Most nursing homes provide a safe and comforting place for an older adult to live during the waning years of their life. However, elder abuse at these centers can severely impact their life and may be hidden for years from the children of residents. Therefore, adult children with parents in nursing homes need to understand how to spot this problem and prosecute it.
Frequency and Forms of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is a problem that may be more widespread than most people realize. For example, the elderly-advocacy group, Nursing Home Abuse Center, published statistics that stated about 4–10 percent of all older individuals experience abuse. Though they did not say how often this abuse happened in a nursing home, undoubtedly much happened in this setting.
Abuse takes on many different forms, including:
- Physical attacks — such as punching, pinching, or slapping
- Sexual abuse — including inappropriate touching and intercourse
- Psychological abuse — such as screaming at the resident or humiliating them
- Financial abuse — including taking money from a patient or depriving them of access to personal finances
These behaviors must be intentional and designed to hurt the resident on purpose. Accidental harm, such as forgetting to provide a patient with proper medication, is neglect. Though these behaviors are just as harmful as abuse, they fall under different legal categories. Unfortunately, either type of destructive behavior will impact a nursing home resident’s life in many ways.
Symptoms of Elder Abuse
Abused residents in nursing homes may lack the cognitive ability to discuss their injuries with their loved ones. Or they may be pressured into staying quiet by their abuser, who uses threats and cajoling to keep the situation secret. However, abuse symptoms are hard to hide forever and often trigger physical and behavioral changes in a senior.
For example, abused nursing home residents typically have bruises, cuts, welts, bed sores, and other signs of injury. Some might even experience broken bones if the abuse is severe enough. Other types of abuse may affect their emotions, which can cause them to become moody, trigger emotional outbursts, or make them constantly anxious.
Evidence That Helps Prove Abuse
Adult children who believe that a nursing home is abusing their parents have to gather a large amount of evidence to prove their case. Elder abuse is a severe claim and can carry hefty fines and even jail time. As a result, any nursing home worker abusing a resident likely hides their behavior very well to protect themselves and the home.
This situation creates a frustrating scenario because non-abusive nursing home workers may make excuses for the worker or try to cover up their behavior. This type of complicit behavior creates an atmosphere of cover-up or even conspiracy in a nursing home that requires real effort to penetrate. However, evidence can be found with careful investigation.
First of all, adult children should check their elderly parents for injuries, bruises, or any other physical changes during every visit. Take pictures of these injuries and get an oral or written statement from the parent if they are willing and able to provide one. Thankfully, persistent bruises and other types of injuries typically concern courts enough to open an elder abuse case.
Don’t Neglect to Get Legal Help
Adult children working against an abusive nursing home may struggle to make headway in their case without sustained legal help. So if you are worried about your loved one experiencing abuse in a care home, please contact us at St. Martin & Bourque to learn more. Our experts will assess your case, determine its validity, and help improve your chances of winning and protecting your parent.