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How to Spot and Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

Every year, some 2.1 million seniors are victims of elder abuse. With more folks entering nursing homes and assisted living facilities, reports of abuse are increasing rapidly. Experts say that this silent epidemic is one of the largest legal challenges in the 21st century. After all of the care and consideration that it takes to choose the right nursing home for a loved one, abuse is emotional and highly traumatic for everyone.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in three nursing homes has been cited for violations. Nationally, nursing homes have an average of eight deficiencies each. The frequency of abuse and extent of neglect is surprising for families and for safety advocates. The types of emotional and physical abuse are equally shocking.

Common Types of Elder Abuse

  • Sexual assault
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial exploitation
  • Chemical restraint
  • Active or passive neglect

Abuse is often perpetrated by nursing home staff and caregivers. Nationally, more than 1,000 nursing homes have hired workers who were previously cited for abuse. Fellow nursing home residents are named in complaints about 20 percent of the time.

Signs of abuse can manifest themselves in many ways. However, relatives are often afraid to report maltreatment due to embarrassment, threats made by the abuser and a fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, abuse that goes unreported and allowed to continue can lead to injury and, even worse, death.

Warning Signs

Visiting your elderly relatives is the best way to ensure their health and well-being. Familiarizing yourself with these warning signs can help you detect abuse early and protect your parents and grandparents from criminals. The following are red flags associated with physical and emotional abuse or neglect.

  • Bed sores
  • Bleeding
  • Broken Bones
  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Isolation
  • Malnutrition
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unexplained pain

Nursing homes can conceal abuse by claiming that your loved one suffered a fall when he or she was really injured by a staff member. If there are reports of multiple falls, you should be concerned about a pattern of violence. A history of documented multiple falls could, at a minimum, indicate a pattern of neglect.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

A reluctance to report safety incidents allows nursing homes to conceal problems and abusers in every state. To protect your loved ones and other nursing home residents, follow these steps.

  1. Visit your elderly relatives regularly, and take an active interest in their care.
  2. Ask to review care records. A reluctance to share this information is one warning sign that a nursing home is hiding something.
  3. Discuss your relative’s healthcare and activity needs with staff and family members.
  4. If you suspect abuse or neglect, contact an ombudsman. Then, make arrangements to have your relative moved to a safer facility.
  5. For further assistance, contact a personal injury attorney with experience litigating elder abuse and neglect cases.

Resources for Victims and Family Members

If you would like to report abuse or a violation that endangered the health or safety of a nursing home resident, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Careprovides a list of ombudsmen and citizen advocacy groups in all 50 states.

Other resources are available through the National Center on Elder Abuse, the American Administration on Aging and our state’s adult protective services division.

Finally, a personal injury attorney can have state and federal regulators investigate the nursing home. If a long-term care corporation is liable for perpetuating abuse, a lawyer can help you recover damages to compensate your loved one for this unnecessary pain and suffering.

John G. Mabrey and Carla Register Mabrey of The Mabrey Firm have more than 40 years of combined experience representing Georgia residents who have been abused or neglected in nursing homes. If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse or negligence, call us at 404-841-4991 to schedule a free consultation with no obligation to you.