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Three Commonly Missed Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

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There are millions of American seniors living in nursing facilities. As the population ages and life expectancy increases, the number of individuals that will be in need of long-term care is expected to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future. Higher patient loads and staffing shortages have put a major strain on many nursing homes throughout the country. This has resulted in more and more cases of nursing home neglect and abuse.

ABC News conducted an investigation in the early 2000s that found that elder abuse occurs in approximately one out of every three nursing homes in the United States. In Kentucky alone, a recent report found that there were 55 homes in the state with serious deficiencies, and these facilities were assessed more than $8.5 million in penalties. 

It is now believed that as many as five million American seniors are subjected to abuse each year. It is hard to obtain an accurate estimate, however, because only about one out of every 15 elder abuse cases are ever reported.

It is easy to see why so few nursing home residents report elder abuse. Residents depend heavily on their caregivers for all of their basic needs. If they report abuse, they risk retaliation, especially if they are not believed and they remain under the charge of the same abusing caregiver. This makes them feel hopeless, because they do not know where to turn for help.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse can take many forms. Sometimes, it is a case of general neglect of the resident’s needs. This usually happens because the facility is short-staffed, and they do not have enough people to provide even a minimum standard of care. Whether intentional or not, neglecting the needs of a resident is still abuse.

Other more egregious forms of nursing home abuse include:

  • Physical abuse: Hitting, pushing, shoving, pulling, unreasonably restraining, etc.
  • Psychological abuse: Name-calling, insults, threats, isolating residents, etc.
  • Sexual abuse: Unwanted touching, feeling, fondling, sexual assault, etc.
  • Financial abuse: Manipulating or exploiting a resident to gain control over their finances.

Here are some signs to look for that are sometimes missed that may indicate that a resident is being abused at a nursing home:

Physical deterioration: If your loved one starts to have physical problems, this could be a sign that something is not right. Examples include cuts, bruises, and other types of injuries, as well as physical issues from malnutrition and dehydration. Pay very close attention to the explanation given for these issues. If the caregiver or staff member does not give you a straight answer, tries to deflect your question to another topic, or otherwise evades your question, this is definitely cause for concern.

Uncharacteristic mood changes: Abuse can result in psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, ambivalence, withdrawal, and many others. Pay attention to your loved one’s words as well as their body language. Does their mood seem out of character? Do they seem unusually uncomfortable and scared, especially when they are around a certain caregiver or staff member? These could be indicators that your loved one is being abused.

Confusion and disorientation: A nursing home resident who is being abused can start to become physically exhausted over time. This can cause them to become increasingly confused and disoriented by their surroundings. Physical exhaustion could also be a symptom of other health conditions, so you will need to look at other factors as well in determining whether neglect or abuse is happening.

What to Do if you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse in Kentucky

If you have a loved one at a Kentucky nursing facility who you suspect is being abused, it is important to take proactive steps to put a stop to it. If your loved one is in imminent danger, call 911. Aside from that, you can also report abuse to the Kentucky Department for Community-Based Services (DCBS) by calling their adult abuse hotline at (800) 752-6200. Finally, get in contact with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.

At the law offices of John H. Ruby & Associates, we understand the outrage family members feel when they learn that a nursing facility which they entrusted to care for their elderly loved one has violated that trust. We are committed to putting a stop to this type of abuse by helping ensure that those responsible are held fully accountable.

For a free no obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 502-895-2626 or send us a message through our online contact form. You may also stop by our Louisville office at your convenience.