Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
Do you have a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility? It’s a simple fact of modern life. As our parents and grandparents grow older, it’s simply not possible to stay with them and render assistance all day, every day. In some cases, caring for our aging family at home just isn’t feasible, as they may need medical care we’re not able to give. Assisted living and nursing home facilities are supposed to help us provide for the wellbeing of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and elderly loved ones. But what’s happening behind those closed doors? Unfortunately and shockingly, nursing home abuse and assisted living abuse are all too common.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in North Carolina: What You Need to Know
By the Numbers – Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Are Epidemic
Research indicates that more than 40% of people aged 65 or older will spend time in a nursing home or rehabilitation center before they die. There have been numerous studies performed over the years by various groups to try to ascertain whether our elderly loved ones are in good hands. The resulting statistics are alarming, and have been for some time.
- As of 2010, there were 16,639 nursing homes in the U.S., with 1,736,645 beds. In a separate study that same year, more than 50% of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating their patients within the prior year. While the mistreatment included physical and mental abuse, two thirds of those incidents involved neglect of the patient.
- In a 2000 study of 2,000 interviews of nursing home residents, “44% said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected.” A study the following year found that “nearly 1 in 3 U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations of federal safety regulations that had potential to cause harm, or that had caused actual harm to a resident during the two years 1999-2001. Nearly 1 out of 10 homes had violations that caused residents harm, serious injury, or placed them in jeopardy of death.”
- A 2008 study by the U.S. General Accountability Office showed that states generally under-represent problems. Shockingly, “70% of state surveys miss at least one deficiency and 15% of surveys miss actual harm and immediate jeopardy of a nursing home resident.”
- Under-reporting is a serious problem. One study estimated that only 1 in every 14 cases of abuse is reported to authorities.
In short, be vigilant. Your loved ones are depending on you. So what should you look for?[ Back to Top ]
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and How to Spot Them
There are several forms of abuse that you should be aware of, and we’ll share some telltale signs and ways you might spot them. Doing so means being present, so visit your elderly loved ones regularly, but not always at the same time of day. Your presence is a valuable safeguard. Here is a list of types of abuse and some warning signs to watch for.
This is fairly straightforward. Anything done to cause pain or injury falls into this category. Be alert for these physical signs:
- Broken bones
- Scratches, cuts, or bite marks
- Bandages or casts
- Unusual marks on the body, such as those made by a belt, cord, or other object
- Missing hair or sudden bald spots
- Walking with a limp, moving with uncharacteristic pain, or inability to raise an arm or use a hand
- Torn clothing
This includes inappropriate physical contact, groping, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with a patient who does not consent or is unable to consent, is threatened, or is physically forced. Many of the signs given for physical abuse also apply here. In addition, look for:
- Torn, bloody, or missing underwear or undergarments
- Pelvic injury
- Trouble sitting or walking
- Any bruising, bleeding, or discomfort in the genital area
- Aversion to being touched
- Developing a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
Emotional and Mental Abuse
These include verbal abuse, threats, harassment, intimidation, or actions that negatively affect mental state, such as confinement or isolation. Many of these warning signs may indicate other types of abuse as well. Abuse or neglect of any kind can cause emotional stress.
- Anxiety, agitation, or aggression
- Emotional withdrawal
- Sudden, unexplained changes in behavior
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
- Behaving differently around caregivers, such as suddenly going silent
- Rocking back and forth and mumbling
- Acting frightened
- Attempts to flee the facility
- Aversion to being touched
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
When someone is mishandling, defrauding, or denying a patient access to their financial resources, they’re committing financial abuse. This is more likely to occur at assisted living facilities, and most likely to happen to a person suffering dementia who is receiving in-home care.
- Unexplained withdrawals from their bank accounts
- New “friends” who may be taking advantage
- Changes to or missing legal documents or financial statements
- Signatures that seem forged
- Unpaid bills or obligations
- Sudden and/or expensive “gifts” to an unknown party
- Sudden changes in spending behavior
- Needing something they can easily afford, and yet not obtaining it
- Seized stimulus payments
Neglect is abuse, too. It’s defined as any negligent, passive, or willful deprivation of a something a patient needs – whether it’s nourishment, care, medicine, or assistance – that results in, or could result in, harm.
- Being messy or appearing unclean, unkempt hair, dirty clothes
- Unusual odor
- Sudden weight loss or loss of appetite
- Unusual inactivity
- Pressure sores, bedsores or unexplained rashes
- Overmedication, or “chemical restraints” that reduce the effort staff expend on a patient
- Missing or broken glasses, hearing aids, walkers, dentures, etc.
What You Should Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
It’s scary to think about, but if you suspect your loved one is being neglected or abused, it’s up to you to act. Remember – we know statistically that they’re unlikely to self-report. Here are the steps you can take on their behalf.
Talk to them. Tell them you know something is wrong or different and that you want to help. They may not answer. If you think they’re in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
- Ask questions– Specifically, speak with the nursing aides and nurses providing care for your loved one. Speak with other residents’ family members and discuss the care being provided.
- Do some digging – Find out if the facility or its staff have any complaints lodged against them. You can also get some information from the government if the facility is Medicare-approved.
- Document – Take notes of conversations, including the names of people involved, and take photographs of injuries or suspicious situations.
- Speak up – Contact the Division of Health Service Regulation. NC DHSR is responsible for investigating complaints of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You can also contact your local Adult Protective Services. You do not need proof to do this. You can also contact the North Carolina ombudsman for long-term care.
- Contact a lawyer – An attorney with experience handling nursing home abuse cases can help you navigate the maze of different avenues available to you and your loved one. If they have been neglected or abused, every moment you delay could subject them to further poor treatment. They’re depending on others for care. If that care is not being given or they’re the victims of abuse, they may be entitled to compensation.
Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for a personal injury suit resulting from nursing home abuse or neglect is three years in North Carolina. If your loved one passed away from the abuse or neglect, the statute of limitations is generally two years, so it is crucial to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.[ Back to Top ]
Put an Experienced NC Nursing Home Attorney to Work for Your Loved One
If your loved one is suffering at the hands of people entrusted with their care, the time to act is now. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin immediately. Call 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online to get a free case evaluation. Your loved one deserves better than to suffer at the hands of an uncaring or malicious “caregiver.” Together, we can take the fight to those who perpetrate abuse and neglect, and try to hold them accountable for their actions.