Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse and When Legal Intervention Becomes Essential

By Charlotte Miller

Every day, hundreds of thousands of elderly adults are cared for in nursing homes. Most receive the proper treatment the public expects such facilities to provide. Unfortunately, some residents don’t.

If you have entrusted the well-being of a loved one to a home where there is abuse, you would want to know. Moreover, you would want to act right away. You need to understand what signs to look for and what to do if you witness them.

Elder abuse targets vulnerable people who can’t or are afraid to fight back. If you want to protect them, you will have to fight for them. Here are a few things to know about detecting and addressing nursing home abuse.

Watch for Signs of Abuse

Maintaining vigilance is vital to identifying signs of abuse early. The sooner you can spot it, the sooner you can intervene to stop it. This may not be easy. The signs aren’t always obvious, and victims may not be able or willing to tell you what happened.

Make sure you visit your beloved elder frequently. Too often, it’s easy for families to get caught up with their own lives and not make time to check in. Seeing a nursing home resident often will make any changes in their appearance, health, or behavior more noticeable.

When you visit, look for obvious indicators such as bruising, particularly around the face, neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, and ankles. They could be signs of rough handling or use of restraints. Be suspicious of unexplained frequent falls, broken bones, and lacerations. Bed sores and infected wounds can be signs of neglect.

Assess your loved one’s behaviors as well. A constant state of grogginess or sleep can indicate improper medication or excessive dosages. Be conscious of withdrawal from physical contact and outward signs of fear when certain people enter the room. Although some residents routinely beg family members to take them out of a nursing home, sheer panic when they do should set off alarms.

Changes in mood, increased anxiety, depression, and fear can all be associated with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. But you should question potential causes with your elder’s physician. In fact, you should never be shy about questioning anything to do with the care, appearance, and behavior of your loved one. If you don’t get satisfactory answers from the doctor and staff, you should team up with a nursing home abuse lawyer.

Report Anything Remotely Suspicious

Obviously, if your elderly family member is in immediate danger or life-threatening distress, call 911. You don’t have to wait to track down someone who works at the facility to do it. In fact, if there is abuse, you don’t want to give a staff member the opportunity to delay or conceal anything.

Not all situations are medical emergencies. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take immediate action to protect a beloved elder from further harm. If the resident can and will respond, ask questions. Then, tell a staff member you want the nursing home director to come to the room.

Nursing homes are required by federal law to report all allegations of abuse or neglect to specified authorities. This measure is designed to ensure that all allegations will be investigated by those authorities. These facilities are therefore not allowed to merely conduct an internal investigation and report back to you.

Every state has a toll-free hotline number you should use to report your allegation. Call it in even if the nursing home says it already did. Again, facilities can lose their licensure over incidents of abuse. With so much riding on allegations, you want to make sure the proper external authorities are doing their job.

Once you have reported the incident, consult with a well-regarded nursing home abuse lawyer. An attorney specializing in this area knows how allegations of abuse should be investigated. Moreover, your legal counsel can provide guidance on steps you can take to keep your loved one from experiencing additional abuse.

Put the Law to Work for Your Loved One

If a beloved elder is harmed by nursing home abuse, you may think that getting it stopped is all you need to do. But that doesn’t compensate your loved one for the damages suffered. Worse, it doesn’t necessarily stop the facility from abusing them or other vulnerable residents in the future.

Nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits aren’t about profiting off your loved one’s harms. They provide a way to get compensation for their medical bills and pain and suffering. A settlement or judgment can also pay the cost of moving to another nursing home. In the worst-case scenario, a successful claim can recoup funeral and burial costs if your loved one dies.

Moreover, lawsuits hold the nursing home financially and public accountable for what’s happened on its watch. Bad actors can lose their jobs, have their license revoked, and in some cases, face criminal charges. You may be saving countless other nursing home residents from abuse and neglect.

You should also know that filing a lawsuit may be the only way to gain access to certain information. A facility is otherwise not obligated to turn over information it regards as protected. The rules of discovery that apply to a civil lawsuit places such information out in the open.

No matter how old or infirm people are, they deserve the best quality of life possible. In fact, their quality of life is even more important because of their age or infirmity. Use the laws designed to protect them to do just that.

Maintaining Vigilance

In the circle of life, every person begins as a vulnerable child who relies on others to care for and protect them. As they get old, they may need care and protection again. The nursing homes that promise to provide that care have a moral and legal obligation to do so. When they fail, residents pay the price.

Whether they realize it or not, a nursing home resident counts on their loved ones to be vigilant. If they are suffering harm, it’s essential that others intervene without hesitation. A vulnerable loved one needs to know that you and the law have their back.