Few things are more depressing than hearing about an elderly nursing home resident who has been victimized. This is one of life's toughest situations – you've entrusted a loved one to the care and oversight of someone else, and those people crush that trust by abusing your family member, likely your mother or father.
There are many recent investigative reports about nursing home abuse that are very alarming. Examples include a special investigation by CNN that found more than 1,000 nursing home facilities were charged with failing to prevent or not adequately handling alleged cases of sexual assault and abuse between 2013 and 2016. Another study shows that in 2014, there were 188,599 complaints filed against nursing homes in the U.S., and 7.6% of those involved some alleged abuse, exploitation or neglect.
When you realize that the number of people who are aged 65 or more will double by the year 2050, you see that this is a crisis that will unfortunately only get worse, especially here in Florida.
Do You Suspect Abuse of a Family Member?
There are several signs or “red flags” that people should be watchful for if they suspect someone in a nursing home is being victimized by abuse. In many cases, there are no visible signs of physical abuse. Sadly, people who abuse elderly nursing home residents are pretty good at hiding or covering up what they do. Often, they'll use the fact that the resident's mental state is such that ‘you shouldn't believe anything they say'.
With the technology available today, small cameras are often used by relatives of nursing home residents to make sure they see how their family members are being treated – or mistreated. Even if you have no reason to suspect abuse, you may be smart to install some sort of video monitoring device to help ensure your family member's safety and overall well-being. And if the nursing home objects to the placement of a small camera in Mom's room, that may be all the more reason to get one right away.
Here are some key things to watch for if you suspect any type of abuse in a nursing home, retirement home or assisted living facility:
- Lack of cleanliness or poor physical appearance of the patient
- Sudden change in demeanor; depression, mood swings, unwillingness to talk
- Bed sores
- Change in appetite, unexplained weight loss, dehydration
- Cuts, bruising or red marks on skin
- Increase in infections
- Unwillingness of caregivers to allow patient to be alone with other residents
If you find yourself in need of placing a family member into a nursing home, there are a number of things you should do to help ensure their safety. You want to make sure that just because it's the one closest to your house doesn't mean it's the right place for mom or dad.
Do Your Homework Before Signing a Nursing Home Contract
- Visit http://www.fdhc.state.fl.us/Nursing_Home_Guide/ to see if the place you're considering has ever been involved with or undergone any cases alleging abuse of their residents.
- Talk to the families of other residents and get their impression of the facility
- Stay away from facilities that strictly restrict your access to your family member
- Meet with the “floor level” administrators, not the top management. Those who work in the trenches, so to speak, are the ones who will be charged with the care of the resident. It's vital for you to see how they handle the patients in their care.
- Read all agreements carefully, or call one of our nursing home abuse attorneys at Goldberg Noone Abraham for help BEFORE signing anything. Many nursing home contracts have what is known as a “forced arbitration” clause. This can mean that even if a case of abuse or severe neglect can be proven, the nursing home won't ultimately be held accountable.
- Visit the facility often, and at varying times of day and night
- Go with your gut – If you sense that something is just not right, look into the situation further
There have been many examples of elderly abuse that have gone viral after appearing on social media outlets recently. Again, that is due to people utilizing tiny video cameras to protect their loved ones and monitor how they're being treated. Don't let someone you care about become the victim of unscrupulous people who have no business caring for the elderly.
It NEVER costs a penny to call us at 239-461-5508 and speak directly to one of our experienced and skilled nursing home abuse attorneys to get answers to your questions. We encourage you to reach out to us the very first time you see a problem – waiting can just make the situation worse.