Nursing Home Abuse: The Reality of This Tragic Epidemic
When family visits with grandparents on the weekend, the last thing they want to think about is what goes on in the nursing home when they’re not there to look out for those more vulnerable than themselves. As they age, the elderly become more fearful and less able to speak to their own needs. No matter the necessity, nursing homes, for most people, are comparable to hospitals. As families watch their loved ones age, they become witness to their inevitable decline over the years, and this can bring about many difficult decisions that must be made, while leaving families with overwhelming feelings of sadness and guilt.
Choosing a nursing home to care for loved ones isn’t an easy decision to come to, and families must trust that the choice they make will be one that keeps their parents or grandparents safe from harm. After all, most of the time the decision to place an elderly loved one in a nursing home is due to their inability to safely care for themselves anymore. As family members who care deeply for their loved ones it’s important to them that they prevent any situation where an elderly loved one can fall and sustain injuries such as broken bones or TBI.
When a family finally decides a nursing home is the right choice to keep an elderly person safe, they may still feel as if they should’ve done more for their loved one, or that they could never be happy in a nursing home. Most of the time, this isn’t the case. The elderly can thrive and “bounce back” from a decline when in the care of qualified, skilled nursing home setting. Nursing homes provide 24/7 care and the needs of the elderly are being met quickly and with compassion.
When a beloved relative doesn’t “bounce back” and is never “themselves” again, or in the worst-case scenario, passes away in the facility so carefully selected and entrusted with their care, the realization that it could be nursing home abuse is difficult to process. In a time already full of grief and mourning, the thought that several good years may have been taken away from a family member due to the reality of abuse is unbearable. This grim outcome happens more often than anyone could suspect, and in the state of Florida where the population of elderly is high, the abuse statistics are staggering.
The elderly, much like children, are a highly vulnerable demographic; when an elderly person can’t speak for themselves or has become too fearful to express their needs openly, they can, by no fault of their own, be put at risk for situations in which nursing home abuse can occur. Whether it’s a CNA that’s having problems at home and directs her disappointment toward her elderly client, or a nurse that’s not properly trained in geriatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s and becomes annoyed with the client’s repetitive storytelling, all of these instances fall under the same umbrella: nursing home abuse.
In our previous articles, the Shaked Law Blog discussed the differences between nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. This article will seek to explain the reality of the preventable epidemic that is nursing home abuse.
To keep instances of nursing home abuse to a minimum, the first that family members must know is that every skilled nursing facility is required by law to have their elder abuse prevention policies on hand and in writing to be furnished to the family prior to the potential resident’s admission. There is never any exception to this rule and a family should be cautious and seek another facility for their loved one right away if they are not provided with this documentation in a timely manner, or their request for it is refused.
When it comes to loved ones, families consider everything when placing their elderly family member in what amounts to a “stranger”’s care. Even the smallest detail should never be overlooked. When selecting a skilled nursing facility for a loved one, a family should seek answers to the following important questions:
Is this facility clean? Does the skilled nursing facility comply with all OSHA standards? When was the last OSHA inspection of the facility?
Has the facility had any HIPAA privacy violations?
Do the residents look hygienic, happy, and well cared for? Are residents left unattended in hallways or areas they should not be without a caregiver?
Are staff members friendly, accommodating, and willing to provide answers to any questions a family has?
What emergency procedures (Hurricane preparedness, cardiac events, stroke) are in place in the event of something happening to a loved one?
Once the family is satisfied with the answers provided, and is confident that the skilled nursing facility or nursing home (these facilities are usually interchangeable with the exception of “rehabilitation” facilities, which are short term), only then is the care of the elderly loved one entrusted to the facility. Usually, the family can find no wrong in the facility and will admit their loved one with the confidence that they’ll be well cared for, kept safe, and no harm will come to them. When this is the case, the elderly often find a sense of peace and relaxation with their new caregivers, who will provide for their needs compassionately where family members may have become frustrated unintentionally in the past.
However, there are the tragic instances where all isn’t as it seems, and a family member will stop by unannounced to surprise their beloved family member only to find that their situation has taken a dramatic and unsafe turn; their health will have declined, and they may have bruises or bedsores indicating they’re not receiving the care expected by their caregivers–worse, these may be signs of abuse.
Why did this happen to a loved one? When did this occur? Grandma or grandpa seemed to be in perfect health when they were admitted to the facility!
When this type of rapid turn for the worst is suspected, nursing home abuse could very well be what’s behind the decline.
When families find themselves in a situation where nursing home abuse is suspected, there are specific things to note and steps that need be taken to protect the elderly from further physical and mental anguish at the hands of their caregivers.
What are some telltale signs that an elderly client, patient, or loved one has become the unfortunate victim of nursing home abuse?
Open wounds that may be infected
Cuts and scrapes with excuses such as “Miss Smith fell!” used by caregivers to repeatedly used to explain them away
Bedsores with excuses such as “Miss Smith is depressed and refuses to get out of bed!”
Soiled clothing and bedding
Acting quickly when presented with these signs of abuse is the first step to ensuring the safety of the elderly patient and to removing the staff member from their care team. Sometimes requesting a change of caregiver is simply not enough. Documentation as to why the caregiver need be removed is imperative when dealing with insurance companies who don’t have the victims’ best interest at heart.
However, when a loved one has already suffered the physical pain and mental anguish of months or even years of nursing home abuse, or worse, has tragically passed away as a result, the family will need to seek board certified legal counsel with hands on experience in this type of case.