The older population in the United States is growing at a historical rate, due in equal parts to the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement and the simple fact that the average life expectancy in the U.S. has almost doubled in the last century. The increase in seniors has caused a corresponding increase in issues that impact the elderly, including nursing home abuse. Fortunately, there are nursing homes that provide competent, caring, and compassionate care to patients; however, you must remain vigilant and on alert for signs of abuse or neglect if you have a loved one in a nursing home. To help ensure that you know what to look for, the Westport nursing home lawyers at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. discuss the signs of abuse and what to do if you spot them.
How Bad Is the Nursing Home Abuse Problem?
While there are many nursing homes that provide compassionate and competent care to the patients living at the facility, the threat of nursing home abuse and neglect is very real in the United States. Consider the following facts and figures relating to nursing home abuse:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- Between 1999 and 2001, almost one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violations of federal standards that could cause harm, or that did harm elderly residents of those facilities;
- Nearly 10% of those homes had violations that posed a risk of serious injury or death, or that did cause deaths of elderly residents;
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected;
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients;
- More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Victims of nursing home abuse frequently remain silent, sometimes because they cannot speak out while other times because they are ashamed or fear doing so. Either way, it is often up to loved ones to spot the signs of abuse. Those signs can vary greatly; however, there are some common signs to watch for that may indicate a loved one is the victim of abuse, such as:
- Excessive, unexplained, or frequent bruising
- Indications of restraints used on ankles and/or wrists
- Weight loss
- Anger or hostility
- Increased medical problems with no apparent explanation
- Depression or mood swings
- Urinary tract infection (sexual abuse of seniors does happen)
- Missing medication or not taking medication as prescribed
- Personal items missing
If you notice any of these signs, try and talk to your loved one if possible. Sit down with the facility administrator as well and share your concerns. Sometimes this is very productive and leads to an investigation while in other facilities the administration tries to sweep inquiries and/or complaints under the proverbial rug in an effort to avoid liability. Filing a report with the appropriate law enforcement agency may also be necessary given that elder abuse can be a criminal offense. It also creates a paper trail that can be useful in future litigation. Finally, consult with an experienced elder law attorney immediately. Nursing home abuse can form the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility for negligence. It may also be necessary for you to petition for guardianship over your loved one if the need to move him/her arises and he/she cannot consent to the move because of incapacity.
Contact Westport Nursing Home Lawyers
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about nursing home abuse in Connecticut, contact the experienced Westport nursing home lawyers at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. by calling (860) 548-1000 to schedule an appointment.