nursing home abuse

Protecting Loved Ones from Nursing Home Abuse

There is a crisis in America’s nursing homes. Aging demographics, consolidation in the industry, and other factors have put a major strain on nursing facilities in Virginia and throughout the country. This has created a shortage of quality workers in these facilities, resulting in a growing number of nursing home abuse cases.

According to the National Council on Aging, as many as five million elders are abused in the U.S. each year. And one study indicated that approximately one out of every four nursing home residents has experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a facility. Sadly, these are most likely conservative estimates, because only about one out of every 14 cases (of elder abuse) is ever formally reported.

Just how bad is the problem? A CNN investigation published in 2017 found that more than 1,000 nursing homes were cited by the federal government between 2013 and 2016 for failure to prevent rape, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual abuse at their facilities (during this time period). Sexual abuse is the most egregious form of nursing home abuse. If this happens at more than 1,000 facilities, it is reasonable to assume that countless other facilities are routinely allowing other forms of abuse and neglect to occur.

Protecting your Loved One from Nursing Home Abuse

It is easy to believe that abuse can never happen to your aging loved one, but as widespread as the problem is, no one can feel totally secure in this assumption. If you have a loved one who is in a Virginia nursing home, you need to be proactive to help ensure that they receive the standard of care they deserve.

Here are some important steps to take to protect your aging family member from being abused in a nursing home:

Visit the Nursing Home Regularly

You have most likely heard the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.” This most certainly applies to nursing home residents. Those residents who very seldom receive visitors tend to be the ones who are neglected and/or abused by facility staff. But when family members and friends show up frequently, staff members tend to make an extra effort to ensure that these residents are taken care of. Set up a regular visiting schedule that you can stick to, whether it is once a week, every other week, or whatever. Have other family members take part in the visits when they can as well. The more visitors your loved one has, the lesser the chances they will be mistreated.

Get to Know the Staff

In addition to showing up frequently, it is important to get acquainted with the people who are charged with looking after your elderly loved one. Ask to meet with staff, supervisors, and directors regularly, so you can discuss your loved one’s situation, set expectations, and express any concerns you may have. This level of engagement shows the facility that you are committed to looking after your loved one and making sure they are given proper care.

Look Closely at your Loved One’s Living Conditions

Pay very close attention to everything that is happening with your loved one, particularly any changes you observe the since your last visit. In particular, look out for various signs of neglect and abuse, such as cuts, bruises, burns, bed sores, poor hygiene, malnutrition and dehydration, changes in behavior that seem out of character, and anything else that does not seem right.  Keep detailed records of everything you observe at the facility. Write down detailed notes describing each visit and take photos when needed to provide visual evidence of the things you have noted.

Report any Clear Signs of Abuse or Neglect Immediately

If you have observed signs of abuse or neglect, you need to take action right away to get your loved one out of the situation. If this is an emergency or your loved one is in imminent danger, call 911. You can also report nursing home abuse in Virginia by calling the Adult Protective Services toll-free hotline at (888) 832-3858. Finally, get in touch with a seasoned nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to discuss the legal aspects of your loved one’s situation.

Call Schilling and Esposito Today for a Free Consultation

If you suspect neglect or abuse at a Virginia nursing facility, take steps to remove your loved one from danger, then contact Schilling & Esposito to discuss your legal rights and options. Call our office today at 804-261-1001 or message us through our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. You may also stop by our office in person at your convenience.

Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm - Schilling & Esposito

First Steps to Take if you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

Neglect and abuse are growing problems in nursing homes across the United States. Aging demographics, consolidation in the industry, and a tight job market have created a “perfect storm” that has fostered substandard conditions in a large percentage of the nation’s nursing facilities.

According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) study, there are over 1.6 million residents living in over 17,000 licensed nursing homes across the country at any given time, and it is estimated that nearly one quarter of all nursing home residents have experienced abuse at least once. Sadly, these are most likely very conservative estimates. Other studies have indicated that only about one out of every 14 incidents of elder abuse are ever reported.

It is not hard to see why nursing home abuse victims are reluctant to report abuse. Seniors who live in nursing facilities are among the most vulnerable in our society, and many nursing home residents depend heavily on their caregivers for their daily needs. Oftentimes, they are afraid that no one will believe them if they report abuse to somebody, and they fear what will happen to them if they remain under the care of their abuser.

Because so many of the elderly feel like they cannot speak up when they are being mistreated in nursing homes, it is important for their loved ones to keep a close eye on what is happening to them, look for signs that abuse or neglect may be occurring, and if they see something that is not right, be ready to take action.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse can come in numerous forms. The abuse can be physical, emotional, or even financial. Some examples of abuse that occur in nursing facilities include:

  • Failure to provide for or general neglect of a resident’s needs;
  • Leaving residents unattended for long periods of time;
  • Failure to provide clean and sanitary living conditions;
  • Failure to ensure that the residents are safe and secure;
  • Name calling, insults, threats, and other forms of verbal abuse;
  • Isolating a resident from other residents and loved ones;
  • Exerting control over a resident’s use of the phone, access to transportation, or access to other services or facilities;
  • Unreasonable restraint or confinement;
  • Pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, hitting, punching, and other forms of physical abuse;
  • Touching, groping, feeling, grabbing, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual abuse;
  • Financial exploitation and other forms of financial abuse.

Steps to Take if you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home neglect and abuse can be difficult to spot, because some of the signs are similar to what can happen to an elderly individual due to natural aging and deterioration of their health.  That said, there are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate wrongdoing on the part of a caregiver or other employees, such as:

  • Sudden weight loss;
  • Bed sores;
  • Unexplained injuries or hospitalizations;
  • Poor hygiene;
  • Bruises, scars, and other unexplained marks on the body;
  • Unusual behavioral changes;
  • Reluctance to speak around certain staff members;
  • Not being allowed to speak to your loved one without a staff member present;
  • Large and/or unusual financial transactions.

If you suspect nursing home abuse, there are several steps you should take right away to address the situation:

Ensure your Loved One’s Safety

If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 and/or your local police or sheriff’s department. Make sure your loved one receives the medical care they need right away, and that local law enforcement has witnessed the situation and documented everything. If necessary, move your loved one out of this facility and into a safer place.

Speak with Your Loved One

If there are clear signs that something is not right, talk with your loved one alone (if possible) and ask them if they feel threatened, have been harmed, have been neglected, exploited, or if they have experienced any other type of neglect or abuse. Bear in mind that they may have difficulty discussing this or may not want to admit to it, so trust your gut if you feel like there is something wrong.

Document Everything

Document as much as possible to show what is happening. Take multiple photographs from various angles to show injuries, unsanitary living conditions, and other problems. Gather medical records and other documents that may either confirm your suspicions or show that what you are seeing is the result of something other than abuse or neglect.

File a Complaint

Speak with the facility manager or supervisor about what you have seen and what your loved one has told you. If you do not receive a satisfactory explanation and/or your loved one’s living conditions do not improve, file a complaint with the Virginia Department of Health online or by calling at 1-800-533-1560 or (804) 367-4691.

Speak with an Experienced Virginia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

As soon as is convenient, you should talk with a seasoned personal injury lawyer about your legal rights and options. If abuse or neglect has occurred, your loved one is entitled to compensation. Nursing home abuse cases are complex, however, and it is best to involve an attorney as early as possible in the process, so they can go to work immediately to help ensure that your legal right to compensation is protected. For a free consultation with one of the skilled nursing home abuse lawyers at Schilling & Esposito, call us today at 804-261-1001. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by one of our office in person at your convenience.