Important Information on Nursing Home Abuse and What You Can Do About It

elder-careMedication, diseases and illness make it difficult to detect signs of elder abuse. There are different types of elder abuse: physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and health care fraud.

Physical abuse is the willful inflicting of pain or injury to an elderly person. The signs include:

  1. Unexplained signs of injury, bruises, welts, or scars
  2. Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  3. Drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly
  4. Broken eyeglasses or frames
  5. Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  6. Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

The improper act of using the resources of an elder for someone else’s benefit without their consent is financial abuse. The signs include:

  • Large withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition
  • Cash and/or items missing from the senior’s household
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
  • Addition of names to the elder’s signature card
  • Unpaid bills and/or lack of medical care despite capacity to pay for them
  • Financial activities the elder couldn’t have done due to health and/or physical conditions
  • Purchase of unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

Sexual abuse is the coercing of an elder through force, trickery, threats or other means into unwanted sexual activity. The signs include:

  • Bruises or injuries around genitals and breasts
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Emotional abuse of an elder is the causing of mental or emotional distress by means of humiliation, intimidation or threats. The signs include:

  • Threatening, belittling, or controlling behavior by caregiver
  • Behavior of the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself

Neglect is another form of elder abuse and is the failure to provide food, water, clothing, shelter, hygiene, medication, safety and comfort by someone who is responsible for the elder. The signs include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Untreated wounds and injuries
  • Unsanitary and/or unsafe living conditions
  • Lack of proper sanitation facility
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Improper clothing for the weather
  • Desertion of the elder at a public place

Healthcare fraud and abuse is carried out by unethical doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and other professional care providers. The signs include:

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device
  • Over medication or under medication
  • Inadequate care when bills are paid in full
  • Poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff or crowding at the care facility.


Fight Nursing Home Abuse

Taking Legal Action – Should You Sue The Nursing Facility?

If any elder has been abused at a nursing facility, it is institutional abuse. Institutional abuse generally involves abuse committed by a person who has a legal or contractual obligation to care for the elder in a nursing home, foster home, or other similar facility. Nursing homes are licensed and heavily regulated under both federal and state law and are supposed to protect elderly residents from harm.

Elder abuse, especially at a nursing facility is unjustifiable. If your elder relative is a victim of abuse at a nursing facility, you should sue the nursing facility. There are several types of claims you can bring against nursing homes for elder abuse including actions alleging physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, false imprisonment, consumer fraud resulting in financial abuse, and financial exploitation. The victim must be an elder under the State law. This age to be considered an elder varies between states and usually ranges from 60 to 65.

You also file a lawsuit for neglect if the nursing home fails to provide reasonable care or fails to adhere to a specific industry standard and that failure causes injury to your relative.

Suing a nursing home for elder abuse can be a very effective remedy. There are attorneys and law firms all over the country specializing in this area of the law.

If you decide to sue a nursing home for elder abuse, make sure you

  • Assemble and organize your evidence
  • Document the details and dates of your case against the nursing home.
  • Communicate with friends and family who could serve as eye witness testimony.
  • Obtain the cooperation of the victim or the victim’s Power of Attorney, who alone has the power to demand health care and nursing home records.
  • Go to the family doctor or local hospitals to obtain the victim’s recent medical records and the medical records dating back to the time of the alleged incident.
  • Obtain the reports and flow charts from the Nursing Home.
  • Be sure to utilize any copies of substantiated complaint forms from the Division of Licensing and Certification.
  • Date and organize all of your evidence so that it can be easily deciphered by you and your legal team.


Questions to Ask Your Nursing Home

Make an appointment to visit the nursing home before you decide if the nursing home is suitable for your elder relative. When you visit to nursing home, make sure you should ask the following questions before choosing a nursing home:

  1. Does the nursing home help the resident with the daily routine activities?
  2. Does the nursing home provide regular health and dental checkups?
  3. Is there a doctor available on call?
  4. Are different levels of nursing home care, from assisted living to health care to short term rehabilitation programs, available?
  5. How does the nursing home determine the appropriate level of care for each nursing home resident?
  6. Are nurses always close at hand?
  7. What kind of clothing should a resident wear?
  8. What are scheduled activities?
  9. What do the residents do between scheduled activities?
  10. How do nursing home residents get around in the wheel chairs by themselves?
  11. Does the nursing home move residents to new rooms at will?
  12. Ask for the nursing home bill of rights
  13. Does the staff know the residents by name?
  14. What services and amenities does the nursing home provide?
  15. What are the nursing home licensing requirements in your state?
  16. Ask about the credentials of the staff.
  17. Does the nursing home offer training?
  18. Are there staff dedicated to the different types of dementia?
  19. How many licensed RNs are on staff at all times?
  20. Are residents with dementia grouped together in one wing or are they spread out?
  21. Is there a Social Services Worker?
  22. What do the meals consist of?
  23. Can a special diet be implemented?
  24. What steps are taken to ensure the proper foods are given to the right residents?
  25. What type of services and amenities does the nursing home provide?
  26. What steps are in place for emergencies?
  27. Are there smoke working detectors and easily reachable fire extinguishers in working condition?
  28. Are stairways and exits clearly marked?
  29. Are all areas and facilities at the nursing home accessible by wheel chairs?
  30. What types of recreational activities and facilities are provided?
  31. Does the nursing home provide social, recreational, spiritual, fitness and wellness programs?
  32. What kinds of exercise regimes are included?
  33. Is the fitness equipment appropriate for residents and easy-to-use?
  34. Is there a fitness instructor?
  35. What types of social and individual activities are offered?
  36. What are the recreational facilities provided – computer room, meditation room, library, craft room, game room or wood shop?
  37. Are religious services available?
  38. Is the entrance fee refundable?
  39. Are Medicare and Medicaid plans accepted?

You need to ask the right questions to assure yourself that you have found a nursing home that will provide the best services and support for elder relative.