Some of our community’s most vulnerable members may suffer various types of abuse in nursing homes. Even though these facilities are supposed to provide care that meets certain standards, residents all too often fall victim to mistreatment by those charged with their care. Consequently, these facilities can be dangerous places for people who cannot protect themselves from physical and emotional harm.
What Is Considered Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is the mistreatment of a person residing in a nursing home. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act defines the state’s main legislation regarding nursing home abuse and neglect. It states that abuse is physical, mental, or sexual mistreatment intentionally inflicted on a nursing home resident.
Nursing home abuse can cause serious harm to elderly residents, including physical injuries, emotional trauma, and even death.
Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Mistreatment of elders in assisted living facilities can take many forms. An estimated five million older adults across the U.S. suffer some form of abuse each year. Often, nursing home residents cannot or choose not to report that those entrusted to care from them are causing harm.
Some of the most common types of nursing home abuse include:
Sexual abuse may occur under different circumstances in an unsafe nursing home. Any sexual contact that occurs without consent or when the person cannot consent constitutes sexual assault.
Sexual abuse in nursing homes can be categorized into two types:
Non-consensual intercourse – having sex with a nursing home resident who has not consented or does not have the capacity to consent.
Non-consensual sexual contact – any touching of a nursing home resident’s genitals, buttocks, or breasts without his or her permission
Psychological abuse includes verbal, emotional, or mental abuse. Under this broad umbrella, there are several types of torture that nursing home residents can be forced to endure, including:
Isolation – Isolation occurs when someone is kept locked up in his or her room without access to others. Alternatively, this also occurs when staff prevent residents from going outside, interacting with others who live nearby, or seeing each other.
Humiliation – Caregivers may tell jokes at the resident’s expense, such as making fun of his or her age or disability. They may make fun of the resident’s appearance or other characteristics they find unattractive.
Threats – A malicious caregiver might threaten harm to a resident if the latter doesn’t give in to demands or act as he or she wants.
When nursing home residents experience psychological abuse, it may contribute to them developing mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.
Many types of neglect may also be considered forms of nursing home abuse. Neglect includes emotional neglect (for example, ignoring a patient’s requests for help), financial neglect (for example, not paying bills), and physical neglect (for example, refusing to change bandages). It is a failure to provide adequate care, which can be intentional or unintentional.
It is considered neglectful if the staff fails to adequately provide medical care for their patients, including taking blood pressure readings and administering medications. Likewise, it is also considered neglectful if the staff does not provide adequate food for a resident’s meals, or if they do not maintain hygiene for residents and the facility.
Physical abuse is any physical force that causes injury or pain to a resident. It is the most common form of elder abuse in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
This form of nursing home resident mistreatment can include:
- Pinching or choking
Financial exploitation involves the illegal or improper use of a nursing home resident’s money, property, or assets.
For example, staff may forge checks or misuse caregiving funds from residents, their families, or the state. Coercing a nursing home resident into signing over power of attorney to someone else or stealing money from the elderly and their estate also qualify as financial exploitation, and are a type of nursing home abuse.
If you suspect elderly financial abuse, you may be able to stop further losses before they occur by contacting law enforcement officials or filing paperwork with the courts.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Due to their health conditions, some victims cannot report. Others may choose not to, out of fear, shame, or for any other number of reasons. Knowing the signs to watch out for, then, may help you protect your loved one.
Some common signs of nursing home abuse to watch out for include:
Emotional signs. If you notice that your loved one seems depressed or withdrawn and breaks down into tears, this could be an indication that something bad has happened to him or her in the nursing home environment.
Physical signs. To determine the types of abuse in nursing homes, check your loved one for bruises, cuts, or burns on his or her body. Physically abused residents in a care home might also have bedsores due to poor care.
Signs of neglect. Signs that a nursing home isn’t providing adequate care include poorly cooked foods, dirty rooms, and poor hygiene among residents.
Sexual abuse signs. Signs of sexual abuse include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), bleeding, restlessness, anxiety, or depression.
Money trouble. Changes in financial statuses, such as sudden withdrawal from bank accounts or other assets without cause, are a sign of financial abuse.
Changes in behavior. Abused residents may act out inappropriately with increased aggression or withdrawal from social interactions with others. This is a sign of abuse.
What to Do After a Nursing Home Abuse Incident
Caregivers are expected to fulfil the highest requirements of care and know how to handle problems at a nursing home.
If you have been the victim of nursing home abuse from caregivers, you must report the incident to the nursing home’s management. Depending on the extent of the abuse, you may also want to contact law enforcement and file a police report concurrently.
Settlements for Nursing Home Neglect
A settlement for nursing home neglect may be reached before or after a lawsuit has been filed. Settlements in these types of cases often include reimbursement for medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, compensation for loss of companionship, and punitive damages.
There could be many unreported or undocumented types of abuse in nursing homes. If you suspect your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you may consider consulting with a lawyer to learn how best to protect your loved one’s rights and wellbeing.