We love our elderly parents and grandparents, but often they need the kind of ongoing care and special nursing skills that we cannot provide for them in our homes. With the aging of the baby boomer generation, the nursing home population in the United States is growing at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, overcrowded and understaffed nursing home facilities have contributed to the existing problem of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Sadly, over 40% of nursing home residents report abuse, and 90% report experiencing neglect. More than half of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in nursing home facilities admit to using verbally abusive and foul language with the elderly in their care. Astonishingly, a 2010 research study revealed that 50% of nursing home attendants admitted to abusing or neglecting residents in an anonymous survey.
If your loved one is a nursing home resident, it’s important to know the signs of nursing home abuse.
What Is Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes?
According to the definition provided by federal nursing home regulations, abuse in nursing homes is “any intentional infliction of injuries, intimidation, unreasonable confinement, deprivation of care or services, or punishments resulting in physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.” The same federal regulations define nursing home neglect as “failure to provide the resident with the necessary care and services to ensure they are free from harm or pain whether intentional or unintentional or to fail to act to a potential danger resulting in harm or anxiety to the resident.”
Some common examples of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Assault and battery, such as hitting, kicking, pinching, slapping, pushing, shaking, beating, and verbal battery or threats
- Failure to provide care for medical problems
- Dehydration and/or malnutrition from prolonged periods without water or food or staff failure to ensure the resident drinks and eats the provided food and water
- Unreasonable and unnecessary restraint or isolation
- Rape/sexual assault
- Use of medications to cause sedation or for any purpose unauthorized by a physician
Nursing home abuse happens to the most vulnerable population, to those nearing the end of their lives who are no longer able to defend themselves.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in the Elderly
Our experienced Pittsburgh nursing home abuse attorneys know the reality that nursing home abuse can and does happen, and it could be happening to someone you love. While some elderly nursing home residents may be able to report the abuse, it’s more likely to happen to those patients who are physically or cognitively unable to tell. Be alert for the following signs of abuse:
- Bruising and bandages
- Torn and/or blood-stained clothing and bedding
- Broken personal items such as glasses, hearing aids, and dentures
- Marks around throat, wrists, ankles, and mouth
- Bruises on the breasts
- Vaginal or anal bleeding and/or bruises
- Head injuries
- Emotional withdrawal, anxiety, weight changes, rocking
- Hesitancy to speak when staff is present
- Diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases
Nursing home neglect may have some of the above symptoms, but may also appear in the following signs:
- Bed sores/infections
- Poor hygiene/urine and feces odor
- Unclean living area
- Signs of malnutrition
- Hair loss
- Signs of over-sedation/over-medication
Nursing home residents with cognitive impairments, dementia, or aphasia (inability to speak) may not be able to report their neglect or abuse. These residents cannot give consent to sexual acts.
Because abuse does not typically occur openly, or during your planned visits, checking in unexpectedly may be a good way to get insight into your loved one’s daily living conditions. If you suspect abuse or neglect, report it to the local authorities. There are a number of organizations to provide assistance, such as Adult Protective Services.
A Pittsburgh personal injury attorney may be an important ally in achieving justice and compensation for damages when a loved one suffers abuse or neglect in a nursing home.