Nursing home abuse refers to both substandard care and outright abuse against elderly individuals receiving professional care. Despite its name, nursing home abuse does not only affect residents of nursing homes; any elderly individual in any type of long-term care facility, as well as those receiving professional caregiver services at home, can be a victim of nursing home abuse.
There are several different types of nursing home abuse, including:
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is any harmful bodily contact, such as hitting, shoving, pinching, slapping, grabbing, or pushing.
- Neglect: Neglect is a form of abuse that occurs when an individual’s basic care needs, such as eating/drinking or medical care, are not met.
- Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) includes any non-physical conduct that harms an individual, such as belittling, isolating, or yelling at someone.
- Sexual Abuse: Any unwanted or nonconsensual contact of a sexual nature, including groping or rape, is considered sexual abuse.
According to WHO, emotional/psychological abuse is by far the most often reported type of abuse, both by elderly adults and nursing home/long-term care facility staff (11.6 percent and 32.5 percent, respectively). This is particularly insidious, as psychological abuse is often the most difficult to recognize and the most difficult to prove.
Elderly individuals were next most likely to report financial abuse (6.8 percent), whereas staff was second most likely to report neglect (12 percent). The rate of neglect reported by older adults was 4.2 percent, followed by physical abuse at 2.6 percent, and sexual abuse at 0.9 percent. Staff members were more likely to report physical abuse (9.3 percent), followed by sexual abuse (0.7 percent).
Sadly, it is highly likely that many instances of nursing home abuse go unreported, meaning the real numbers are much higher. Nursing home abuse is a serious and widespread epidemic in facilities across the U.S., including in New York.
One study reported by the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) found that as many as 260,000 elderly individuals in the state of New York had suffered some type of elder abuse in the past year. Even more alarming, the actual rate of elder abuse in New York State was almost 24 times higher than the number of incidents reported to law enforcement, social service, or legal authorities.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse can have devastating or even deadly consequences. It is absolutely critical that elderly individuals and their family members know the signs of nursing home abuse so that they can take immediate action when abuse occurs. Often, older adults are unable or unwilling to report nursing home abuse, sometimes out of fear, sometimes due to medical conditions that impair cognitive functioning, and sometimes because they simply do not recognize that what is occurring is abuse. If your loved one resides in a long-term care facility or receives assistance from a professional caregiver, it is important that you know and look out for the signs of nursing home abuse.
Some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Bedsores/pressure ulcers
- Broken bones, bruises, cuts, and other unexplained injuries
- Head and face injuries
- Falls and/or fall-related injuries
- Signs of physical restraint, such as marks on the wrists or ankles
- Signs of chemical restraint, such as disorientation, sedation, or confusion
- Dehydration and/or malnutrition
- Poor dental hygiene
- Poor general hygiene
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss or gain
- Medication errors, including overdose or improper administration
- Poor medical treatment/care (medical malpractice)
- Untreated illness or infection
- Injuries on or near genitals, buttocks, or breasts
- New sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STDs/STIs)
- Inappropriate sexual or physical contact with staff
- Unusual changes in mood or behavior, such as new bouts of crying or anxiety
- Depression, disengagement, or unexplained withdrawal from others
- Apparent fear in staff members’ presence
- Aggressive or violent outbursts
- Decreased self-esteem or self-worth
- Symptoms of trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Changes in sleeping patterns, such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, or insomnia
Poor or unsanitary conditions can also indicate that abuse or neglect is occurring in a nursing home facility. Signs include soiled or dirty bedclothes, unchanged clothing, poor personal hygiene, and run-down or poorly maintained facilities.
Types of Injuries Caused by Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
Over time, nursing home abuse and neglect can lead to serious and even life-threatening injuries. Even a single act of abuse can result in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death.
Common nursing home injuries include:
- Cuts, scrapes, and lacerations
- Fractured hips, wrists, ankles, and other bones
- Head and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Bedrail/bed injuries
- Severe infections, such as sepsis
Without immediate medical treatment, these injuries can lead to severe complications and may even be fatal. If your elderly loved one has suffered any type of injury while in the care of a nursing home or long-term residential facility, you should seek medical attention right away. Then, you should report any suspected abuse and contact an attorney, like those at Wolf & Fuhrman LLP, who can help protect your rights.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in New York
There are several ways to report nursing home abuse and neglect in New York:
- Call 911 if you or anyone else appears to be in imminent danger
- Submit a Nursing Home Complaint Form with the New York State Department of Health online
- Call the 24-hour Nursing Home Complaint Hotline at 1-888-201-4563
- Contact local law enforcement and report suspected abuse
- Report abuse to the long-term care ombudsman in your area
After reporting abuse to the appropriate authorities, you should immediately contact an experienced nursing home attorney. At Wolf & Fuhrman LLP, we can review the details of your case and determine whether you have grounds to sue the nursing home, long-term care facility, or staff member responsible for your or your loved one’s abuse or neglect.