What is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse covers a wide range of acts (or the lack of action) perpetrated against someone in a nursing home or similar residence, such as a short- or long-term care facility. It can include:

  • Intentional physical harm, such as hitting a patient
  • Withholding of medical care
  • Lack of supervision
  • Psychological abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial exploitation
  • And more

What are some of the statistics about nursing home abuse?

It is difficult to verify statistics of nursing home abuse, because it is suspected that many instances of abuse go unreported. Family members of the victim may simply be unaware of the abuse, for example. At the same time, for a variety of reasons, the victim himself or herself may not be able or willing to report what has taken place, or he or she may not even recognize that abuse has occurred. According to nursinghomeabuse.com, thousands of families are affected by abuse each year, with more than 14,000 complaints filed with nursing home ombudsmen in 2014. The National Center for Victims of Crime provides this breakdown of the complaints by percentage:

  • 27.4% – Physical abuse
  • 22.1% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
  • 19.4% – Psychological abuse
  • 15.3% – Gross neglect
  • 7.9% – Sexual abuse
  • 7.9% – Financial exploitation

What should a family be on the lookout for?

Family members and other visitors to a care facility are encouraged to keep an eye out when visiting a loved one. Knowing what to look for and when to ask questions can help discover or uncover an issue that warrants attention. If the answer is yes to any of the following questions, you should have a consultation with a qualified lawyer.

  • Does the resident/patient have bed or pressure sores?
  • Have there been any recent falls, particularly if they have resulted in a broken bone?
  • Is there an incidence of pneumonia?
  • Are there recurring infections?
  • Has the patient left the facility without supervision/permission?
  • Is there unexplained weight loss?
  • Have there been mistakes with medicine dosing or delivery?
  • Is there unexplained bruising or other visible injury?

When you visit a loved one, besides enjoying your time together, always take time to talk about how well they believe they’re being treated and cared for by the staff. Ask if there are any concerns, and if so, investigate further. 

Why are there incidents at nursing homes in the first place?

There are several reasons. The simplest is that, like many healthcare facilities, they may be short staffed. There may be too many residents to care for than the staff is capable of attending to successfully, and safely. This may be despite the workers’ best efforts or intentions. In addition, just like in any industry, there may be people who just don’t care or aren’t good at their jobs. Regardless of these reasons, there is no excuse for poor care or outright intentional neglect or abuse. Holding the facilities and individuals involved accountable is important, both for your loved one and to raise awareness and possibly keep other patients from being abused.

I suspect abuse. What should I do now?

  • First and foremost, take care of any immediate healthcare needs for the injured party. If this means calling 911 or an ambulance, do it. Get your loved one the care he/she needs.
  • Call a nursing home abuse attorney to assist with the next steps and evaluate your case:
    • Report the neglect or abuse to management at the facility where the injury occurred. Also, report the abuse or suspected abuse to local and state agencies.
    • Document the injuries: Photos, timelines about what you know/what occurred, medical records and statements from those involved.

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse does occur, even in the best facilities with caring team members and healthcare professionals. The key is to recognize when the resident may have been the victim of abuse and getting the victim to a safe environment. Then, with the help of a seasoned lawyer, you can have the support and guidance you need to work through a potential legal case. 

The Richard Harris Law Firm has lawyers who are very knowledgeable about nursing home abuse. They can navigate the legal process and ensure that the victim’s rights are protected and those responsible are held accountable for their actions or inactions. Call 702.444.4444 if you suspect nursing home abuse.


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