It’s no secret that elderly people who live in nursing homes are susceptible to abuse. Did you know that more than 2 million cases of elder abuse are reported each year? In fact, almost one out of ten elderly people will experience some form of abuse. According to National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), certain risk factors make someone more susceptible to elder abuse in nursing homes. These include:
- Low social support
- Experience of past traumatic events
- Poor physical health and functional impairment
- Women are likely to be more abused than men
- Poverty or lower income
This isn’t an exhaustive list and these are just some of the factors that can subject an elderly person to abuse in nursing homes.
If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, you should try as much as possible to visit them often. This will help you keep an eye on their mental and physical condition for potential signs of abuse or neglect.
So what are some of the signs that point to elder abuse in nursing homes?
Nursing homes are required to evaluate a patient to determine their risk factors for falling. If a patient is susceptible to falling, the home should take the initiative of installing a full prevention measure to reduce the risk of falling.
If your loved one has suffered a fall at the care facility, request to attend a meeting where the nursing home discusses about the facility’s care plan measure for preventing falls. If the facility is serious about preventing falls, they should implement all, if not most of the following:
- Hip protectors
- Floor mats
- Bedside commode
- Medication reduction
- Patient education
- Toileting schedules
- Assistive devices
- Bed rails
- Low beds
Bedsores or pressure sores develop when someone lies or sits in one position for so long that pressure cuts circulation to one area of the body. Common pressure points on the body that are prone to early skin breakdown include the elbows, heels and sacrum. Pressure sores range from mild to severe. The mild form of bed sores consist of just a reddened area that’s easy to treat. However, if the sores remain unattended to and become severe, they become deep wounds, which are hard to treat. The best way to prevent bedsores is through exercise and proper nutrition.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
If your loved one appears malnourished or dehydrated, you should take it to be an indication of abuse and neglect. Appetite, smell and taste of food decreases with old age this is why it is important to monitor their residents eating habits and encourage them to eat enough food to give their bodies all the necessary nutrients.
Similarly, the facility should ensure that their residents receive enough fluids to keep them well hydrated. If a patient becomes malnourished and dehydrated, they can easily become bedridden, depressed or weak. In such a condition, they are vulnerable to suffering from diseases or further complicating any existing conditions.
Residents who are vulnerable to malnutrition and dehydration are those that require assistance with meal consumption. Also, if the facility is understaffed, the caregivers will have a hard time attending to all the patients without getting frustrated.
Elders who have lost the ability to communicate are most vulnerable to sexual abuse. Nursing homes are legally obligated in most states to conduct criminal background checks on staff before hiring. Although this does not always work, it is one of the ways to weed out sexual predators. Signs of sexual abuse may not always be evident physically. Your loved one might display anger or fear towards a particular caregiver. They may even withdraw or exhibit other behavioral changes that weren’t there in the beginning. Physical signs of sexual abuse include presence of an STD, pain in the private parts or bruising. If you suspect your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse, it’s best that you remove them from that facility as soon as possible and take them to the nearest hospital not only to get treated for possible infection of an STD but to preserve any evidence the perpetrator might have left behind.
Lethargy and overmedication is a sign that your loved one is being neglected at the nursing facility. Nursing homes are required to restrict their use of psychotropics. These are classified as chemical restraints and should only be used when necessary but many nursing homes use them to control the population of residents.
Some of the major signs that your loved one is being overmedicated is if they display lethargy, their mental status changes or they feel weak all the time. If this is the case, ask the doctor if they have recently changed your loved ones medication.
The attending doctor prescribes most medications administered in nursing homes although sometimes the nursing home may administer some of the medication without a prescription. If you think your loved one was active before their medication was changed, you should take it up with the attending doctor. Consider asking them to take them off the medicine for a few days to see if their behavior will change.
Elderly people have brittle bones so they bruise and get fractures easily. Nursing homes are required to document all injuries. So if you see that your loved one has an unexplained injury, ask to see the incident report they created for the injury. The report should explain how the injury happened. Also, ask what measures they took to ensure the accident didn’t happen again.
To be on the safe side, you can get a medical expert to review the records just to make sure what’s in the record is consistent with the injuries.
Get Legal Help
Rhode Island systems can be very complicated and the laws governing nursing home injuries can be hard to understand. If suspect that a loved one has been subjected to abuse in a nursing home, you have to protect their rights and get them the justice they deserve.
You don’t have to go through this alone. We can help. Contact one of our lawyers at Kevin P Landry Law Offices by dialing 401-751-0101 or visit our Providence offices today for a free initial consultation.