According to the World Health Organization, elder abuse in nursing homes is a significant problem that only seems to be growing. In an analysis of self-reported studies of nursing home staff, 64 percent of staff admitted to perpetrating some form of abuse within the past year.
Elder abuse takes on many forms, and is often difficult for both those abused and their loved ones to effectively seek justice for. One New York state study found that 260,000 elders — 1 in 13 — had been victims of one form of abuse in the past year. But another New York state study found that for every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.
If any form of elder abuse is detected, it is important to intervene. The consequences of elder abuse can be devastating — one 13-year study found that victims of elder abuse are twice as likely to die prematurely as non-victims.
The 7 Types of Elder Abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there are 7 main types of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse: Physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain or impairment.
- Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person.
- Emotional/psychological abuse: Infliction of anguish, pain or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.
- Neglect: The refusal or failure of carers to fulfill any part of their obligations or duties to an elder.
- Abandonment: The desertion of an elderly person by a carer.
- Financial abuse: The illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.
- Self-neglect: Not intervening in acts of an incompetent elderly person that threaten their own health or safety.
Risk Factors for Abuse in Nursing Homes
Some nursing home residents are more likely to suffer abuse than others. It helps to show increased attention to those with the following conditions and dispositions:
- Dementia — studies have found that 50 percent of all people with dementia experience some kind of abuse
- Previous experience of abuse
- Low social support
- Disability — those with disability not only suffer from a higher rate of physical abuse in nursing homes than the able-bodied, but this increased rate holds throughout their lives
- Relative youth
- Functional impairment
- Poor physical health
The Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
The best indicator of abuse is a report from the nursing home resident being abused or a witness. If such a report is not forthcoming, the following signs may help to uncover incidents of abuse.
Signs of physical abuse include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Marks from restraints
- Broken bones
- Injuries resulting from falls
- Overmedication and oversedation
- Bleeding in genital areas
- Bruises in genital areas
- Torn or bloodied undergarments
- Contraction of sexually transmitted diseases
Signs of financial abuse include:
- Recent, frequent withdrawals from bank accounts
- Loss of personal items
- New loans or mortgage contracts
- Recent revisions to wills, deeds or trusts
The Steps to Reporting Nursing Home Abuse
If you suspect that a resident has been abused or neglected by nursing home staff, you should take action. Here’s what to do if you suspect elder abuse in nursing homes:
- Verify the abuse: The first step should be to verify whether the resident is relating an accurate version of events/if suspected abuse is true. This should include discussing the problem with the resident themselves, then possibly consulting other nursing home residents. Medical records, prescriptions and photos of recent injuries may also be useful in assisting with any future complaint.
- Consider helping the abused resident relocate: When a resident’s safety is at stake, they may need to leave their nursing home immediately.
- Inform the authorities: In some states, those who learn about nursing home abuse are legally required to immediately report it.
- File a complaint: Resources available for reporting nursing home abuse include the state department of social services, adult protective services and elder protective services. Medicare.gov has more information about reporting abuse.
When to Consult with an Experienced Nursing Home Attorney
The best course of action if you feel that nursing home abuse has caused harm to you or a loved one is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in medical malpractice, McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine the next steps toward justice.