Nursing Home Abuse: What You Can Do About It

The elderly and the infirm are some of the most vulnerable people in our society because they cannot easily defend themselves.  When the elderly are placed in a nursing home, there is a risk that they will be abused. The abuse can take many forms — physical, emotional and financial.  Recognizing the signs of abuse is just the first step. To protect your loved ones, you need to take action and contacting an attorney if you suspect abuse.

Recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse

Physical abuse. The intentional use of physical force against an elderly person that results in pain or impairment.  It can also result in death if extreme enough, especially if coupled with nursing home neglect (which in itself constitutes abuse).  Physical abuse does not only mean beatings, it can also mean the inappropriate use of drugs, to sedate a patient unnecessarily, so they are easier to deal with, or excessive use of physical restraints.

Emotional abuse. Verbal emotional abuse includes shouting at or threatening the patient.  Emotional abuse can also take the form ignoring the patient or keeping him or her in extended isolation.

Financial exploitation. Abuse can also be financial.  The abuser uses their position to gain the trust of the elderly person with the aim of stealing sums of money or possessions, or to engage in some scam to swindle him or her out of their life’s savings.

Steps you can take to prevent nursing home abuse

  • Monitor the patient’s care regularly and immediately voice your concerns to supervisors and ombudsmen.
  • Let the nursing home know that you are watching them and that you are involved.
  • Review the facilities’ state survey reports at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare.
  • Talk to other residents at the home.  See how they look, ask how they are being treated, and note how they act.  Talk to their family members to see if they also experienced problems with the care.
  • Meet with everyone associated with your relative’s care, from nurses to orderlies to doctors.
  • Visit regularly.  Make sure to come at different times of the day and on different days, to see if there is any variation in their care.

If you fear that your suspicions are founded, it pays to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in nursing home abuse issues who can guide you on how to proceed on behalf of your elderly relative.

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