In 2015, the long-term care industry profited over $300 billion and the number is expected to rise as Americans aged 65 or older doubles by 2050. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, over 20,000 complaints of nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation were reported in 2003. The American Association for Justice adds that 90 percent of U.S. nursing homes have staffing levels too low to provide adequate care.
As instances of abuse, neglect, fraud and forced arbitration continue, it is important that families learn to recognize signs of abuse and make sure their loved ones are protected. Many cases of nursing home abuse and neglect go unreported as signs may be missed even by professionals, most often due to lack of awareness or inadequate training. As well, elderly victims may be reluctant or unable to discuss potential abuses due to fear of retaliation, getting their caretaker in trouble or cognitive inabilities.
Most adverse events in long-term care facilities are due to under-staffing and inadequate care.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
There are many signs of elder abuse that encompass general neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and more. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, long-term care facility or in any type of elder care program, it is important to know the warning signs of mistreatment. Not only should you be aware of signs of abuse in your loved one, but also take note of the caregiver’s behavior.
Signs of Abuse in Your Loved One:
Neglect: malnutrition, dehydration, poor hygiene, unsanitary or unsafe living conditions, noncompliance to prescription medications by administering excessively or withholding. Weight loss.
Physical Abuse: bruises, cuts or scars visible on the body. Broken bones, strains or bed sores. Signs of physical restraint may include rope marks on the ankles or wrists. Broken eyeglasses may indicate an incident of physical abuse or restraint. Dental problems.
Emotional Abuse: a change in your loved one’s behavior or general mood. Sometimes rocking back and forth, mumbling or behavior that mimics dementia. Unusual depression, emotional outbursts or reclusiveness. Refusal to eat or take medications.
Sexual Abuse: inexplicable infections or bleeding. Visible signs on the body, particularly around the breasts or genitals. Torn underclothing.
Financial Abuse: withdrawals from accounts, missing cash or belongings, unpaid bills, unnecessary purchases.
Signs of Abuse by a Caregiver:
Caregivers with a history of mental illness/instability or substance abuse issues may have a higher risk of committing elder abuse. Some behavior to watch for may include the caregiver not allowing your loved one to have visitors or speak to family or friends, a general lack of affection or indifference towards the elderly or an unwillingness to leave the elder adult alone with others.
Always remember that elder abuse can be difficult to detect, and sometimes subtle. Take any suspicions seriously and act immediately.
Protect Your Loved One When Choosing a Care Facility
Choosing the right care facility isn’t easy when there are physical location and financial restraints to consider. Some things you can do to help prevent elder abuse of your loved one include:
- Talk to residents and their families about their experience with the facility. Observe current residents’ behavior and general well-being.
- Talk to staff members such as doctors, nurses, social workers, administrators, etc. Note the relationships between each other for politeness, respect, etc., as well. Make sure the facility does not hire staff with any history of abuse or neglect.
- Visit your loved one frequently and at varied times.
- Observe living spaces for odors, cleanliness, appropriate temperature and lighting, noise levels, quality of furnishings. Look for exits to be clearly marked, visiting areas, smoke detectors and sprinklers, wheelchair appropriateness, handrails, etc.
- Offerings of meal choices and snacks such as favorites, special dietary needs, assistance with eating and drinking if needed.
- Activities for residents unable to leave their rooms, outdoor spaces and volunteer programs.
- Emergency evacuation plans, frequency of fire drills.
- Document and concerns in detail, in writing.
- Avoid restricted access facilities.
- Read contracts carefully before signing, paying particular attention to binding arbitration clauses.
- Compare facilities by looking up reports here.
Nursing Home Accidents, Negligence
You may be able to sue a nursing home or long-term care facility if your loved one has been harmed, whether by intentional abuse or accident. The injury may have been by fault of the employee or based on facility policies or ongoing practices.
There are federal regulations that any nursing home accepting Medicare must follow. One such regulation is 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h) which states:
- The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as possible; and
- Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.
Accidents or facility negligence often occur in cases where:
- Staff has been improperly trained
- Hiring protocols fail to perform adequate background checks
- Staff is not monitored properly
- Security is inadequate
- Equipment malfunctions, such as a gurney or wheelchair
- Improper maintenance of equipment has occurred
- Medication has been improperly dispensed
Whether an injury occurs due to intentional abuse, neglect, or by accident, the consequence to your loved one can be fatal. There may also be irreversible chronic pain or decline in cognitive ability.
It is a fundamental responsibility of any facility to keep residents safe and secure with federal regulations providing “the facility must ensure that he resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as possible; and each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance device to prevent accidents.”
Manhattan, Long Island, New York Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
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If your loved one has suffered harm in a nursing home or long-term care facility, it is crucial that you seek legal counsel immediately to protect their rights. Keep in mind that you may have a short window of time to take legal action. Failure to file suit within a statute of limitation can bar you or your loved one from ever securing compensation.
Our injury lawyers accept cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only collect a fee if we reach a settlement or win your claim.
Call our offices today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.
The Sanders Firm was honored to be featured in the January, 2015 edition of Forbes Magazine as one of the most aggressive law firms in New York State, with over $200 million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients.
With a combined staff of over fifty attorneys, paralegals, secretaries and clerks, we take pride in working together to help individuals obtain compensation for their injuries. We share some common traits: We are tenacious. We are results oriented. We are courteous. We are well-trained in the practice of personal injury and medical malpractice law. We are dedicated to securing the fullest protection of the law for those who have suffered in acts of negligence. And we have helped to change the landscape of personal injury and medical malpractice law.