At Wagner Reese, we represent clients in Indianapolis and throughout Indiana who have experienced nursing home abuse injuries of all types. We expect our parents, relatives, and elderly friends to be kept safe in nursing homes from abuse and neglect. But, all too often, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities fail to provide an acceptable standard of care—and elderly patients pay the price.
The elderly are perhaps the most vulnerable demographic in our society. They are frequently the target of financial scams and identity theft. And even when placed in a nursing home, they are not always kept safe as we expect they should be. If you suspect your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact Wagner Reese as soon as possible for a free consultation.
Call (888) 204-8440 to speak to one of our Indianapolis nursing home negligence lawyers today about your case.
Nursing Home Neglect Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have collected information that should be kept in mind when researching nursing homes:
- 90% of nursing homes are understaffed
- 1 in 3 nursing homes have at least one convicted criminal on staff
- Only 16% of estimated abuse cases are actually reported
Types of Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse
Abuse is a conscious and malicious act against a patient. Neglect can be intentional but is more likely to stem from inattentiveness or incompetence. Both are serious in terms of the negative impacts on the overall health of your loved one.
Nursing home abuse and neglect typically fall under one or more of the below categories:
- Physical: Something has been done to the patient that results in physical pain. Physical abuse can involve assaults and overuse of restraints that leave cuts and bruises. Staff members neglecting residents can also be a form of abuse. This can lead to bed sores, malnourishment, poor hygiene, and even a fall because there was no supervision or assistance. Neglecting to acknowledge and treat a medical condition is another form of physical abuse, as is sedating a patient against their will.
- Sexual: Many residents in assisted living facilities have dementia or another mental illness that prevents them from consenting to any sexual contact. Sometimes they cannot express their disapproval of what is happening to them. Sexual crimes are disgusting and perverse in any circumstance, but when the victim is a vulnerable elder member of society, it is even more shocking.
- Emotional: Emotional abuse can be directed at the elderly in the form of taunts and exhibitions of control. Yelling, humiliating, criticizing, shaming, and even ignoring are all forms of resident abuse. Nursing home employees, volunteers, or even other patients can be the aggressor of emotional abuse towards your loved one. Behavioral changes are often the result of emotional abuse.
- Financial: The elderly can be exploited financially in nursing homes by caretakers, family members, or other employees at the nursing home. Financial abuse can take the form of direct theft, siphoning from their bank account, or even opening a line of credit in a patient’s name.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
The signs of nursing home abuse or neglect may be difficult to see—especially if the victim is unable to communicate clearly about their injuries. But if you have noticed signs of abuse, it may be time to contact an elder abuse attorney who can help you investigate and understand what is happening to your loved one. Remember that some of these symptoms could just be signs of aging, but it is important to not completely discount these warning signs without learning more.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Bruising and Cuts: Nursing home residents who do not receive the help they need may take matters into their own hands. Something as simple as dressing by oneself or walking without supervision could result in a fall injury. As terrible as it is to think about, cuts and bruises can also come from assault, be it from a nursing home staffer or another resident.
- Bed sores: Bed sores are painful open wounds and ulcers that can lead to infection. They are preventable and caused by neglect, whether it be intentional or unintentional. These show up on pressure points and are commonly found on the back, hips, elbows, and heels. Nursing home employees should be trained to prevent bed sores and identify and treat them when they do appear. When untreated, serious complications can develop from bed sores.
- Dehydration: Understaffed nursing homes could result in some patient care slipping through the cracks. Signs of dehydration should be taken very seriously as they can lead to life-threatening situations.
- Malnutrition: A malnourished resident is at greater risk of other injuries and illnesses. Malnutrition could be due to physical neglect or emotional abuse. Elderly people have more particular nutritional needs, and their bodies can react adversely when their diet is not properly managed. Malnutrition can be prevalent in nursing homes because of medical issues like depression and issues swallowing that must be properly managed by the staff.
- Lack of Mobility: A neglected person may be left in bed for long periods of time. Under these conditions, muscles can atrophy to the point where the victim is far less mobile than he or she used to be. While weakening bones and muscles is a natural part of aging, a rapid deterioration could indicate that nursing home neglect is occurring.
- Fall Injuries: Nursing home facilities are required to be safe and residents should be under supervision to avoid fall injuries. A fall could mean that the nursing home failed in one of these aspects. Falls can result in cuts, bruises, head injuries, and broken bones, all of which are much harder for the elderly to recover from. Hip injuries, in particular, can have severe complications.
- Broken Bones: Falls are often the cause of broken bones. This can be from improper supervision, a faulty railing or apparatus, or being dropped while caregivers attempt to move the patient. Elders are also greatly at risk of further complications after suffering a fracture or broken bone.
- Infections: The elderly are particularly vulnerable to infection and sepsis. Neglecting medical issues can exacerbate what started as mild problems and quickly make them life-threatening.
- Change in Behavior: Behavior changes can be consequences of physical or emotional abuse. Nervous tendencies that previously did not exist could be warning signs of some form of abuse.
