assisted living

You Should Know: The Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Choosing nursing home, assisted living or in-home medical care is complicated, difficult and often an emotional process. The last thing on your mind is the possibility that those responsible for the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens would abuse or neglect their patients. But it does happen all too often, which is why you should know the signs of elder abuse and how to find quality care for the older loved ones in your life

Protect the elderly in your life by learning the signs of elder abuse.

Protect the elderly in your life by learning the signs of elder abuse.

As U.S. Population Ages, Reports of Nursing Home Abuse also on the Rise

National data on cases of abuse in America’s 15,600-plus nursing homes and other elder-care programs is hard to come by. But several recent studies by government investigators, advocacy groups and the news media have chilling implications.

According to the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS), 14,258 (7.6 percent) of approximately 188,599 complaints reported to state ombudsman programs in 2014 involved abuse, gross neglect or exploitation. Another study of nursing home staff throughout the country found that 36 percent had witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly patient in the previous year, 10 percent committed at least one act of physical abuse, and 40 percent admitted to committing psychological abuse. It gets worse: A CNN special investigation aired in February found that the federal government cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of sexual assault and abuse from 2013 to 2016.

Given that 1.4 million aging adults already live in nursing homes and that the number of Americans 65-plus will double from 2010 to 2050, this issue will only become more pressing.


Keep a Watchful Eye

Financial abuse is often overlooked, costing older Americans more than  $36 billion a year .

Financial abuse is often overlooked, costing older Americans more than $36 billion a year.

Abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviors, including physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse and neglect. Beyond the physical scars left by abuse, neglect and mistreatment have dangerous effects on the quality of life left to an aging person. Elders who have been abused have a higher risk of early death compared to those who have not been mistreated. If your loved ones are in a nursing home or other elder care program, watch for these warning signs:

  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Bruising, cuts or welts
  • Bed sores
  • Frequent infections
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Mood swings and emotional outbursts or unusual depression
  • Reclusiveness or refusal to speak
  • Refusal to eat or take medications
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor physical appearance or lack of cleanliness
  • Caregivers that do not want the patient to be left alone with others
  • Sudden changes in financial situation or missing personal items

Protect Your Most Vulnerable Loved Ones

For a family member or caregiver choosing a care facility, the risk of abuse can be overwhelming and traumatic. The best way to prevent elder abuse is to choose the right care facility, which is not always easy given location or financial constraints. Nevertheless, here are factors to consider:

  • Talk to residents or other patients. Observe their physical well-being and behavior. Also visit with residents’ families if possible, and learn whether they have experienced problems with the facility.
  • Avoid facilities that have restricted access.
  • Meet with key personnel (nurses, aides, social workers, administrators and doctors).
  • Read contracts carefully before signing and look for a forced arbitration clause. The rights of your loved one may be denied even if they are abused.
  • Visit frequently. Vary your visits to different times of the day and evening to assess the care provided during the day, night, weekends and holidays.
  • Trust your gut. Pay attention to whether residents appear clean, well fed and free of bruises or other wounds. Also note if the environment is peaceful and feels safe.
  • Document in writing the details about any problems or concerns.
  • Compare facilities. Look up state survey reports here.

This article appeared in our April 2017 "You Should Know" e-newsletter.

Tell Congress to Protect Your Case and Your Rights!

Congres

From the American Association for Justice:

Congress is pushing legislation that will make lawsuits brought by injured patients, nursing home residents, and their families nearly impossible to pursue. The so-called "Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017" [H.R. 1215] will rig the system against individuals like you and tip the scales in favor of the health care and insurance industries. We need to send a strong message to Congress that they must protect patients and reject this bill. 

What to Know about H.R. 1215

• Affects medical malpractice, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and drug and device issues.

• Eliminates joint and several liability, caps attorneys' fees, limits periodic payment of future damages, and gives immunity to health care providers who prescribe or dispense prescription drugs by prohibiting them from even being named in product liability lawsuits.

• Directly preempts state law by capping noneconomic damages in lawsuits against health care providers to $250,000 in the aggregate, even in wrongful death cases involving multiple defendants. The cap purports to be flexible and not preempt states that have higher damage caps, but the cap would apply to states that have struck down damage caps, and states with an overall damage cap could also now have the $250,000 cap.

If you agree that it is unacceptable for Congress to eliminate your rights to hold the parties that harmed you or your loved ones accountable, we urge you to contact your Congressperson and Senators today. Tell your representatives to stand up for you and your family and vote NO on this offensive bill.

We urge you to call your representatives’ offices and send them a letter. Please visit www.takejusticeback.com/ProtectPatients to find contact information for your elected officials in Washington.  You will also find a sample letter you can send to your Representative and Senators.

Please take action today! Your elected officials need to hear from you that you want to preserve your rights to access the civil justice system.

Linda A. Lipsen
CEO
American Association for Justice