Fighting for the Fair Treatment and Safety of Elderly Residents
When we put our elderly in nursing homes, we expect them to be well taken care of. Nursing homes are legally required to look after the well-being of our family members, providing a safe, fun, and clean atmosphere where residents can live the rest of their lives comfortably. Unfortunately, nursing home facilities are also businesses, and many businesses care more for profit than they do about keeping residents happy. This attitude can lead to an environment of abuse.
We at the Tenge Law Firm, LLC take nursing home abuse very seriously. The residents are often too weak to fight back, and too ashamed or physically unable to file a report. This can cause a dangerous and disgusting cycle, where residents are abused from the day they enter the facility to the day they eventually pass away. That is so important that the cycle is broken, and that abusers are held accountable for their actions. If your elderly loved one has been abused, call our Fort Collins personal injury lawyers at (970) 212-4777 or contact us online.
The Types of Nursing Home Abuse
When people hear the word “abuse”, they often assume it means physical abuse. While being physically abused is traumatic and life-threatening, there are many other types of abuse, especially when it comes to nursing homes, that can be just as dangerous. If you are worried that your elderly loved one is being mistreated, then the abuse may not be evident on their body, as not all abuse involves physical attacks. Forms of abuse you should be on the lookout for include:
Physical Abuse: As mentioned, this is the form of abuse most people think of. It involves the use of force that results in bodily injury or harm. This may mean that the abuser punched, burned, pushed, struck, beat, or improperly used restrains against the victim.
Financial Abuse: Financial abuse is incredibly common in nursing homes, as many residents suffer from dementia or similar disorders and are unable to protect their assets. Financial abuse can take the form of a forged check, stolen money, or coercion to receive financial gifts.
Emotional/psychological abuse: This kind of abuse can be hard to catch, as there are no physical marks or paper trails to indicate something is wrong. Emotional abuse happens when an abuser taunts, screams at, threatens, insults, willfully ignores, or talks down to a victim.
Negligence: Many elderly people need some sort of assistance to live comfortably. That is often why they move to nursing homes to begin with. Negligent staff may not bother washing, feeding, watching, medicating, or providing clean clothing to residents. Even poorly cleaning up a facility and exposing residents to fall hazards can be a form of negligence.
Sexual abuse: This form of abuse is one that we would often rather not think about, especially in relation to our elderly loved ones. But the sad fact is, sexual abuse is not uncommon in nursing homes. You should watch out for drastic and negative changes in mood, blood on their undergarments, and bruising around their thighs.
Medication abuse: Many older folks need medication in order to stay healthy. However, nursing home staff may neglect to give a resident the medication they need, give them the wrong medication, or over-medicate in order to sedate the resident.
Why Abuse Happens
Not all abuse is driven by pure malice. While it is never acceptable to abuse anyone, the problem may lie with the nursing home as a whole, rather than the individual staff member. Many nursing homes care more about their bottom line than they do about their residents. This means they will often understaff their departments, fail to properly screen new hires, or even ignore reports of abuse so that they don’t have to use resources on an investigation.
Overworked and undertrained staff members may resort to taking their stress and frustration out on residents. That could mean yelling at them when they fall or ignoring them completely in favor of getting other tasks done. But a good nursing home should have the necessary resources and staff to help care for all of their residents in a timely manner. In addition, staff members should always be held accountable for their actions, especially in cases of abuse, but if there is one abuser on the staff, it is important to ask how they got there and if there could be others.
Of course, some malicious people choose to work for nursing homes specifically because it provides them with victims who cannot fight back. In these cases, there are factors that may lead them to abuse specific residents. Residents with mental disorders, such as dementia, are at a particularly high risk, as they often cannot recall the abuse and so are unable to report it. Disabled residents, whether they be in a wheelchair or bedridden, are also at a higher risk. Their state of vulnerability makes it difficult for them to fight back against an abuser, making them easier targets.
That is not to say that the abuse is ever the fault of the resident. It is important to know these risk factors, however. If your loved one is at a higher risk of abuse, you should keep a closer eye on them and know what signs to watch out for, even if they are unable to tell you about the abuse they suffered.
What You Should Do If You Suspect Your Loved One Is Being Abused
Abuse can be obvious. You may find a bruise on your loved one’s arm or a medical exam may reveal they have suddenly contracted a sexually transmitted disease. But other forms of abuse can be hard to catch, and the staff abusing your loved one may know how to properly cover their tracks. If you suspect abuse, you should first speak with your elderly loved one. Ask them if something has happened and question whether they have suffered from a form of abuse. If you are unable to do this due to their physical or mental health, or due to not living close by to them, then you should take immediate action to get them to safety.
In cases where you believe their life is in immediate danger, contact the police. Afterward, you can get in contact with the Adult Protective Services in the county where your loved one is residing. For Fort Collins, this would be the Larimer County Adult Protective Services. The APS will then conduct their own investigation and get your loved one the help they need. You can file a report with the APS about your loved one and the kind of abuse you believe they suffered from, who you think the abuser may be, and the kind of situation your loved one is currently in.
After that, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to look over your case, and help you determine what your options are. While the police can handle a criminal investigation, your loved one may be eligible for compensation from the nursing home if they are found liable for the abuse. This compensation could be invaluable in helping your loved one receive proper treatment for their injuries, whether physical or mental.
How to Evaluate a Nursing Home
Ultimately, the best way to protect your loved one from abuse is to take the proper amount of time to investigate a home before allowing your loved one to live there. Some key questions to ask about a nursing home include:
- Do the residents appear happy, healthy, and rested?
- Does the facility have proper kitchens and food available?
- Does the facility have an adequate number of staff members for their residents?
- Do staff members and the members of the administration seem to have a good, open relationship?
- Is the facility clean?
- Do staff members respond quickly to residents in need?
- How many residents are in physical restraints? Is there a legitimate reason why they are restrained?
- Are the residents engaged in fun activities that help keep them stimulated?
- How highly is the facility rated?
- Has the facility had issues with abuse before, and if so, how were the reports of abuse handled?
Finding a good nursing home can be difficult, and it may take some time, but it will be worth it in the end as your elderly loved one will be able to live the rest of their life safe, comfortable, and happy.
Get Help From a Fort Collins Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
No one wants to see their loved ones suffer, especially their loved ones who cannot properly fight for themselves. That is why our Fort Collins personal injury attorneys strongly believe that the elderly members of our society should be protected and that those who would hurt them should be held accountable for their actions. If you believe you have a case of nursing home abuse, contact the Tenge Law Firm, LLC at (970) 212-4777 to schedule a free consultation to discuss if they are eligible for a claim.