- Mood Swings: Depression or anxiety can result in mood swings. If you loved one is being emotionally abused, it could result in mood swings.
- Isolation or Withdrawal: This could be a consequence of emotional abuse, such as insults and humiliations. No one deserves to be bullied and it has a serious impact, especially in those in mental decline from dementia. If your loved one seems withdrawn or reticent to speak, they may be a victim of emotional abuse from the nursing home staff or another resident.
- Wandering: When patients are allowed to wander aimlessly without supervision, it can be dangerous to them, especially if they find themselves outside. Attentive caregivers should make sure that patients, especially those with mental illness like dementia, are not wandering around because they present fall risks and can hurt themselves.
- Medication Errors: If a patient is given the wrong dose or wrong medication, it can have serious consequences. Elderly people are far less capable of recovering from shocks to the body that come from the wrong quantity or types of drugs in their system. If the caregiver neglects to give a patient their medicine, it can have an equally dangerous effect.
- Poor Personal Hygiene: Many residents of nursing homes need help with basic personal hygiene activities, such as bathing, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, combing their hair, and clipping their nails. A nursing home short on staffers may unintentionally neglect these seemingly less important activities, leaving residents to struggle to do everything themselves. Sadly, dental hygiene is a big problem in assisted living facilities throughout the U.S.
- Unsanitary Living Conditions: Nursing homes are required to provide a safe and sanitary living environment for their residents. A dirty, uncomfortable environment could be a sign that patients are being neglected. In addition to comfort, the facility must ensure safety and security for everyone.
- Fear of Being Left Alone with Staffers: Fear of any kind may be a red flag signaling some type of abuse. If your loved one is afraid of being left alone with staffers, this is very serious, as you can’t be there all the time. Conversely, if the staff does not seem to want to leave you alone with your loved one, this could also signal abuse. The staff may not want the patient communicating openly with you, perhaps about something going on in the facility.
- Unexplained or Untimely Death: Unexpected nursing home deaths do happen and there may be a logical explanation for it. However, there are instances where the nursing home is at fault for the death of a loved one. For instance, if they were not being given their medicine, it could be a case of nursing home neglect.
In addition to these signs, the facility itself may be a sign that its residents are not being treated with an appropriate standard of care. If things such as utilities are not functioning properly, it may be a sign that the nursing home is not kept up. What if the air conditioning doesn’t work in the summer, or the heat is out in the winter? Inadequate maintenance is something that should be taken seriously.
If a caregiver or staff member does not want you to be left alone with your loved one, this should be a big red flag for you. It could mean that they want to monitor everything that is said and ensure that no opportunity is given to speak out in a safe, private setting.
Abuse may be physical or emotional. If a nursing home employee is abusing your family member, you have legal options. The most important thing is to protect the safety of your loved one, which we can help you do. Then we will explore options to hold the nursing or retirement home accountable for its actions—or inaction—and work to stop the abuse.
How to Choose a Nursing Home
Before placing your loved one in an assisted living facility, you’ll want to do your research to ensure that they will be well taken care of.
Here are some tips to find a nursing home that will treat them with the utmost care, attentiveness, and tenderness:
- Do Your Homework: Report cards and inspection reports are available publicly in all nursing homes. You can also request further information from the facility. Do an online search of the facility. Read through reviews and look for recent news stories.
- Visit the Facility: The best way to get a feel for a nursing home is by spending some time in it. Talk to the staff to gain a semblance of the kind of atmosphere it will provide for your loved one. It is a good idea to visit the facility on the weekends when it is most likely to be understaffed. You will be able to observe how the caregivers act when they are stretched thinner.
- Get Input: When possible, involve your loved one in the decision. It’s their life, and they need to be as happy and comfortable as possible with the decision.
- Your Job Is Not Over: After choosing a nursing home, continue to regularly check in on your loved one to make sure they are being treated properly. Caregivers will pay special attention to residents who have frequent visitors. Watch especially for any signs of abuse or neglect and consult with an attorney if you see something. If your loved one is being mistreated in a facility, it is likely that they are not the only one.
Understanding Your Legal Options
Nursing homes have a duty of care to their residents. When they fall short, victims have the law on their side. Victims can receive compensation for their medical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional damage, and recuperation of any lost assets. Additionally, family members can sue for wrongful death if the negligence or abuse was responsible for the death of their loved one.
The Indianapolis nursing home neglect lawyers at Wagner Reese can compile evidence of your loved one’s nursing home abuse. We can also help you by looking at charts, photographs, medical records and bills, nursing home inspection reports, and more to establish a deviation in the standard of care that led to injury or even death.
If you have a nursing home abuse case, don’t hesitate. Report your concerns at once to the facility and call an elder law attorney. Make sure they do not harm anyone else. Contact our law office and speak to an attorney that has experience in assisted living abuse and nursing home negligence. We understand how nursing homes and their staff try to cover up the facts. Our nursing home injury attorneys in Indianapolis want to hear your story and offer a free consultation to help you understand your legal options.
Reach us online or by phone at (888) 204-8440.
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