Nursing Home Abuse: A Common Problem
It is the stuff of nightmares: a strange bruise on the face of your elderly parent or signs of mental agitation and depression in your disabled spouse. The individual in either example relies on a nursing home for their care and both display the often subtle signs of nursing home abuse.
Because the elderly comprise over 13 percent of the population and the disabled another 19 percent, nursing home abuse is an unpleasant reality that should concern everyone. It is a sad fact that more clients experience nursing home abuse than typically is imagined. In the United States alone almost half of all nursing home residents have experienced abuse in forms which range from mild to life-threatening.
Nursing home abuse takes on different forms. Sometimes it can be physical. Physical abuse in nursing homes commonly includes the following behavior:
- ¬†¬†¬† Binding a resident with ropes;
- ¬†¬†¬† Spraining or dislocating a resident‚Äôs limbs;
- ¬†¬†¬† Pinching a resident and causing open wounds;
- ¬†¬†¬† Punching a resident or breaking eyewear;
- ¬†¬†¬† Burning a resident.
Some nursing home residents suffer physical mistreatment in the form of sexual abuse, which is defined as sexual contact with any personal incapable of giving assent. This includes rape, sodomy, touching and explicit photography.
Abandonment and neglect also fall under the rubric of nursing home abuse. Caretakers sometimes purposefully neglect their elderly or disabled clients, often refusing to care for them altogether. In the worst cases, caregivers may ignore a resident‚Äôs self-neglect, such as when an elderly or disabled person refuses to perform basic hygiene or to take required medications, to the point where it endangers their client‚Äôs life.
A more silent and invisible form of nursing home abuse is emotional abuse, an all-too-frequent occurrence. Elderly residents may suffer attacks on their dignity at the hands of tormenting, terrorizing or teasing caregivers. Caregivers might also take advantage of their elderly or disabled clients, abusing their clients through financial manipulation. These caregivers may make withdrawals from bank accounts or force an elderly or disabled person into signing over titles to valuable possessions.
Victims of Nursing Home Abuse: Act Quickly
Punishments for abuse of elders and disabled people vary by state. So if you suspect a nursing home resident has suffered abuse, you should know your rights. Such abuse carries stiff punishments by law. Learn to spot the signs of nursing home abuse: Watch for inexplicable withdrawal from normal activities, rope marks and bruises or lacerations around the genitals, bedsores and abnormal weight loss.
But these are only a few signs of nursing home abuse; make sure to keep watch for anything unusual or troubling in a nursing home resident. Do not be afraid to report to an official the abuse of the elderly or disabled. In fact, eight states already require any person to report evidence of nursing home abuse, regardless of whether the individual reporting is a health care professional.
If you suspect an elderly or disabled person a victim of abuse, follow these three rules:
- Call 911 if the abuse threatens the welfare of the client.
- If the abuse is not immediate, seek the care of a medical profession. Even if the victim feels fine, they need to have a medical report filed as soon as possible and then contact the police or your local elder care services.
- Consult an attorney trained in nursing home abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse: California
California has one of the fastest growing populations in the nation, and its elderly population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the overall population. The amount of disabled Californians also will continue to grow. A large portion of both these populations eventually will require the services of a nursing home. Therefore it is important that residents of California are familiar with their rights in respect to nursing home abuse.
Generally, Californians have the following rights as residents of nursing homes or long-term care communities:
- Right to receive the necessary care and services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical and mental well-being;
- Right to receive care in such a manner to maintain or enhance the quality of life;
- Right to receive care to prevent incontinence and bedsores;
- Right to receive dignified treatment;
- Right to not receive verbal, sexual, physical or mental abuse or corporal punishment;
- Right to reasonable accommodations for individual needs and preferences;
- Right to be provided with food of sufficient quality and quantity;
- Right to an activity program that meets the needs and interests of the resident;
Yet despite these clearly stated rights, thousands of California residents are subjected to nursing home abuse. In 1999 the U.S. Congress Committee on Government Reform reported that out of the 439 nursing homes in Los Angeles County only one was in compliance with federal regulations governing nursing homes. And in 2008 there were 78 criminal filings for elder abuse in California.
In response to this growing problem, the Attorney General of California has doubled the size of the Department of Justice‚Äôs elder abuse prosecution program. Civil, administrative and criminal enforcement agencies have been granted more power in the prosecution of those who violate the laws governing nursing home abuse.
Consult an Attorney Trained in Nursing Home Abuse
Contact a lawyer experienced nursing home abuse if you or a loved one is the victim of abuse in a long-term care facility. Law governing the abuse of elders and disabled adults requires a close familiarity with the statutes and regulations of nursing home care. Only an attorney can ensure you receive the advice and guidance necessary to successfully file a lawsuit and negotiate insurance settlements.
Nursing home abuse is a living nightmare, something one hopes never to experience, or have their loved ones experience. But you can help put a stop to nursing home abuse by familiarizing yourself with state rights in regard to local nursing home care facilities. Do not hesitate to contact the necessary professionals if you suspect nursing home abuse. This includes your local attorney trained in the laws governing nursing home abuse. Only a lawyer skilled in the often complex laws governing such abuse can ensure you get the settlement you deserve.
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