The elderly population has specific vulnerabilities and special needs that should be catered to by their family members. However, these needs may be neglected at home as their loved ones don’t have the time or skills to provide proper care.
In these instances, the best way forward is to pass on the responsibility of care to a nursing home. Assisted living facilities for the elderly should ideally be able to provide the best care for the aging populace who can no longer take care of themselves. Unfortunately, in few instances, this might not be the case.
If you suspect your loved one to be a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse—whether financial, physical, sexual, or whatever form, below are the steps you can do to stop it in its tracks. You’ll also discover the different types of abuses and the signs to watch out for while making sure your loved one remains safe.
Nursing Home Neglect And Abuse: What’s The Difference?
When an elderly resident doesn’t receive proper care, be it medical, emotional, or physical, it’s considered a form of neglect. When this oversight results in any form of harm, whether deliberate or unintentional, it’s called nursing home abuse. Nursing home neglect happens in healthcare facilities where the staff responsible fails to provide proper care to their senior residents.
These two terms are often used interchangeably. While some may argue that neglect isn’t as severe as abuse, it’s important to note that all situations and activities covering them may cause serious psychological, emotional, and physical damages to an elderly person.
Simply put, nursing home neglect is a form of abuse inflicted upon a resident of an assisted living facility, whether intentional or unintentional. Two of the most common forms of elderly neglect include breach of duty or overall lack of care, resulting in harm and common injuries to a senior citizen.
Common Forms Of Nursing Home Neglect
A senior citizen has special needs, and a caregiver can fail to provide the following care to a nursing home resident:
Elderly persons often suffer from chronic diseases that can cause mobility and cognitive problems such as diabetes, dementia, and other conditions. Depending on the scope of the health issue, the nursing staff should be able to take care of the person and ease the discomfort triggered by these symptoms.
Specific health problems can cause a senior citizen to be incapable of self-care. Being unable to take care of themselves, it should be a nursing home staff’s responsibility to feed the resident and provide their basic needs, along with a safe environment.
Similar to safe-care deficiencies, an assisted living personnel should bathe, brush a resident’s teeth, and do the laundry on the person’s behalf.
The elderly has emotional and psychological needs that are no different from younger adults. Nursing homes are expected to have these fulfilled by promoting highly engaging activities for seniors.
In the United States, it’s estimated that 10% of individuals aged over 60 years have had experienced various forms of elderly neglect and abuse. Some suspect the numbers could be higher, possibly reaching up to five million annually, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Whether a resident is left without physical, medical, or mental attention, inadvertently or deliberately, a witness should report it immediately.
What To Do If You Suspect Elder Neglect Or Abuse
When you suspect elder neglect or abuse, never sweep it under the rug. Here are some things you should do:
1. Ensure Your Loved One Is Safe
Before doing anything, your main goal should be to remove your loved one from imminent danger. If you think this is the case, call emergency services. Some states have their local Adult Protective Services (APS) or the National Center on Elder Abuse where you can report these cases. But if you don’t think the situation isn’t as serious as you believe, talk to the management first.
2. Talk To The Suspected Victim In Private
This is easier said than done as the individuals may not be able to speak well or may have reservations about telling the truth to you. Either way, talk to the person in private and use a friendly approach in asking if they feel threatened or they’ve been neglected or harmed in any way. If the person denies discussing with you in detail, trust your instinct and assume that something is happening.
3. Set An Appointment With The Nursing Home Officials
Sometimes, everything isn’t as straightforward as it seems. The common signs of possible abuse or neglect such as scratches, bruises, and bedsores may not be an accident or self-inflicted, so keep your cool while talking with the staff and don’t point a finger. Relay your concerns with the management in a diplomatic manner. Ask them about the signs you saw and seek an explanation.
If the management’s explanation is questionable or the solutions they’re proposing don’t sit well with you, consider filing a formal complaint.
4. Gather Evidence Of Elder Abuse Or Neglect
As with any potential lawsuit, you must document allegations to help substantiate your claims before the court if the issue becomes a full-blown trial. Anything that can support you with your claims of abuse and neglect can help such as photos, transcripts of interviews, and minutes of meetings with the management, among other pieces of evidence. It’ll also help if you can identify the names of the staff who allegedly committed the acts.
5. Consider Hiring A Lawyer
If you have a serious allegation or believe that abuse and neglect are done systematically, it’s best to contact a lawyer who specializes in elder abuse. Ask the attorney for legal advice as well as how to move forward with your complaint. Your lawyer may recommend a lawsuit where you can claim compensation for injuries and damages on a family member’s behalf.
Signs Of Possible Elder Abuse Or Neglect
Abuse and neglect can either be physical, sexual, emotional, or even financial. A good rule of thumb is to report anything that seems off.
These are a few of the warning signs to watch out for:
Physical: fractures, cuts, bruises, bedsores, drastic weight loss
Emotional: irritability and change in demeanor or attitude
Sexual: bruises and marks around the sensitive areas
Financial: missing bank funds
Abuse and neglect of the elderly may come in various forms. But as always, report any of your concerns to the management. Sometimes, people can get overwhelmed that they start to blame without first evaluating the circumstances. This isn’t the correct approach, especially if you’re planning to file a formal complaint. For serious allegations, it may be best to involve authorities and legal counsel.