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Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Home Abuse

As the population of seniors in the U.S. continues growing, so does the number of residents living in nursing homes across the nation. While many residents are properly cared for, many others suffer physical and psychological injuries because they are abused or neglected by their nurses and other staff members.

People with loved ones who are staying in nursing homes have many questions about nursing home abuse, whether their loved one has been victimized or not. Below, review this list of some of the most frequently asked questions about nursing home abuse, including questions about filing nursing home abuse claims to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.

If your loved one was abused or neglected, seeking legal help is a crucial step in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Our Portland nursing home abuse lawyers can review your situation in a free, no obligation legal consultation.

Contact us today for your free consultation.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is a form of elder abuse, which is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an intentional action or failure to act by a caregiver or person in a relationship with an expectation of trust that puts the older adult at risk of harm.

When this happens in a nursing home, it is called nursing home abuse. There are many different types of nursing home abuse, including:

Physical Abuse

This is any intentional use of physical force that causes the older adult to suffer a physical injury or impairment. Some common examples include:

  • Hitting
  • Shoving
  • Kicking
  • Slapping
  • Biting
  • Shaking
  • Forcing the resident to eat
  • Using physical restraints in a way that causes injury
  • Inappropriate use of drugs

This can cause severe or even life-threatening injuries, ranging from bruises, welts, cuts and sprains to broken bones, skull fractures, and traumatic brain injuries.

Emotional Abuse

This refers to verbal or nonverbal actions that cause the resident distress, fear or mental anguish. For example, a staff member could call a resident names to humiliate him or her. Sometimes residents are threatened with punishment.

Another common form of emotional abuse is isolating the resident from others, including family and friends. This is a method of controlling the resident. Sometimes this includes limiting the resident's access to the phone or transportation.

Sexual Abuse

This is essentially sexual assault, as it involves unwanted or nonconsensual sexual contact with an older adult. Some examples of sexual abuse of nursing home residents include:

  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Sexual assault
  • Penetration of the older adult by hand, finger or genitals
  • Taking pictures of a resident who is in a state of undress
  • Coercing the resident into nudity or intercourse

Financial Abuse

This refers to improper or illegal use of a nursing home resident's assets or property, including bank accounts, credit cards or legal documents. Sometimes residents are coerced into signing over power of attorney or making changes to the will so they can collect money.

Sometimes residents are so mentally impaired they do not know what is going on so they cannot put a stop to the abuse.   

Financial abuse leads to residents losing money, having accounts opened in their name without their permission, or receiving substandard care even though they can afford better.

What is Nursing Home Neglect?

Neglect occurs when a caregiver does not fulfill his or her obligations related to the older person's care. This could include failing to help a resident take his or her medications, use the bathroom, transfer from a bed into a wheelchair, walk, or receive the appropriate medical care.

Sometimes neglect is intentional – caretakers do it to punish the resident or to isolate the person from others. Other times, staff members are negligent or overworked and do not tend to every resident like they should.

Another common example of nursing home neglect is leaving tripping hazards in hallways. Older adults have a much higher risk of falling, particularly when there are obstacles in their way.

Why is Nursing Home Abuse So Common?

Nursing home abuse is not just a growing problem because the elder and nursing home resident populations continue to grow. The nursing home industry has attracted some individuals and companies who are more concerned with making money than providing adequate care for residents.

Some of the individuals and companies that own nursing homes have decided to cut staffing levels to save money. This leads to understaffed nursing homes where the staff members who are present are overworked and overstressed. This leads to staff members lashing out at residents, physically or verbally. This does not excuse the behavior, but understaffing makes it more likely abuse will occur.

Overworked staff members are also not able to clear out fall hazards in hallways, help residents get out of bed, help immobile residents move so they do not develop bedsores, or take care of their personal hygiene needs.

Another reason for abuse or neglect is that residents are often physically or mentally incapable of stopping it or even reporting what is going on. Sometimes residents are afraid to say anything because of the threats they have heard from their abusers.  

Nursing homes also cut corners when hiring staff members. This includes not doing background checks, doing insufficient background checks, hiring people with a history of abusing residents, and failing to train staff members. This is often because the people in charge are so focused on making money.

What Are the Common Signs of Abuse or Neglect?

If you have a loved one living at a nursing home, you need to know the signs of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, it could happen to your loved one, even if his or her nursing home seems completely safe.

You need to know the signs of neglect because your loved one may be unable to communicate with you about what is actually happening. He or she might also be afraid. This means it is up to you to watch for signs of abuse so you can put a stop to it as soon as possible.

