More than 1 million people currently reside in nursing homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than any other point in history, to date. Unfortunately, a larger nursing home population also means an increase in nursing home abuse and neglect.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living, it is important to know the warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect. Nursing home caretakers are often the perpetrators of this abuse, meaning the responsibility of recognizing the symptoms and signs often falls to family or friends. By being vigilant in checking for signs of nursing home abuse, you can intervene and get your loved one help if you suspect they are in danger as a result of abuse or neglect.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse, sometimes called elder abuse, occurs when caretakers harm a resident of long-term care facilities. Intentional and unintentional harm may both be considered abuse. Elder abuse can take on many forms, including physical and emotional abuse as the most common. It can result in medical emergencies, trauma, or even death.
Nursing home abuse most often occurs due to facility issues such as understaffing, improper training, and burnout. These situations may cause staff members to take out their anger on the people they are supposed to be caring for, or even not respond to urgent situations like strokes.
What is the Difference Between Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Many people consider nursing home abuse to be only physical injuries, whereas elder neglect is withholding the basic care needs that an elderly person requires for their health, safety, or well-being. Abuse may also mean that the perpetrator’s actions were so reckless that they should have known the action would result in harm. Typically, nursing home abuse is intentional, whereas neglect may be accidental or negligent.
Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
Nursing home abuse is a nationwide issue that affects millions of people each year. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), as of 2018 there were 52.4 million adults 65+ in the United States. In order to protect their loved ones, individuals should know some of these startling statistics surrounding elder abuse.
- By 2040, that number is expected to climb to 80 million.
- Global estimates indicate that one in six elders, or 15.7%, in the elderly community experienced abuse in the past year.
- As of 2017, 1.2 million seniors needed nursing home care. By 2030, it’s expected that this number will climb to 1.9 million.
- Elder abuse rates have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Based on these estimates, by 2030, there will be approximately 300,000 elders abused in nursing homes each year.
With these staggering statistics, it’s easy to see how important it is to be able to recognize the signs of nursing home abuse. It is worth noting that the NCEA believes that the projections of abuse likely underestimate actual population prevalence. While these figures may seem overwhelming, one of the best ways to ensure your loved one is receiving the quality care that they deserve is by knowing the warning signs of nursing home abuse.
What are the Top Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
#1: Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is typically the easiest to identify, but also the most life-threatening. It may be the most direct and severe. Physical elder abuse is defined by the CDC as any “illness, pain, injury, functional impairment, distress, or death as a result of the intentional use of physical force” against an elderly individual. Some of the symptoms of physical abuse include:
- Bedsores/pressure ulcers
- Broken and fractured bones
- Bruises, burns, or welts on the skin
- Cuts, lacerations, or skin tears
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Fatigue, insomnia, or other sleep disorders
- Head and dental issues
- Illness or infection
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Unexplained weight loss
#2: Emotional Abuse
Emotional or physiological abuse is the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. Common examples of emotional abuse symptoms include:
- Anxiety, depression, or fearful behavior
- Lowered confidence and self-worth
- Onset of aggressive or violent behavior
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Trauma and PTSD symptoms
#3: Sexual Abuse
The majority of sexual abuse victims in nursing homes are physically unable to defend themselves or are too scared to report the abuse. Here are some symptoms to help identify if your loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home:
- Bruises or welts around the genitals
- Inappropriate physical contact with staff members
- Unexplainable STDs
#4: Financial Abuse
Financial elder abuse can be one of the most hidden forms of nursing home abuse because the warning signs are only noticeable if you have access to your loved one’s finances. Here are some key signals that can help you identify if your loved one is experiencing financial abuse in a nursing home:
- New changes to the power of attorney
- Opening new credit cards or bank accounts
- Strange transactions or charges
#5: Neglect or Abandonment
Elder neglect is the failure to provide adequate care to an older person, and more than half of all reported cases of nursing home abuse stem from elder neglect. This type of abuse may include failing to report or stop active abuse or failing to provide appropriate care for your loved one. Some neglect or abandonment abuse symptoms to watch out for include:
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- New or worsening infections
- Poor hygiene, including clothing and bedsheets
Bonus: Your Gut!
While not a visible sign, your gut feeling is arguably the most important warning sign for nursing home abuse. If something feels awry, it does not hurt to investigate this feeling further.
The most common warning sign of nursing home abuse is a loved one’s concern that something is not right, or an unexplained feeling of discomfort when they visit the nursing home.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse?
If you suspect your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, follow these 7 steps:
- Ensure safety
- Talk to your loved one
- Speak with management and nursing home administrators
- Understand your loved one’s rights as a nursing home resident
- File a formal complaint with Texas Health and Human Services
- Document everything
- Speak with a nursing home abuse lawyer
Our Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Are Ready to Help
GreeningLaw, P.C. is ready to fight for justice for your loved one if they’ve been abused in a nursing home or assisted living facility. As one of the most recognized personal injury law firms in Texas, we have the experience and expertise to hold the nursing home accountable. With GreeningLaw, we treat each case with the same dedication we would extend to our own family, bringing everything in our power to bear to ensure that our clients get the compensation they deserve.
Contact us 24/7 to schedule a free consultation. In that consultation, we will ask about details surrounding your case, discuss possible compensation you may receive, and suggest the best course of action. And, because our attorneys work on a contingency basis, you don’t pay a dime unless we win your case.
We fight the legal battle so you have time for healing and renewal.