When we think of our aging parents or grandparents, we want them to have the best of care in their “golden” years. They have contributed and cared for others the majority of their lives, but inevitably a time comes when many elders need assistance. Some elders are fortunate to live an independent life in their own home while others, due to mental, physical, and financial issues, are safer living in a nursing home or assisted facility. The question that crosses the minds of many concerned relatives and friends is, “How safe is a nursing home?” If you suspect or have evidence that your loved one has fallen victim to elder abuse it is time that you learn the laws that should be protecting him/her. As injuries sustained in a nursing home may be difficult to address, it may be helpful to let a personal injury attorney assist you in the process of seeking justice for your loved one.
What Is Elder Abuse? Signs of Abuse in a Nursing Home
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA): Elder abuse refers to any intentional negligent act by a caregiver or any other person who causes risk of harm or harm to a vulnerable adult. While laws vary from state to state, elder abuse may include, but may not be limited to:
- Physical Abuse (Infliction of physical pain or injury, Deprivation of a basic need)
- Emotional Abuse (Infliction of mental pain, verbally and nonverbally)
- Sexual Abuse (Non-consensual sexual contact)
- Exploitation (Illegal taking or misuse of funds, property and/or assets)
- Neglect (The refusal to offer basic needs)
The warning signs of nursing home abuse and negligence can vary from physical evidence (such as bruises, broken bones), to changes in behavior (depression or strained relationships with nursing staff), to financial changes (a sign of theft or misuse of funds). In many cases, it is up to the family members and friends to be aware of the signs, as many victims of elder abuse remain silent out of fear. If you suspect that someone has become a victim of elder abuse, it is your responsibility to take action immediately by reporting the nursing home and protecting the victim with the help of a personal injury attorney specializing in nursing home negligence and abuse.
Why Are Elders a Target for Abuse?
While it is heartbreaking and incomprehensible, there are no clear answers as to why elders are a target for abuse in nursing homes. We can only assume that it is because they are the weakest amongst us and thus it is easier to take advantage of them. In 2010, The Department of Health and Human Services looked at the cases of 1,611 aides in nursing homes who were disciplined for abuse, neglect, and theft. All told, 19 percent of the aides had prior criminal convictions that would have appeared on a background check. Many nursing home positions are low-paying and standards vary greatly based on state requirements and in house facility rules. With the graying of our society there is an increased need for nursing homes, and many are overcrowded and understaffed. All of these factors can lend themselves to an unsafe and unstable environment for elders. Exact yearly statistics are not available for elderly abuse and the numbers that are reported are only estimates because many violations go unreported.
What You Can Do
As a family member or friend of an elder in a nursing home facility, it is important that you are educated on the laws protecting elders and are aware of signs indicating abuse. While you may not be able to prevent the possibility of abuse, you have the power to stop it! Protect the ones you love and contact local authorities and an attorney who specializes in nursing home negligence and abuse.