Elder abuse is widespread in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
Family and friends can protect loved ones by educating themselves, monitoring for signs of elder abuse, and reporting mistreatment as soon as possible
Millions of older Americans live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. These hard-working people are our parents, grandparents, siblings, and aunts and uncles – beloved family members who have served their communities as teachers, nurses, police officers, church members, and volunteers.
Unfortunately, our elders are not always treated with the respect and care they deserve: in any given year, more than 10% of older adults experience some form of abuse.1 https://ncea.acl.gov/NCEA/media/Publication-4.0/RB_LTC.pdf For those living in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, the risk is even higher. While estimates vary, one study found that over 33% of older Americans living in institutional settings had experienced some form of abuse.2 https://ncea.acl.gov/NCEA/media/Publication-4.0/RB_LTC.pdf The actual percentage is likely much higher: another study found that for every one reported incident of elder abuse, more than 23 incidents remained unreported.3https://ncea.acl.gov/What-We-Do/Research/Statistics-and-Data.aspx#prevalence Older adults may be hesitant to report mistreatment for a variety of reasons, including embarrassment or fear of retaliation. Others may be unable to report incidents of abuse due to isolation, health issues, or cognitive barriers.4https://ncea.acl.gov/What-We-Do/Research/Statistics-and-Data.aspx#prevalence
These reporting challenges make it even more imperative that friends and family members monitor their loved ones for signs of elder abuse. Mistreatment may take several forms, including physical, psychological, sexual, or financial abuse. Mistreatment may also take the form of neglect, if a nursing home fails to provide for a resident’s physical, medical, or emotional needs.
If your loved one lives in a nursing home, it is critical to be aware and stay alert for signs of possible abuse. While there is considerable overlap, each type of mistreatment has certain distinct warning signs, described below.
Signs of Physical Abuse include:
- Broken or fractured bones
- Bruises, burn marks, or other unexplained injuries
Signs of Psychological Abuse include:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Social withdrawal
- Depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts
- Increased or problematic substance use
Signs of Financial Exploitation include:
- Unusual changes to elder’s will or related documentation
- Drastic changes in spending patterns
- Fraudulent or suspicious signatures on financial documents
Signs of Neglect include:
- Weight loss or malnutrition
- Failure to administer medications
- Ill-fitting or soiled clothing or bedsheets
- Body odor5https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/spotting-signs-elder-abuse
Both state and federal laws protect against elder abuse in nursing homes. The Elder Justice Act requires employees of most federally-funded long-term care facilities to report suspected crimes against residents.6https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title20/2000.htm https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/programs/2021-10/2020_NAMRS_Report_ADA-Final_Update2.pdf New York’s Patient Abuse Reporting Law also requires nursing home employees to report any suspected mistreatment of residents.7https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/PBH/2803-D Employees or other professionals working in nursing homes who fail to report such misconduct may face professional sanctions. Finally, the statute protects anyone who files a good faith report of elder abuse from civil or criminal liability.8https://www.health.ny.gov/facilities/nursing/rights/docs/2017_nh_resident_abuse_report.pdf
If you suspect a loved one is experiencing abuse or neglect in a nursing home, there are a few steps you should take right away. First, make sure to file a complaint with the New York State Department of Health.9https://apps.health.ny.gov/surveyd8/nursing-home-complaint-form Second, take detailed notes and preserve all evidence related to possible abuse. Keeping documentation, including photographs or video footage if possible, can be extremely helpful in holding perpetrators accountable in court.
Finally, contact an elder abuse attorney at The Bongiorno Law Firm. As well as possible criminal charges, perpetrators and nursing home facilities may be liable to you for financial compensation. At the The Bongiorno Law Firm, our attorneys have the skills, compassion, and experience to fight for your loved one’s rights and hold perpetrators accountable. If you have any questions or are considering a lawsuit, please do not hesitate to contact us today. Consultations are free, confidential, and no-obligation.
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