The statistics on nursing home abuse each year are pretty stark. By some estimates, some 5,000,000 elders like you are abused each year while living in a nursing home. This number may be even higher, too, given the infrequency with which elder abuse in nursing home environments is reported. Indeed, some statistics indicate that only 1 in 14 instances of nursing home abuse is properly reported.
However, you may not need these statistics to tell you how frequently one of the most vulnerable populations in the nation are taken advantage of. You may know with certainty that you have been abused in this manner, leaving you with a decreased quality of life during your golden years. Many elders like you that are abused in an assisted living facility also feel that some of their dignity is being stripped away, given how challenging it is to rebuff the abuse.
This injustice cannot stand, plain and simple. It is within your rights to live a dignified life, even in a nursing home. Moreover, it is your right to report abuse when it occurs without facing the threat of retaliation. To allow you to act upon those rights, this guide will help you better understand the nursing home abuse reporting process. In addition, this guide will also teach you about the types and signs of abuse so that you can more efficiently identify it in the future.
After reading through this guide, you may feel that following the path toward litigation may be the most appropriate for your situation. If that is the case, then you should seek out the assistance of a qualified personal injury lawyer in your area. If your area includes the greater Philadelphia, PA, then you’ll be able to call on one of the best in the field – the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky. Their team of seasoned attorneys can help you understand your options when it comes to holding your nursing home liable for their employee’s actions.
What are The Types of Nursing Home Abuse?
Before you move forward to report your nursing home abuse, it’s important to understand the various types of abuse that could have occurred to you. This can help you better understand the scope of your abuse as well as explain it a regulatory or law enforcement authority later on.
The following are only the several broadest abuse categories. As such, it is possible that you suffered abuse that does not neatly fit into one of these categories. Your experiences are still valid, and you should do your best to explain those experiences when the time comes.
The first, and often most recognized, form of abuse is physical abuse. Generally speaking, physical abuse can include any form of aggressive contact that leads to an injury. At worst, this can include punches, kicks, and unlawful physical restraining of any kind. However, given that many nursing home residents are more susceptible to injury by nature, this could even include any form of rough contact that may not otherwise injury a younger individual.
As with all forms of nursing home abuse, physical abuse can constitute a single occurrence or a pattern of improper physical interactions. For an action to constitute physical abuse, it need not leave a “mark”, such as a bruise, either. So long as the victim feels that the interaction left them in a worse physical state, it may be considered abuse that is worthy of reporting
Physical abuse can often be paired with a second common form of abuse – emotional abuse (though the two are not mutually inclusive). Sometimes known as phycological abuse, this kind of abuse is typified by any kind of action (or inaction) that causes a nursing home resident to become emotionally harmed. Common examples of emotional abuse include yelling, threatening, using hurtful words, and intentionally ignoring the individual’s requests.
Emotional abuse is often cumulative, or in other words, it is a result of numerous actions that have the larger effect of harming the victim’s emotional well-being. However, even a single act of emotional abuse is worth reporting, such as wrongful isolation. For example, a nursing home employee who prevents a resident from visiting with their family without a justified reason may be guilty of committing emotional abuse.
Though it is rarely discussed, sexually abuse is also too prevalent in nursing homes. As is the case for average citizens, sexual abuse can be defined as any form of sexual action or advance that is unwanted by the victim. It can often lead to physical or mental trauma, especially when it occurs over an extended period of time. Nursing home residents are often more susceptible to this form of abuse, too, given that they are not usually able to readily defend themselves from unwanted sexual actions.
Neglect is another form of abuse that is often seen as unique to the environment of an assisted living facility (or any facility that provides medical care). In essence, neglect can occur any time an employee of a nursing home fails to perform their duties to meet a residents basic needs in a satisfactory manner. This can include, but is not limited to, a failure to provide proper nutrition, hydration, shelter, hygiene facilities, or medical treatment.
Finally, while it is the least common overall, financial abuse is also a serious issue that can impact nursing home residents. Typically, this form of abuse involves an employee improperly controlling how a resident utilizes their financial resources. It can also take on a more direct form, including the stealing of cash or the unauthorized use of their credit cards. This can leave a victim with a decreased quality of life due to their minimized independence and financial stability.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
There are numerous signs of nursing home abuse that manifest based upon the type of abuse. For example, unexplained bruises, sprains, lacerations, or broken bones may be a sign of physical abuse. Meanwhile, changes in behavior or an unwillingness to be around a certain staff member may be a sign of several forms of abuse, including emotional and sexual abuse.
However, the signs of neglect are more numerous. They can often be small or hard to notice at first, such as an increase in number or severity of bedsores (pressure ulcers). Even dehydration or malnutrition can be signs that are easier to miss within an elderly population. A lack of communication about these unexplained changes can also be a sign that a victim has experienced a form of abuse that they don’t yet recognize or are afraid to discuss openly.
Where to Report Abuse
By law, many kinds of publicly licensed and trained professionals are required to report suspected abuse. As such, a nurse, doctor, or social worker that you or a loved one have contact with can be used as a venue to initiate the reporting process. However, reporting abuse can occur much more swiftly by calling local authorities via 911. This direct route has the benefit of getting the victim help immediately and putting the nursing home in question on notice of the suspected abuse.
Abuse reports can also be made to external authorities who are able to guide you to proper assistance. One option available to residents in all US states and territories is the National Center for Elder Abuse. While they do not investigate abuse reports themselves, they do offer guidance when it comes to contacting local authorities. Those looking to report abuse may also contact a local nursing home ombudsman, whose can act as an intermediary between the victim and law enforcement officials.
Who Can Be Held Legally Liable for Nursing Home Abuse?
Liability in cases of nursing home abuse can vary based upon the situation, the environment, and the individuals directly involved in the abuse. For example, a nursing home management company is often the first target for liability given that they usually take on vicarious liability for their employees. However, if a nursing home employee was acting outside the guidelines of the facility, they may also be held directly liable for their own actions.
In some cases, a nursing home’s manager can also be held directly liable if they allowed abuse to occur on their watch. This can even be the case if they did not know the full extent or nature of the abuse in question. However, if they did know about the abuse in question and failed to stop its continuation, then they may be held liable in their professional capacity.
How Do I Sue for Nursing Home Abuse ?
In so many words, nursing home abuse is among the most heinous actions that can be taken against a vulnerable individual. Whether it is of a physical, emotional, or even sexual nature, nursing home abuse should never be tolerated. Instead, it should be reported as soon as it is identified so that the liable parties can be held to account.
In order to hold an abuser to account, however, you’ll likely need the assistance of qualified legal counsel. As such, nursing home abuse victims in the Philadelphia, PA, area should not delay calling the the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky. Their team of skilled personal injuries lawyers are willing and able to take on nursing home abuse cases while protecting a victim’s right to proper compensation for their injuries and suffering.