No one ever wants to have to make the difficult decision to place their parent in a nursing home. Sometimes though, when an elder suffers from a medical condition and needs round-the-clock care, there is no other choice. Many people struggle with this decision because ,of course everyone wants their loved one to receive only the highest quality of care.
Sadly, that does not always happen. Neglect and abuse are all too common in nursing homes in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If your parent is in a nursing home, it is important to know the signs of nursing home abuse, and what to do if you suspect it is occurring.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Generally, there are five types of abuse in a nursing home to look for if you suspect your loved one is in danger. Check with your loved one and know the signs indicating that they may be suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect.
Physical abuse occurs when a nursing home resident suffers bodily harm and injury at the hands of a nursing home employee. Physical abuse may include hitting, pinching, scratching, biting, shoving, or hair-pulling. However, those with cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s may be at higher risk for this type of abuse due to the resident’s inability to report the abuse they are experiencing.
Psychological abuse occurs when a nursing home employee yells, criticizes, humiliates, manipulates, or shames a resident. A resident may feel a range of emotions due to this treatment manifesting through anger, withdrawal, fear, and depression. It’s unfathomable to think of a parent suffering from abuse in a nursing home. This type of abuse inflicts pain, anguish, and distress on a resident. As a result, many victims may be scared to come forward and report this abuse.
Financial abuse in a nursing home may occur when a nursing home employee earns the trust of a vulnerable resident. These perpetrators then take advantage of this close relationship by misappropriating the funds or property of the resident. Signs of financial abuse include the following:
- Suspicious banking or financial transactions,
- Missing money from bank accounts,
- Questionable credit card transactions,
- Unexpected changes to estate planning documents or property deeds, and
- Missing possessions.
Unfortunately, we cannot be with our loved ones at all times. As they form close relationships with nursing home staff, keep an eye on their finances. While these close relationships may form without any hint of financial abuse, it’s important to remain diligent.
Sexual abuse in a nursing home includes any non-consensual sexual contact by one person with another person. Unfortunately, sexual abuse in nursing homes often goes underreported, under-investigated, and unnoticed. Vulnerable loved ones may be ashamed to report this conduct, too scared to report it, or unable to speak. Signs of sexual abuse include the following:
Markings on the body,
- Bleeding near genitals,
- Bloody clothing or bedding, or
- Sexually transmitted disease diagnosis.
Additionally, an abused loved one may exhibit emotional signs providing clues to a potentially abusive situation, including:
- Fear of being alone,
- Changes in personality,
- Stress and anxiety,
- Withdrawal, and
- Unexplained crying.
Sexual abuse in a nursing home must be stopped immediately. If you suspect a loved one may be the victim of sexual abuse, don’t dismiss your suspicions and investigate them further.
Neglect occurs when nursing home residents are not provided with the necessities of life. The causes of nursing home abuse may result due to understaffing, negligent hiring, or inadequate training. Red flags that may indicate neglect include the following:
- Failing to bathe or feed loved ones,
- Forgetting to take them to physical therapy, and
- Failing to address nursing home resident’s calls for assistance.
Neglect may initially appear as a simple mistake. But failing to address initial signs of neglect causes long-term health issues, including physical harm, stress, and depression.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home residents are not always willing or able to come forward and report abuse. For this reason, it is critical that you know the signs to look for so you can detect abuse or neglect as soon as possible. Some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse include:
- Sudden and unexpected weight loss, which could indicate malnutrition;
- Dry, chapped lips or excessively dry skin, which could indicate dehydration;
- Pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores, which is common when residents are not moved often enough;
- Sudden and unexpected changes in behavior, such as an elder that suddenly becomes withdrawn;
- Signs of unclean premises, including unchanged sheets, slippery floors, or inadequate lighting; or
- Unpleasant odors, which may indicate residents are not bathed or groomed properly.
Unfortunately, the above are just a few of the most common signs of nursing home abuse. Most importantly, you must trust your instincts. If something seems “off” about your parent, or you just do not feel right about something, it is probably worth investigating to determine if abuse and neglect are occurring.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse
There are no guarantees in keeping your loved one safe while in a nursing home. However, family members may take steps to create as safe an environment for them as possible.
- Be involved with your loved one’s decision to undertake nursing home care.
- Undertake thorough research on all nursing home facilities you and your family are considering.
- Visit each potential nursing home facility multiple times. The more times you visit, the more opportunity to gain a clearer picture of how the facility operates.
- Advocate for your loved one when they receive care. Stay informed on all aspects of their condition and remain diligent about any changes in their mental and physical condition.
- Know staff members and the hierarchy of authority at the facility.
- Visit your loved one unannounced to ensure treatment is the same as when your arrival is expected.
- If you notice something unusual, raise it to the correct staff member or administrator. Never sit on concerns. Something that appears minor on the surface may uncover abuse. Contact an attorney immediately if you suspect nursing home abuse. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in these difficult situations.
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you do suspect nursing home abuse, you must take action immediately. You may want to call the police, particularly if you believe your parent is in danger. You might have to remove your parent from the facility and if so, the police can ensure this goes smoothly. The police may even be able to point you toward resources that could provide your parent with a new place to live.
Next, you should get your parent the medical attention they need. If they have been abused or neglected, their well-being has been put at risk. Making sure they are healthy, or that they get treatment they need, is the first priority after removing them from the facility.
Once your parent is safe, you should then report the abuse. You can do this on the Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services website. After filing a complaint, the agency will conduct an investigation, which is an important step to ensure no one else suffers from abuse in the future.
Filing a Nursing Home Abuse Claim
Your parent has a right to file a nursing home abuse claim to recover damages, or financial compensation, for any harm they have suffered. You can also file a claim on your parent’s behalf if they do not have the capacity to do so.
Before filing a claim, it is critical to speak to a lawyer. You will have to prove the facts of your case, and that your parent was abused, and this is sometimes very difficult. The nursing home may also not cooperate, which only makes matters more complex. A lawyer will help you through every step of your claim, including reporting the nursing home. A lawyer will also conduct an investigation to prove fault so your loved one claims the full damages they deserve.
It is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after learning of the abuse. In Atlanta, as throughout the rest of Georgia, you typically only have two years to file a claim. If you do not file your claim within this time period, you will lose your right to claim any damages at all. Keep in mind that your case does not have to be finalized within two years ; it is only the amount of time you have to file the lawsuit.
Call the Legal Professionals at MG Law Today
Learning that your parent is being abused is never easy, but an Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyer can help. At MG Law, our skilled attorneys can help you through this difficult time, and ensure you receive the maximum damages you deserve. Call us today at 404-982-4219 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.