As our population continues to age, an emerging area of concern is nursing home abuse. Unfortunately, over the past several years, nursing home abuse has become a more prominent problem.
According to the U.S. National Research Council (NRC), 1.6 million people live in approximately 17,000 licensed nursing homes, and close to another 1 million people live in 45,000 residential care facilities. Research shows that 2.5 million vulnerable individuals are at a much higher risk for abuse and neglect than the elderly who live at home.
Statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimate that by the year 2030, there will be a 50% increase in the number of elderly individuals who require nursing home care.
About 73,000 Floridians live in nursing homes.
But what exactly is nursing home abuse? How can you recognize it? And what, if anything, can be done about it?
Let’s examine this troubling and complex area with a brief introduction into nursing home abuse: what it is, and what can be done about it.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Entities conducting research in this area, and the laws of each state, each have their own definition of elder “abuse”, “nursing home abuse,” or “elder mistreatment,” so that there really is no single universally accepted definition of it. Nevertheless, these terms all refer to situations where an elderly person is harmed or being harmed by a caretaker.
Mistreatment of the elderly spans all races, genders, sexes and ethnic groups. It may occur in private homes, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, or other institutions that care for the elderly and frail. (For purposes of this discussion we will focus on “nursing home abuse.”)
Nursing home abuse occurs when a caretaker(s) in a nursing home seriously harms one of the home’s residents. This harm can be caused by the caretaker’s intentional or unintentional acts or omissions.
The harm suffered by the resident elderly person depends, of course, on the facts of the individual case — i.e., the type and severity of the abuse, as well as how long it continued. Generally speaking, however, mistreatment can result in physical injuries, emotional trauma, or even death.
What Types of Abuse Exist?
Again, while there is no one agreed-upon definition of “abuse,” the mistreatment generally takes one of 5 forms:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Financial abuse
Each one of these categories has its own working definition. In addition, state laws on vary widely with regard to how abuse is defined, so please consult an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer for more information.
What Are Some Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is not always obvious. Because many elderly individuals living in nursing homes are weak and vulnerable, and may have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other cognitive failures, or are otherwise disabled, they may be unable to communicate what is happening or what they are suffering.
Because of this, it is critical for family members to be on guard and look for signs or patterns of behavior that may point to mistreatment.
The following is a short list of some warning signs applicable to each category of abuse.
Bear in mind that a comprehensive listing of all signs is beyond the scope of this brief introductory post, so please consult with our nursing home lawyers if you have any doubts or questions regarding potential warning signs in your particular situation.
Warning Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse may be the more obvious form of abuse to look for because it generally leaves marks. Some signs include:
- Broken or fractured bones
- Broken possessions like glasses
- Withdrawing socially
- Change in personality — being easily startled, showing fear of a particular
Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse
Some warning signs to look for are:
- Bruises, or cuts on or around the breasts or genital area
- Sexually transmitted disease or genital infection
- Torn or stained underwear
- Vaginal or anal bleeding
- Depression, social withdrawal, anxiety
Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is more difficult to detect. Look for reoccurring situations, patterns and signs of:
- Sudden, unexplained withdrawal or personality changes
- Increased anxiety
- Feelings of despair
- Lack of sleep
Warning Signs of Neglect
Another difficult mistreatment to identify, neglect can take many forms. Keep an eye out for:
- Unattended medical needs
- Unusual weight loss
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unsafe and unsanitary living conditions
Warning Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is particularly pervasive and the elderly can be subject to any number of scams. Be aware of:
- Unexplained expenditures
- Unpaid bills
- Signing up for monthly programs that require payments
- Unexplained disappearance of checkbooks, credit cards, or documents
- Abruptly changing one’s Last Will & Testament
What Can Be Done About Nursing Home Abuse?
Elder abuse is a horrifying and heartbreaking epidemic.
But Florida is committed to protecting its more vulnerable citizens, and those living in nursing homes do have certain legal rights.
If you suspect your loved one is being mistreated, there are steps you can take.
First, report any suspected or known abuse to the police, Adult Protective Services (APS), or a nursing home abuse lawyer.
Second, if you have any concerns, immediately consult with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to get the individual assistance and advice you need.
Personal Injury Attorneys in Orange Park, Florida
Florida personal injury and nursing home lawyer John Fagan helps injured victims recover the compensation they deserve. If you believe your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse, contact us or call the firm at 777-JOHN. Our practice is dedicated to helping those who are injured due to another’s negligence. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we serve clients throughout Florida. We have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.