The sad truth about nursing home abuse: a primer

Nursing home residents are vulnerable to abuse or neglect from caregivers.

Even though abuse is notoriously underreported among nursing home residents (and those living in residential care communities or cared for by family or private caregivers), an estimated 10 percent of the elderly have been subjected to some form of abuse.

Abuse takes many forms, and can be perpetrated by a number of different trusted people. In a nursing home setting, abuse is most often at the hands of staff members, but it can also come from fellow residents or even visitors. The types of abuse being reported has also evolved in recent years, and not only includes traditional physical, mental and sexual abuse, but now also covers such issues as inappropriate social media exposure of residents (including graphic or mocking photos or videos of residents taken and posted without their knowledge or permission), financial abuse and even identity theft.

The issue of social media exposure and the invasion of residents' privacy has become so widespread that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last year introduced a federal law aimed at curbing the practice.

Indicators of abuse

Obviously, there are physical signs that could indicate the presence of abuse or neglect in a nursing home resident. The most obvious include:

  • Broken bones
  • Bruises (including black eyes or on extremities)
  • Sudden or unexplained weight loss
  • Bedsores (also called "pressure sores" or "decubitus ulcers")
  • Repeated falls
  • Wandering away/exposure to the elements
  • Marked change in personal grooming habits (for example, if a traditionally fastidious person that needs assistance with personal care suddenly started appearing without bathing or without his or her hair being brushed, it could indicate neglect)

Sometimes there aren't any obvious outward physical signs that abuse or neglect is occurring. In these cases, it may be more difficult to determine that abuse has occurred, but there are still signs that could indicate a problem. These include:

  • The resident shying away from or seeming afraid of particular staff members or fellow residents (this often is a tell-tale sign of verbal or sexual abuse)
  • Sudden onset anxiety or depression (often a manifestation of shame due to abuse)
  • A new reluctance to be left alone
  • Missing jewelry, heirlooms or other treasured objects
  • Inability to pay expenses at the nursing home or for incidentals (haircuts by a visiting beautician, bingo games, outings or other things that were previously funded could all indicate some form of financial abuse has occurred)

If someone you care about has been victimized while in a nursing home or other care facility, there are legal remedies available that can both put an end to the abuse and provide compensation for injuries. To learn more, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney today by calling Sapp Law Firm at 205-282-4467 or sending an email.