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Nursing Home Abuse (Podcast)

There are many types of abuse nursing home residents may face. Kevin McCullough, of Mazow McCullough law firm, talks about what to do if you suspect nursing home abuse. Listen or read more to find out about nursing home abuse and lawsuits.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Kevin McCullough of the law office of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about nursing home abuse cases. Kevin, welcome.

Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.

John: So, Kevin, what is nursing home abuse? How is that defined?

Kevin: Nursing home abuse is where a nursing facility or one of its employees will proactively take steps or actions to try to harm a patient who’s at the facility, which can be a lot different than neglect — and sometimes those terms get commingled and it can be confusing — but a neglect is a job or a requirement that the nursing home or the staff members are required to do but they’re just failing to do it, or an act where they’re trying to do something to help the patient but they’re just doing it completely wrong. And an abuse case can be completely different in that the staff members are proactively trying to hurt or harm the patient.

John: Okay. So why would that occur? Why would a nursing home abuse occur?

Kevin: We see different reasons, John, why that occurs. Oftentimes, these nursing facilities can be understaffed and the staff members just can’t keep up with the demand as far as what’s going on at the facility and taking care of the patients, and there are also levels of frustration. Dealing with elderly people and people that require constant help from eating to cutting food to using the bathroom or using the facilities, can be a very frustrating and challenging thing in time, and oftentimes, it can lead to high emotion, and if the facility is understaffed, these employees are just lashing out at these patients on occasion.

John: Right. Like you said, maybe they’re just frustrated with their job overall, and then, like any situation where you have two people working in close contact with each other, you have personalities there that maybe aren’t going to get along with each other, but this would be the case where somebody who’s working at that nursing home facility may just be taking that out on that person intentionally with that intent to harm.

Kevin: Yeah. We see that sometimes there are just bad actors out there and they are trying to hurt the patient, and other times they’re completely frustrated and overwhelmed, and what they’re doing is acting out on the patients which is resulting in harm or injury to that patient.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

John: Okay. So what are some of the signs that a loved one might be a victim of nursing home abuse? If I go to visit my family member who is in a nursing home facility and I’m maybe starting to suspect something, what are the signs that I might see?

Kevin: The easy ones, John, are the signs that are physical, whether it’s redness, puffiness, swelling, bruising, cuts, but we can’t forget about the emotional signs that may be there. If your loved one or family member is not talking as much as they typically would, they may be doing that out of fear for retaliation or further threat or harm from the staff member or employee. So, as a family member, it’s important when you’re visiting your loved one to make a note of that.

Are they acting their usual self or typical self, the way that they’re communicating with you and interacting with you? Are they being too quiet? Don’t be afraid to pry into that if they are being a little too quiet.

And the other end of that spectrum is maybe they’re being too talkative. Maybe they just don’t want you to leave because they’re worried about what can happen if you do leave. So, we have the easy signs that are there to look out for, for the physical signs, but there are also the emotional signs that we need to look out for and what’s different about that loved one or family member.

What to do if you Suspect Abuse in a Nursing Home

John: Okay. So what can a family member do if they believe that their loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse?

Kevin: Yeah, if the family member suspects in any way any form of abuse going on at a facility, they should immediately speak to a supervisor at that facility. And they should immediately speak to someone that’s in control of that facility. Sometimes, we just have to go with instinct and with our gut, and if your instincts and your gut tell you to call the police, then you should call the police.

If it gets to that level, whether it’s the signs or symptoms of physical injury that you see, or just the dangerousness in what’s going on, things can happen instantly at a nursing facility and we can lose loved ones, unfortunately, quickly at nursing facilities if they’re just not taken care of and properly cared for. If you think you should call the police, you should call the police, but at a minimum, speak to the staff member and speak to the people in charge of that facility.

When to Hire an Attorney

John: Okay. And when would I get an attorney involved in this, and what do you do as an attorney when you find out about a potential nursing home abuse case like this?

Kevin: If the initial abuse or the abuse that you suspect is obvious enough and bad enough that it’s affecting the patient and you see the evidence there, you should contact an attorney immediately. There’s no harm in doing that, in getting an attorney involved to maybe request some of the treatment records or medical records of that family member or loved one to see what’s getting documented and what’s not getting documented.

You don’t want to wait too long. That’s part of the issue on the balance that you have to have as a family member. You know, do you get involved too soon or do you wait a little bit longer, and you just don’t want to wait until it’s too late. So, if you suspect any wrongdoing or abuse at a nursing facility to the point that you’re calling the police, you should also be contacting an attorney to see whatever civil rights or remedies may be available to you, and obviously if the family member’s been harmed or injured in any way, contact the police, but also reach out to an attorney to see if they can help you with that situation.

Deciding to Move your Loved One

John: Should I move my loved one from that nursing facility to a different facility first while the case is going on or while that’s being investigated, or should I leave them where they are during that course of action?

Kevin: That’s a great question, John, and that really goes to the severity of the issue and what you’re dealing with for the abuse and any injury, if there is an injury present, and how severe that it was. Obviously, if you’re at a phase where you’re suspecting certain things going on and you’re still gathering information, it may not be a good thing to request a change of the location for that family member or loved one. It may be overwhelming to them. They may not want to move. You may be wrong in that assessment that you have.

But, ultimately, if you do see physical signs of abuse or your family member or loved one is telling you of certain activity going on where they’re being abused, you should definitely remove that family member and loved one from that facility. Get them to a new location, get them the treatment that they need and the oversight that they need. You want them to feel comfortable when they’re at these facilities.

John: All right. That’s really great information, Kevin. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Kevin: Thanks for having me, John.

John: And for more information on personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at or call 855-693-9084.

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