Across the United States, over 3.2 million adults are currently residents of nursing homes or similar long term care facilities. Up to 40 percent of adults will live in a nursing home at some point during their lives, and this percentage is expected to increase as the population ages. Although many of these adults are well taken care of at these facilities, many of them suffer abuse by the nursing home and facility staff. Abuse that occurs at elderly facilities can be difficult to detect; for every case of abuse that is reported, there are five cases that go unreported. Aside from the pure fact that this abuse is inherently wrong, it can also have other effects on the health of those abused. For example, seniors who have been abused are 300 percent more likely to die within the 3 years following the abuse compared to those who do not suffer abuse. This abuse is more prevalent than many would like to believe. One particular survey of residents of nursing homes showed that 44 percent of residents reported being abused while living at the nursing home and 95 percent said they had witnessed another resident mistreated by caregivers. Even with the anti-elder-abuse laws enforced in all 50 states, abuse in nursing homes still runs rampant.
Nursing home abuse can take several forms. Physical abuse is one type of abuse that causes physical harm to a resident, either intentionally such as hitting or pinching or through neglect of the resident. Sexual abuse is another type of abuse that can occur which involves unsolicited sexual attention or exploitation. This includes sexual focus on patients who cannot verbally or physically express their wishes, a resident with dementia for example. Psychological abuse is less clean cut, but can include yelling, humiliating, or shaming patients. Financial exploitation occurs when caregivers take advantage of residents’ financials by directly stealing from them or participating in financial fraud using the patients’ names. Neglect is a form of abuse that commonly occurs when homes are understaffed and can include insufficient food, water, and clothing provided to the patient or failing to take care of the patients’ personal hygiene. The aforementioned abuses are most often a result of the caregivers actions, but there can also be resident-to-resident abuse in which patients are allowed to abuse each other.
There are several notable signs of the various kinds of nursing home abuse. These include physically visible signs such as broken bones or fractures, bruising, cuts, bed sores, frequent infections, signs of dehydration, unexplained weight loss and poor physical appearance or lack of cleanliness. Certain changes in the mental or emotional state of patients can also signify abuse. These changes include general change in mental status, mood swings or emotional outbursts, reclusiveness or refusal to speak, refusal to eat or take medications and caregivers not wanting to leave patients alone with others. Although these symptoms do not guarantee nursing home abuse, any of these signs should be further investigated to rule out possible abuse.
With the age of technology and social media being as prevalent as it is today, there are other methods of abuse that have prompted federal health regulators to further crack down on regulations involving nursing home abuse. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which supervises nursing homes across the country, posted a memo to state health departments on Friday stating that all nursing homes need to have policies in place that forbid staff from taking and posting humiliating photos of the nursing home residents. ProPublica has investigated abuses involving exploitation of residents through social media and has identified 47 particular occasions since 2012 when nursing home and assisted-living center staff have posted photos or videos of residents to social media networks. For example, at one Los Angeles nursing home, one employee posted videos of a co-worker “passing gas” on a resident’s face to Instagram. It was found that this was not the first time this employee did this, but the resident who was the victim of this abuse said it occurred as often as every month. Some states have responded to these recent reports by initiating strict regulations against social media abuse, but others have done nothing. Greg Crist, a spokesman for the American Health Care Association, said this is “not an issue that is conquered overnight but every day, we get smarter about it.”
If you or a loved one has suffered so type of nursing home abuse, and you would like a set up a confidential consultation, give us a call today to discuss your rights. 617-492-3000.
“Nursing Home Abuse Guide.” Nursing Home Abuse Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.
Ornstein, Charles, and Jessica Huseman. “Federal Officials Seek To Stop Social Media Abuse Of Nursing Home Residents.” NPR. NPR, 08 Aug. 2016. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.