The extent of nursing home negligence and abuse is shocking to most Americans, who rightly expect that vulnerable, sick and elderly people placed in nursing homes receive the highest level of care.
In many cases, they do. However, the improper care of residents in assisted living facilities is more common than most of us imagine.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimates that approximately 95 percent of nursing home residents have experienced or witnessed neglect, i.e., poor care or breaches of duty that cause residents to suffer.
When a lack of medical care or abuse occurs with society’s most vulnerable individuals — many of whom cannot defend themselves or speak up — the consequences are especially serious.
Residents in assisted living facilities have rights and the families of victims are encouraged to speak up if they suspect nursing home negligence or abuse.
Educating yourself about the most common types of neglect and abuse is the first step in preventing it, identifying it and bringing it to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
Common types of neglect and abuse in nursing homes
To be clear, nursing home neglect usually results from carelessness or apathy from nursing home staff. Nursing home abuse is a deliberate act performed to harm a resident.
Both are serious breaches of the duty of care expected in assisted living facilities. Typically, cases involving nursing home neglect or abuse involve one or more of the following:
Failing to provide appropriate medical or personal care
If nursing home staff members fail to provide proper medical or personal care, it is a type of neglect that can harm a resident’s physical and emotional well-being.
Typical examples in nursing homes include the following:
- Medication errors: mistakes can be serious and even result in a resident’s death.
- Personal hygiene neglect: changing residents’ clothes, helping them wash and aiding them in the washroom are standard expectations; wearing dirty or soiled clothes is unacceptable.
- Dehydration and malnutrition: depriving residents of the appropriate levels of nutrition and hydration amounts to serious neglect.
- Ignoring resident complaints or delays with reporting issues: this can lead to deeper issues with the health or well-being of residents.
- Leaving residents unattended: whether it is intentional or due to understaffing, this is unacceptable neglect.
- Failing to adequately care for bed-bound residents: this can result in serious issues like bedsores that become infected.
Self-neglect should not happen in nursing homes because individuals are usually placed there due to their inability to adequately look after themselves without assistance.
It is the job of the nursing home staff to look after the needs of the resident as part of the duty of care — and failure to do so is neglect.
The most obvious sign of nursing home abuse is physical abuse — when a resident suffers bodily harm or injuries. But even this can be “hidden” beneath thick clothing.
A 2020 study from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that almost one in ten nursing home staff members admitted to physically abusing residents in their care.
Typical examples include:
- Punching or kicking a resident
- Restraining a resident with straps or ties
- Pushing or shoving a resident
Any bodily injury to an elderly person has the potential to become serious and, without proper medical attention, lead to further complications.
Most cases do not result in obvious injuries, such as broken bones, but lesser injuries that cause bruises and bleeding are quite common.
Emotional abuse occurs when nursing home residents are verbally or psychologically abused. Constant insults or “put-downs” of a resident are examples.
This type of abuse is often used to “control” a resident. Its impact is less obvious and may be very difficult to spot but it can lead to depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of nursing home abuse. According to the WHO study mentioned previously, almost one-third of nursing home employees admitted to emotionally abusing residents.
Typical examples of emotional abuse include:
- Insulting the resident’s appearance or intelligence
- Isolation from family, friends or other residents
- Uttering threats
- Forcing a resident to do something against their will
Negative changes in mood or behavior are the most common warning sign of emotional abuse.
Unwanted sexual contact of any kind, including touching or groping of residents, constitutes sexual abuse.
It is most commonly committed against residents who are unable to speak out or whose opinions may be discounted due to their mental states.
Bruises and scratches may be from other causes but if you suspect sexual abuse, the claim needs to be treated seriously as it is more common than most of us imagine.
Stealing or defrauding money or items of value from vulnerable residents is a form of financial abuse that occurs frequently in nursing homes.
Typical examples of financial abuse include:
- Misusing a power of attorney to change a resident’s will
- Stealing cash, credit cards or items of value
- Stealing financial records or bank statements
Who typically commits nursing home abuse?
Despite what some people think, it is not only nursing home employees who cause nursing home abuse.
Many cases filed indeed involve staff members in these facilities. Often, these individuals are inadequately screened before being offered the job. They may be inadequately trained and overworked, leading to stressful job situations that lead to actions taken in anger or frustration.
Through no fault of the resident, neglect or abuse can result — and the facility may be held accountable for this.
However, several other parties may also abuse or neglect residents. Most notably, these are:
Other nursing home residents
Nursing home abuse from other residents is common. However, it is also the responsibility of nursing home staff to keep residents safe and prevent risks like this.
If the facility has identified a dangerous resident, suitable supervision must be provided at all times to avoid problems for other residents.
Nursing home administrators
Abuse or neglect can also result from the decisions of nursing home administrators. If profit is put before the level of care or service provided, avoidable mistakes may result from understaffing, lack of training, poor supervision, poor facilities, lack of safety, and so on.
Another way that administrators can be held responsible for nursing home neglect is by failing to act upon reports or complaints, downplaying or ignoring concerns raised, or delaying corrective actions.
If you have concerns over nursing home neglect or abuse, the lawyers at Andreozzi & Foote offer a free and confidential consultation, during which we can discuss your concerns and advise you of your legal options, or you can call us directly at 866-311-8640.