If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you have every right to be concerned about their health and safety. Nursing home abuse and neglect are real problems that impact far too many of our vulnerable seniors. What’s worse is that many nursing home residents are intimidated and silenced, so they cannot effectively advocate for themselves. That burden then falls on their loved ones who must be vigilant on their behalf.
To raise your awareness about the potential dangers of nursing home abuse, we present this short list of common problems seniors face in care facilities:
- Physical abuse — It is unfortunately not uncommon for elders in nursing homes to be struck when staff members feel they are not being cooperative. This is especially an issue for dementia patients, who can become frantic or combative. However, the fact that a patient might be difficult is no excuse for violence or the threat of violence. In addition, elderly residents can be handled roughly by poorly trained staff, sustaining injuries such as bruises and muscle strains.
- Verbal abuse — Some staff members simply don’t have the requisite patience to deal with the demands of caregiving. Thus, they yell, curse, threaten and demean residents. This treatment has a serious psychological effect on the resident, who can become withdrawn and depressed, which impairs their recovery and further threatens their physical health.
- Financial abuse — Some staff members steal from residents. Others accept bribes for better service or practice extortion by threatening to withhold amenities or physically abuse the resident. It is a good rule not to allow a resident to have any cash or access to bank accounts while in a nursing facility. If you’re loved one asks you for money, this is a strong sign of extortion by the staff.
- Sexual abuse — As hard as this may seem to believe, some elders are sexually violated while in a nursing home. This type of abuse is not limited to direct sexual assault but includes other actions by staff such as deliberate humiliation when undressing a resident, using overt and foul sexual language, exposing themselves to the resident, and forcing a resident to watch pornography.
- Healthcare fraud and abuse — Facilities have been known to gouge residents, to charge for services not rendered, to order treatments and tests that are not medically necessary, and to bill for prescription drugs the resident does not need and never receives. As the advocate for your loved one, you must scrutinize every line item in the monthly bill and confront those in charge about any questionable charges.
As mentioned above, abuse intimidates nursing home residents into silence, so you must be observant and respond to any red flags that your loved one’s behavior raises. If you note a change in personality, such as anxiety, moodiness, or depression, don’t assume it’s a medical issue or it’s simply related to aging. Tell-tale signs, such as bruising, the start of bedsores, lethargy, and weight loss, should prompt you to take immediate action.
You should report your suspicions to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. You can also request the services of a Long-term Care Ombudsman.
If your loved one has been injured due to abuse or neglect, he or she is entitled to full compensation for physical injuries as well as pain and suffering. You should contact a personal injury lawyer with experience managing nursing home abuse cases.