills failed, new legislation could be introduced and passed at any time. Your lawyer can help you to ensure evidence is gathered in a legally permissible way.
Common Types of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse
There are many ways that nursing home abuse manifests, and this should not be considered an exhaustive list. If you have questions about whether a specific situation qualifies as nursing home abuse or neglect, your lawyer can answer them.
That said, here are some common situations we see in these cases:
Bedsores – sometimes called “pressure sores” or “decubitus ulcers.” These tend to happen when a patient in a facility is immobile due to medical issues. If they can’t move around, they may stay in one position all or most of the time, which puts pressure on specific areas of the body – most frequently bony areas like ankles, heels, hips, or tailbones. The backs of arms and legs also receive a lot of pressure if a patient spends time lying down or sitting in a chair. Unfortunately, this pressure can lead to ulcerations, which may become infected. But there is a way to prevent them – medical staff move or turn the patient regularly to relieve pressure in one area and move it to another temporarily. But if the staff doesn’t keep up with adjusting the patient’s position, bedsores may occur. If you notice swollen, tender areas, possibly with draining pus, these could be bedsores, and you should ask to speak with your loved one’s doctor about them right away.
Dehydration and/or malnutrition. Inattentive staff may also forget or fail to feed a patient or ensure they drink enough water. If your loved one looks like they’re losing weight or always seems hungry or thirsty when you arrive, they may not receive sufficient care.
Abuse or assault. No one wants to think about a care home employee hitting or physically assaulting an elderly patient in a nursing home, but unfortunately, it does happen. Look for unexplained bruises or cuts, especially if there doesn’t seem to be a good medical reason (sometimes patients bruise easily because of blood thinners or other medications). You should also notice if your relative seems fearful or anxious in a way they didn’t before, especially if this anxiety worsens when a specific caregiver comes around.
Falls, especially repeated ones. There are two possible situations here: In the first one, your relative may have a medical condition that makes them unsteady on their feet, prone to fainting, or otherwise what medical facilities call a “fall risk.” When a patient is declared a fall risk, staff are supposed to take extra care to help them avoid falls – this might include providing a walker, helping the patient whenever they need to get up, walking beside the person to steady them if necessary, etc. If the staff are neglectful, your relative might have repeated falls for this reason. The second possibility is that someone is abusing the patient and explaining their injuries as the result of “a fall.”
Broken bones. Many older people have fragile bones due to osteoporosis or other conditions. However, nursing home staff should be helping them avoid situations where they might break a bone. If your loved one has had multiple fractures since moving to a care home, it’s possible that either the staff is neglectful or someone is intentionally hurting the patient.
Restraint injuries or strangulation. There are occasionally situations where a patient must be restrained for their own good, such as issues where the patient has serious mental health issues and might be a danger to themselves. However, we’ve also seen cases where staff put patients in restraints to avoid dealing with them and left them unattended for hours. Sometimes restraints are also used to prevent a patient with dementia from wandering off when appropriately staffing and securing the facility would be sufficient. If you notice marks on your relative’s wrists or forearms, ankles, or neck, ask what happened. If you’re told it was necessary to restrain the patient, inquire about why, how long the restraints were used, and if there is a plan to address the issue.
Leaving the facility. As noted in the last section, this is a valid concern, and while restraints usually aren’t necessary, the facility should be secure enough to keep patients inside. For example, doors and windows should be locked, and there should be enough employees to monitor all exits. If your loved one keeps wandering off from the facility, they might be understaffed and unable to meet their patients’ needs.
Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a severe problem. Too often, we hear from clients who repeatedly asked about a new symptom or problem their relative had and were told it was nothing. Sometimes doctors and other staff say these symptoms are “just a normal part of aging.” But if they’re wrong and they miss a critical diagnosis, your loved one could suffer serious medical issues, or in some cases, even fatal ones.
Medication errors. These are common in all medical facilities, including nursing homes, rehabs, and other institutional settings. Sadly, many patients suffer needless additional medical problems because a doctor prescribed the wrong medication or they were given the wrong dose. Unfortunately, staff in a nursing home facility sometimes try to cover up errors by blaming them on a patient’s existing condition or age rather than admitting their mistakes. If you suspect something isn’t right about a loved one’s serious health complication or death, a nursing home lawyer can review their medical records and determine what happened.
Financial abuse. Sometimes caregivers ingratiate themselves with a patient and take control of their bank accounts or other finances. Alternatively, they may steal a patient’s valuables, like expensive jewelry, or convince a patient to rewrite their will. If you notice any unusual financial changes or charges, or your loved one seems to have had a sudden shift in financial fortunes, they may have been a victim of financial abuse.
Sexual abuse. While less common than other types of abuse, this does, unfortunately, occur in some nursing homes. If your loved one seems fearful or upset but doesn’t want to talk about it, they may have suffered sexual abuse (but other kinds of abuse are also possible).
How to Seek Damages for Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
If your loved one can still handle their affairs, they might be able to file a lawsuit against the facility. Alternatively, you or another family member acting as their power of attorney can do so for them if they can’t make their own decisions.
You might seek compensation for the following damages:
Medical bills. Any expenses related to abuse or neglect injuries should be taken into consideration, as well as expected future costs if your loved one needs additional treatment.
Pain and suffering. Beyond the physical pain, which may be considerable, abuse and neglect victims often suffer intense mental anguish. Your loved one deserves to be compensated for their physical and emotional pain.
Permanent disability or disfigurement. If your relative suffered permanent scarring or disabilities due to abuse or neglect, they should also receive compensation.
Wrongful death. If your loved one died due to abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you could seek several damages, including medical expenses, funeral or burial costs, loss of companionship, and more.
Where to Find a Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Please contact the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm for a free consultation. We’ll review what’s happened, answer your questions, and explain your options.
We know how frightening it can be to think that your loved one is being harmed at a facility meant to care for them, and we’ll do whatever we can to help you resolve the situation.
Attorney Ali Awad founded the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm to help people who have been injured seek compensation for their damages.
He rapidly transformed the firm into one of the country’s fastest-growing law firms and built an audience of more than a million followers on social media. When he’s not negotiating a deal for his clients, you can find him giving no-nonsense legal advice on his social channels.
Call the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm today at 888-307-3792.
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