With advancements in modern medicine, people are living longer than ever before, sparking a rise in the elderly population. That’s why, in the last two decades, we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of individuals residing in long-term care facilities. Today, they account for nearly two million Americans. And sadly, with a greater number of residents and facilities, the prevalence of nursing home abuse and neglect has risen as well. So, if you have a loved one in a nursing home, make sure you are aware of their legal rights, the signs of abuse, and what to do in the case of their mistreatment.
Abuse vs. Neglect:
- Abuse is defined as the intentional infliction of harm. This entails unreasonable confinement, intimidation, the deprivation of entitlements, or punishment that renders physical, mental, or emotional suffering.
- Neglect is the failure to provide the necessary care or services that would protect an individual from injury or harm. This may be intentional or not. It also includes one’s failure to react reasonably to a dangerous situation that resulted in another person’s harm.
Types of Abuse and Neglect:
- Assault and battery. This includes kicking, hitting, pushing, etc.
- Neglecting existing medical problems.
- Deprivation of necessities such as food and water.
- Any type of sexual harassment.
- Restraint or confinement.
Signs of physical or verbal abuse you can recognize:
- Unexplained injuries.
- Physical or mental weariness.
- Sudden change in weight.
- Out-of-the-ordinary behaviors.
- Explicitly poor hygiene.
If you recognize any of these signs or symptoms in your loved one, be sure to look further into the situation and seek help. They may not have another advocate and might be unlikely to reach out for help themselves. So be sure that they are properly cared for in whichever facility they reside. If you happen to recognize some of these signs of abuse or neglect, take these necessary steps toward your loved one’s safety.
Steps to take if you suspect abuse:
- Ensure their safety. First and foremost, you’ll need to make sure that your loved one is not in immediate danger. If necessary, call 9-1-1 and consider moving the resident from the facility.
- Talk to your resident. Make them feel heard and cared for in your concern. Ask them if they have ever experienced harm while residing in their facility. However, realize that they may not admit to an incident or open up about the situation.
- Discuss your concerns with the nursing home administration. Explain to them your suspicions and request ways in which their staff members might ensure your loved one’s safety.. They should provide for you a grievance resolution procedure to take.
- Take note of your loved one’s rights. With the increasing prominence of nursing home residents, federal and state laws have established their specific rights. They have the right to:
- Dignity and respect.
- Manage their own money.
- Information on their own medical conditions.
- A home-like environment.
- Be informed of services and fees.
- Choose their own schedule.
- Safety and the absence of fear.
- File a complaint. If, after you’ve spoken to the facility, you are dissatisfied with their response and proceeding actions, you can file a complaint with the corresponding state agency. This might be the Long-Term Care Ombudsman or the Adult Protective Services Agency.
- Document everything. Throughout the entire process of seeking justice for your loved one, make sure to take photos, save medical records, reports, and documents, and to write everything down. This will help your case and provide evidence of the facility’s misconduct.
- Take corrective measures. Become a frequent presence in the nursing home and increase your involvement there to insist that they correct any sort of mistreatment.
- Talk to a lawyer. A legal expert can help you recover compensation for medical expenses, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. In this challenging time, make sure to seek legal counsel and advocacy for your loved one’s rights and the safety of others.