When your elderly loved ones need round-the-clock care and you entrust that care to a nursing home that you’ve carefully chosen, you expect your family members to receive the care they need. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and you’ve chosen to place your trust in a facility that’s charged with taking excellent care of your loved ones. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), however, finds that millions of elderly Americans suffer abuse in long-term care facilities each year.
Nursing home abuse happens more than you may think, and if you suspect that your loved one has suffered any of these abuses, contact an experienced Baltimore nursing home abuse attorney immediately. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we understand how emotionally overwhelming these cases can be, and we’re here to fight for your loved one’s right to physical safety and personal dignity, as well financial compensation from the liable nursing home.
Elder abuse is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult” 60 years or older. The CDC goes on to define separate categories of elder abuse:
Physical Abuse – Physical abuse involves the use of intentional physical force that causes injury, illness, pain, functional impairment, emotional distress, or death.
Sexual Abuse – Abusive sexual contact covers an array of forced or unwanted sexual interactions of any kind. If committed against an incapacitated person who is incapable of consenting, the interaction qualifies as sexual abuse.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse – Emotional or psychological abuse can involve verbal or nonverbal behaviors that inflict mental anguish or pain, fear, or emotional distress. This behavior can include humiliation, threats, isolation, or the exertion of control.
Neglect – Neglect refers to the failure by caregivers to protect elders in their care from harm or to fail to meet their essential medical care, shelter, activities of daily living, nutrition, hydration, or hygiene needs.
Financial Abuse or Exploitation – Financial abuse or exploitation is a caregiver’s unauthorized, improper, or illegal use of a nursing home resident’s resources for the benefit of someone other than the resident.
The statistics regarding nursing home abuse are fuzzy for many reasons, including underreporting by both victims and nursing homes. The NCEA, nevertheless, has compiled important statistics that point to the prevalence of nursing home abuse in the United States:
• In a 2001 U.S. House of Representatives report, nearly one in three nursing homes—in the two-year period from 1999 through 2001—was cited for federal standards violations that either caused harm to residents or had the potential to cause harm. Furthermore, almost one out of 10 nursing homes was cited for violations that caused residents harm, serious injuries, or jeopardy of death.
• In a 2000 study of 2,000, 44 percent of nursing home residents said that they’d been abused, and 95 percent said that they’d been neglected or that they’d seen another resident be neglected.
• In a 2010 study of nursing home staff, more than 50 percent admitted to mistreating elderly residents within the year before the study. Most of these mistreatment incidents involved neglect.
As you can see, nursing home abuse is serious and widespread, so you should always be aware of signs that your loved one has been a victim.
When you entrust loved ones to nursing home care, you expect that they’ll receive excellent care and satisfying social interactions when you can’t be together, and often this is exactly what happens. Sometimes, however, nursing home residents are abused or neglected, and it’s important to protect your loved ones by remaining alert to this possibility and understanding the warning signs:
Marked emotional or physical change – If your loved one exhibits a marked emotional or physical change, it could be a sign of abuse or neglect. The natural aging process, however, can also cause such changes, and it’s important to distinguish between aging (and associated diseases) and poor care. Stay in close contact with your loved one, visit often and at irregular times, and question staff when you’re concerned.
Unanswered questions – If the nursing home staff continually deflects your questions, is evasive, is consistently unable to answer your questions, or won’t discuss your loved one’s care, consider this a warning sign that the care may be less than optimal. The answer, “This is how we do things here,” should be a red flag. High staff turnover rates that never level out is another bad sign.
Fear and agitation – If your loved one asks not to receive care from a specific staff member (or appears frightened when a specific staff member is near), take this seriously (even if your loved one has cognitive issues). Address this issue with nursing home leadership immediately—mistreatment or neglect may be the cause.
Chaos reigns – A busy staff that’s sometimes stretched too thin is probably unavoidable, but the nursing home shouldn’t be in constant chaos. If the staff is friendly, open, warm, and works well together while interacting with the residents, that’s a great sign—as is effective leadership in the form of an active and engaged director. Bad staff attitudes and poor information chains that span shift changes, however, can indicate trouble. If call buttons and ringing phones seem to constantly go unanswered, ask yourself why the staff doesn’t have time to pick up the phone.
Physical signs – If your loved one exhibits physical signs such as dehydration or malnourishment, take these indicators very seriously. Dehydration is a frequent and dangerous symptom of negligent care.
If you suspect that your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse, you no doubt feel both betrayed and overwhelmed. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice Jr., we recognize how difficult this experience is, and we’re here to help you fight for the justice your loved one has been denied. Our experienced Baltimore nursing home abuse attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and compassion to help guide your loved one’s claim toward its most favorable resolution. Please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at (410) 288-2900 for a consultation today.