When many people think of nursing home abuse, they immediately think of assault or neglect, but nursing home abuse takes a number of different forms. Victims face physical, emotional sexual, and financial abuse as well as neglect. The signs of abuse as well as the consequences can be different for each type of abuse.
Physical Nursing Home Abuse
Physical abuse can take the form of assault and battery, but it can also involve using restraints to prevent the patient from moving or handling the patient roughly. Essentially, physical abuse refers to any use of physical force that leads to pain or injury.
The signs of physical abuse can include the following:
- Increased need for appointments with physicians or trips to the emergency room
- Unexplained bruises, fractures, scratches, bites, burns, or other signs of physical injuries
- Experiencing more falls or accidents than usual
- Covering up unexplained bruises with inconsistent stories about injuries
- Refusal to get treatment
- Recoiling from the touch of loved ones or family members
- Acting afraid to be alone with aides or nursing home staff
- Unusual hair or tooth loss
- Changes in emotional state such as showing signs of depression or withdrawing from loved ones
In many cases, you may seem the emotional signs of physical nursing home abuse first, as your loved one starts to withdraw from the rest of the family. Many people in abusive situations internalize the abuse and feel like it’s their fault. When that’s happening, victims are less likely to come forward. In other cases, elders may be afraid that no one will believe their stories or that their abuser will find out and hurt them if they come forward.
Sexual Nursing Home Abuse
Sexual abuse can range from verbal abuse of a sexual nature to rape, and sadly, the entire gamut of sexual abuse can take place in nursing homes. Residents may be subject to abuse from caretakers, other residents, and even strangers.
The nursing home is obligated to screen employees and deal with abuse allegations, but beyond that, nursing homes should monitor residents with previous histories of sexual violence and make sure that unattended strangers cannot get into their facilities.
If your loved one is exhibiting any of the following signs, they may be the victim of sexual abuse in their nursing home:
- Unexplained blood stains on sheets or nightclothes
- Ripped sheets or clothing
- Unexplained pain while sitting or complaints of pain in the pelvic region
- Vaginal or rectal bleeding or burning
- Diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases or genital infections
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- A sense of fear or anxiety when certain staff or residents are nearby
- A sudden increase in self-soothing behavior such as rocking back and forth or regressive behaviors such as thumb sucking
Sexual abuse can be one of the hardest types of nursing home abuse for many residents to report. They may feel that they have somehow caused the abuse, or they may be embarrassed to talk about sexual encounters in general.
Emotional Nursing Home Abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse can happen on its own or along with other types of nursing home abuse. Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse such as humiliating or shaming the elder as well as demeaning the elder either in private or in front of other residents. Psychological abuse can also take the form of bullying, menacing, or terrorizing the elder.
In some cases, emotional abusers isolate the elder from other residents in the nursing home. They may even attempt to isolate the patient from their own family. This typically takes the form of telling the elder that their family doesn’t care, that they no longer love the elder, or that they see the elder as a burden.
Signs of emotional abuse in a nursing home include the following:
- Reduced self-esteem and depression
- Withdrawing from family and friends by avoiding eye contact, canceling meetings, and refusing to talk
- Changes in attitude or personality such as an outgoing individual becoming withdrawn or a happy-go-lucky individual becoming angry or sullen
- Unexplained shifts in sleeping or eating patterns
- Not joining in nursing home activities
Emotional abuse often leads to more mental health issues than physical abuse, and if you notice sudden, unexplained changes in your loved one mental health, you need to talk with them about what’s happening. Remember, most victims shield their abusers, so you need to be prepare for multiple conversations. Also, because psychological abuse is harder to define than physical abuse, many victims are not even aware that they are being abused.
Financial Nursing Home Abuse
According to one study of elders in New York, financial abuse is the most commonly reported type of abuse in nursing homes, but that does not necessarily mean that it happens more often than other types of abuse. That simply means that patients are more likely to report this type of abuse.
Financial abuse costs seniors over $35 billion per year based on some estimates, and this type of abuse can involve stealing money directly or coercing seniors to give their money to the abuser. Signs of financial abuse include the following:
- Inability to cover bills
- Refusing usual services or canceling outings due to lack of money
- Unexplained bank account withdraws or credit card charges
- Missing possessions
- Sudden changes to wills
When an elder faces financial exploitation, the experiences often snowball. For example, if an elder loses just $20 to exploitation, they are significantly more likely to lose $2,000 to another type of fraud. If you help your loved one balance their checkbook and you notice inconsistencies, it’s time to take action and dig deeper to ensure your loved one is not facing abuse.
Neglect in Nursing Homes
Neglect refers to ignoring an elder and not providing them with the care they need. Neglect is very serious, and in a worst-case scenario, it can lead to death.
If you suspect that your loved one may be facing neglect, here are some of the signs you need to watch for.
- Signs of malnutrition such as weight loss or dehydration
- Bed sores or other untreated physical issues
- Unsanitary conditions such as dirty sheets, soiled clothing, or body odors from not being bathed
- Unsafe living conditions
Neglect can be an active form of abuse in cases where an attendant is purposefully ignoring or neglecting a certain resident, but it can also be passive where the nursing home is simply not filling its role as caretaker. In both cases, the nursing home is liable for the abuse. They are obligated to take care of the people in their care.
If you believe that you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, you need to act quickly. Nursing homes often hide information to shield themselves from liability, and the sooner you act the better. To learn more, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today. We have helped many clients get the justice they deserve after a case of nursing home abuse.