When a family decides to put their elderly loved one in a nursing home, it is a choice often fraught with mixed emotions. Families usually spend a great deal of time and energy researching the best long-term care options for their loved one, and so it isn’t surprising that the stress of making this transition is also mixed with the relief that comes with believing that their loved one will be taken care of properly.
But when that loved one who is suffering from increasing immobility, dementia or degenerative disease is abused or neglected at such a facility, the feeling of betrayal can be overwhelming. Sadly, nursing home abuse may go on for some time before the family realizes what is happening.
How big is the problem?
Elderly abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or due to neglect or financial exploitation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in six elderly adults suffered some form of abuse in a community setting from 2017 to 2018. Even though one third of all nursing homes in the United States have been issued citations for abuse, this figure does not reveal the many unreported instances of abuse.
The causes often stem from the behaviors of nursing home staff toward the residents, as well as in the manner in which corporations manage employees at these facilities. Corporate goals of maximizing profits lead to understaffing or the hiring of underqualified employees. Overworked staff take out their exhaustion and frustration on their wards, and without oversight, the abuse can go on for awhile without the family’s awareness.
How to discover abuse and what to do next
Elderly loved ones who are suffering from dementia or are in poor physical health may be unable to tell you what is happening, or fearful of reporting the abuse. Some telltale signs to look for are:
- bruising, cuts, scratches or even broken bones
- signs of withdrawal, anxiety, fear or depression
- sudden cash withdrawals from bank accounts
The Department of Health and Human Services works at the federal level to provide abuse awareness and prevention services, which include investigative reporting to law enforcement at the state level. New York state has a governing document that states residents’ rights and nursing home responsibilities that may be referenced when filing a complaint about unlawful activity.
Being able to successfully expose nursing home abuse can be challenging, so it is important to seek effective and knowledgeable elder law attorneys serving Queens County when pursuing a claim.