Some of the common signs that a nursing home resident has been abused include:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Infections
  • Bruises your loved one cannot explain
  • Bedsores
  • Falls and fall injuries
  • Emotional withdrawal or depression
  • Anxiety around nursing home staff members
  • A dirty, disorganized room
  • Bad personal hygiene
  • Lack of staff members
  • Staff member refusing to leave the room while you are visiting
  • Lost personal items
  • Strange withdrawals from financial accounts
  • Change in power of attorney
  • Bloody clothing or bedding

What Should I Do If My Loved One Suffered Abuse?

If you see signs of abuse, talk to your loved one and ask him or her what is going on. You should also inform staff members at the nursing home so they can investigate and help you find out what is happening.

If staff members refuse to help or dismiss your allegations and claim nothing is wrong, it could be a sign they are covering something up.

Your next step is to contact Oregon's Department of Human Services to report what you have discovered and what you are concerned about. That way, an investigation can be conducted into what is going on and steps can be taken to protect your loved one.

If you are not actually present at the nursing home but you have serious concerns that your loved one is in physical danger, you can contact the local authorities.

What Are My Loved One's Rights as a Nursing Home Resident? 

Federal and state law prohibit the abuse of nursing home residents, including any abuse that is verbal, sexual, physical or psychological in nature. Under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987, facilities must investigate and report suspected violations and any injuries of unknown origin within five working days of the incident.

This is why you should always be suspicious of nursing homes being difficult when you question them about possible abuse. They are breaking the law by not investigating and reporting to the authorities.

Abuse and neglect are also violations of the basic respect and dignity owed to nursing home residents. This is also a right that is stated in federal and state law on nursing home residents.

Other rights granted to your loved one under federal law include the right to:

  • Express complaints about medical care
  • Refuse treatment
  • Have private visits
  • Make phone calls
  • Keep and use personal belongings
  • Spend time with visitors
  • Receive counseling
  • Get help in solving problems with other residents

What is the Cost of Hiring a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?

After you report abuse, you should strongly consider contacting a nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss your potential legal options. While the authorities can investigate, put a stop to the abuse and punish the facility, this will not provide compensation for the damages suffered by your loved one. The only way to obtain compensation is to take legal action against the facility.

People are often afraid of contacting a lawyer because they think they will not be able to afford it. However, at Rizk Law, we take cases on a contingency fee basis. This is an advantage to you because you do not pay us anything unless you receive compensation. Your consultation with our attorneys to determine if you have a case is completely free. This means there is no risk in seeking legal help and retaining a lawyer for your nursing home abuse claim.

Our attorneys are prepared to be strong advocates for your best interests and the best interests of your elderly loved one.

What Types of Compensation Are Available for Nursing Home Abuse Victims?

If you have a case and decide to pursue it, our attorneys will pursue all the compensation you are owed, which could include:

  • Medical expenses – Any medical expenses incurred because of abuse would be covered by your settlement or jury verdict. This could include expenses for surgery, appointments with doctors, medical tests, imaging, medical equipment and other expenses.
  • Pain and suffering – The physical and emotional pain and suffering are also compensable in a nursing home abuse claim. This could include the depression, emotional withdrawal or anxiety your loved one has suffered.
  • Property damage – If your loved one's property was damaged or stolen, you can pursue compensation to repair or replace that property. This could include financial assets that were stolen.
  • Physical rehabilitation – Your loved one may need physical rehabilitation because of the injuries he or she suffered. This will help your loved one get back to the physical state he or she was in before being abused or neglected. This can be a big part of helping restore your loved one's quality of life.

Who Can File a Lawsuit Over Nursing Home Abuse?

Usually, family members are the ones who file nursing home abuse lawsuits because the victim is physically or mentally unable to go through the legal process. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the victim.

Fortunately, the attorneys at Rizk Law are prepared to manage the entire legal process on your behalf. We understand how stressful and intimidating this can be for you. We want you to spend your time focused on caring for your loved one and dealing with the damages they have suffered.

Contact an Attorney Today to Discuss What Happened

We know how families feel after discovering their elderly loved one was abused a nursing home. They are angry and shocked at how a defenseless individual could be taken advantage of in such an awful way.

While compensation cannot change what happened, we know that it can be one of the things that helps victims and their families deal with the damages that have occurred.

Schedule your free consultation today to find out the benefits of having a trusted attorney at your side.

Call us at 503.245.5677 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form.