Elder Abuse

Most nursing homes do an excellent job of caring for their elderly patients. Sadly however, on rare occasion, some of our most venerable senior citizens are severely neglected or even abused, by the very people charged with their care. Nursing home abuse and neglect occurs when a care facility causes injury to a resident because of improper care. It can be difficult to tell when abuse or neglect takes place because some signs of abuse may be difficult to detect. Because of a nursing home resident’s limitations, family and friends are often called upon to ensure that a loved one or friend receives the care he or she is entitled to.

Nursing home negligence typically includes the failure to provide basic necessities such as water, protection from health and safety hazards and general appropriate care. Negligence can result in injuries such as falls, broken hips, bed sores, malnutrition, dehydration, improper wound care and other injuries which may result in severe medical complications and even death. Negligence can also include abuse such as physical, emotional, verbal, mental, sexual and/or exploitative (illegally taking, misusing, or concealing funds, property or assets) or a combination of the above.

Physical abuse: Unexplained injuries such as bruises, fractures, open wounds, sprains, dislocations, unexplained internal bleeding, and the like, can mean the person is suffering from physical abuse. Improper medical care can result in bedsores concussions, strokes, and other injuries. Medication, both over and under-dosing can also be considered physical abuse. Any kind of hitting, slapping, kicking or similar mistreatment is considered to be physical abuse as well.

Verbal, mental, and emotional abuse: These forms of abuse are defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. Psychological abuse includes but is not limited to verbal assaults, threats, insults, intimidation, humiliation and harassment. Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse can include being emotionally upset or agitated, regressive behavior such as sucking, biting, rocking. The victim may also become withdrawn, non-communicative or non-responsive.

Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse is defined as any non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person. Non-consensual sexual contact also includes contact with any person incapable of giving consent. Sexual contact is defined as any unwanted touching, all types of sexual battery and assault, rape, sodomy, forced nudity and being photographed in any sexually compromising situation. Signs of sexual abuse can include bruises around breasts and genital areas, torn, stained, or bloodied underclothing, unexplained infections or bleeding of the genital area. A victim may or may not report being sexually assaulted or raped.

Exploitation: Exploitation can be financial or material and is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s funds, property or assets. This includes but is not limited to cashing an elderly person’s checks without permission, forging a signature, misusing or stealing another person’s money or possessions, coercing or deceiving an older person into signing documents, and the improper use of the power of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney. Signs of financial irregularities may include sudden changes in bank account or banking practices; abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents, the unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions, unpaid bills despite adequate funds, the provision of unnecessary services, the discovery of forged signatures, a lack of care despite the availability of resources, or an elder’s report of financial exploitation.

No one ever expects a family member or friend to be the victim of abuse in a nursing home. However, incidents of abuse do occur. Unfortunately, abuse appears to be on the rise as the number of nursing home residents steadily increases due to our rapidly aging population. When someone you care about has been the victim of nursing home abuse, the problems can seem overwhelming. Morton Law Firm, PLLC, can advise you of your loved one’s legal rights, tell you what remedies what might be available, and what action to take.

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