At first thought, many would think identifying nursing home abuse would be easy, but sometimes it can be very difficult. As your loved ones age, regression of their physical and mental state are normal, and differentiating the difference between abuse and natural aging can be tricky. Noticing the signs before something tragic happens can save money, heartache, and most of all someone’s life.
The easier kind of abuse to see is intentional physical harm caused by an employee. This can include assault, battery, and even rape. Also, being unnecessarily restrained by physical methods such as cuffs or straps, or chemical methods like unauthorized sedentary drugs is considered abuse. Looking for scrapes, cuts, bruises and blisters along with listening to your loved one can help you identify abuse. Attempt to talk to other residents, as confirming the wrongdoings with other patients can confirm any thoughts.
Emotional abuse is too common among nursing homes. Degrading the residents with taunts or actions is unacceptable, and is often accompanied with insults, and humiliation. Threats are often used to keep the residents from speaking out against their offender. If you notice your loved one is acting odd or differently, attempt to console them and ask questions. If they seem skittish when the topic of their offender comes up, reassure them with other options they have such as leaving the home or prosecuting.
The most overlooked form of abuse is resident neglect. This can take on many forms, from withholding their medication or sustenance, or failing to keep cleanliness standards. Hygiene minimums include changing bed sheets, cleaning the bathrooms and food areas, and quickly disposing of mitigating hazards such as wet floors or used needles. Talking to the staff and reviewing the home’s general cleanliness and ambiance will help you get a better understanding of the living conditions.
Things to look for when visiting your loved one:
- The appearance and activity of the staff
- The smell and visual cleanliness
- The happiness of the residents
- Any safety issues or inadequate supplies
- References from other residents
Knowing what to do if you see abuse is just as important as noticing it. There are many hotlines and professional organizations that aim to ensure proper treatment of nursing home patients. Social workers are trained in handling complaints, and it is also a good idea to contact the home’s nursing director and administrator to potentially fix the problem right away. Contacting a nursing home abuse lawyer right away can give you more information while helping you keep your case in very specific timelines.
There is certain information that you will need to provide to the court system to prove your case. Be sure to take pictures of your loved one’s injuries, as well as gathering statements, names, and contact information for witnesses or others in the same condition. Also, getting the information pertaining to the employee responsible is crucial in the court of law.
It is unfortunate that so many elderly and mentally impaired residents of nursing homes are abused. Noticing the signs can help lessen or stop the abuse in the future, but past events cannot be undone. They are physically or mentally painful, and can be very costly. If you see an unacceptable injury, and are located in the NYC area, contact a qualified nursing home abuse attorney and get more information.