Elder abuse takes many different forms, some involving physical violence, threats or intimidation, some entailing neglect or sexual abuse, and others involving financial exploitation. The problem of elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is a growing one, and research indicates that many cases go unreported and unpunished. While there are literally thousands of nursing homes that provide attentive, quality care to senior residents, there are dozens of others that do not. In a recent study by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, researchers found that 30 percent of U.S. nursing homes were cited for some form of abuse. The events ranged from the grotesque to the disturbing, with some victims kicked, starved or subject to repeated sexual molestation.
When nursing home staff breaches its duty to provide proper care, residents can suffer irreparable physical and emotional harm. There are many red flags which may indicate that a loved one may be suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect. Knowing what to look out for can help family identify the problem, report elder abuse or neglect, and hold negligent parties accountable.
Is your loved one being neglected or abused?
There are many warning signals that a family member or loved one is being physically or emotionally abused by their caregivers. Though a single incident (a bruise or scratch) doesn’t always suggest abuse, a combination of any of these signs warrants further investigation:
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Poor personal hygiene
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Emotional withdrawal
- Sudden depression
- Loss of mobility
- Repeated medication errors
- Evidence that staff used physical restraints
- Unexplained injuries, bruises, scratches, infections or STDs
- Signs of malnutrition or dehydration
- Acting different around caregivers
Take action: how to report elder abuse
Identifying nursing home abuse or gross neglect of a loved one is often more obvious in cases where the family make routine visits and check-ups to the facility. If you do see one or several red flags, it’s important to talk to your loved one about their treatment and care in the facility. Don’t be surprised if they are reluctant to admit mistreatment or harm, as they may be frightened of future repercussions.
If you believe a loved one is in real danger of serious physical harm, call 911 right away. Do not wait until tragedy strikes, it’s better to report any signs immediately. If danger is not imminent but you suspect the mistreatment or neglect is ongoing, take the following steps:
- Share your concerns with administration at the nursing home facility, being careful not to confront the suspected “abuser.” If management is unwilling to help or investigate your concerns in a timely fashion, you should document the signs you are witnessing
- Gather evidence: This includes taking photos, making notes of your loved one’s injuries or changing behaviors, or even getting statements from other residents or witnesses.
- Report your suspicions to the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) Office of the Ombudsman. They are responsible for investigating reports of neglect or abuse in long-term assisted care facilities. Be prepared to provide the elder’s name, full address and contact information, and detailed report about why you are concerned.
- For more assistance and local agency resources, you can contact the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
- Reach out to your elder loved one’s primary care physician or patient advocate, assuming they are not involved with the suspected abuse or neglect. They can also provide professional guidance on the best course of action.
Elder abuse attorney in Los Angeles
If you believe that a nursing home resident is being neglected or abused in any way, don’t hesitate in seeking the guidance of an elder abuse lawyer who can ensure that proper authorities are notified immediately. Thorough investigations can determine if legal action is warranted against nursing home workers, administration or on-call staff.
If you would like more information on pursuing an elder neglect claim in California, contact the Los Angeles office of Sean Salamati for a free consult today.
Additional Nursing Home Abuse Resources:
- AgingCare, What to Do If You Suspect Abuse in Your Parent’s Retirement Home https://www.agingcare.com/articles/what-to-do-if-you-suspect-abuse-in-your-parent-s-retirement-community-133867.htm
- California Dept. Of Health Care Services, MMCD Office of the Ombudsman http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/Pages/MMCDOfficeoftheOmbudsman.aspx