Most of us are horrified at the idea of helpless elderly or disabled people being physically, emotionally, sexually or psychologically abused by those who are supposed to be caring for and protecting them. Still, many people are unaware of just how common nursing home abuse is, and how it can impact both residents and their loved ones.
If you have a family member or other loved one in a nursing home, it’s important to understand the risks and how serious the consequences of nursing home abuse can be. If your loved one is injured or suffers other harm at the hands of nursing home staff, you should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
There are many different ways nursing home staff can harm their vulnerable patients or allow them to be harmed by others. These include:
- Physical abuse such as pushing or hitting by staff members
- Verbal abuse such as staff members insulting residents, calling names, or yelling at a resident
- Emotional abuse through isolation
- Sexual abuse by staff members
- Physical or sexual abuse by other residents due to staff neglect or inadequate institutional policies and procedures
- Neglect of basic care, such as bathing and ensuring that nutritional needs are met
- Neglect of resident safety, such as leaving an elderly resident who is a fall risk to get out of bed alone
- Medical neglect, such as failure to prevent, identify, and care for bedsores
It may seem that the seriousness of items on this list varies wildly. It’s easy to think that something like name-calling or isolation isn’t as serious as issues like physical abuse. To an extent, that’s true, But, it’s important to understand the severe impact any kind of abuse and neglect can have on a vulnerable elderly person.
The Impact of Abuse on Nursing Home Residents
When thinking about the impact of abuse and neglect on nursing home residents, it’s important to keep in mind that their circumstances are very different from yours. Imagine, for example, that you’re walking down the hallway at work on the way to a meeting and a colleague gets impatient with your pace and pulls on your arm. You’ll probably be startled and annoyed. But, you likely won’t be injured, or feel unsafe.
Now, imagine that the same thing happens when your 85-year-old grandparent who walks with a cane is heading to breakfast with a nursing assistant by their side. The elderly resident is dependent on the nursing assistant, not just to get to the cafeteria safely, but for many other needs throughout the day. The roughness and impatience may leave them feeling like they can’t count on the staff member, or don’t know what to expect when interacting with them. That’s a scary feeling when you can’t get your own food, have access to your own medications, or perhaps even use the bathroom on your own.
The situation may be even worse, because a frail older person whose balance isn’t what it once was may well fall even when the force is relatively light. Elderly people are at high risk for broken hips in a fall, which is extremely painful and requires a long recovery. Many elderly people who break their hips end up in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.
Whether there’s a physical injury or not, this type of incident can leave a nursing home resident anxious, depressed, and withdrawn–especially if it is ongoing. Depression and withdrawal from engaging with others can accelerate cognitive decline.
Of course, that’s just one example. But, the concept is consistent. Physical injuries are more debilitating and take longer to heal in the elderly. The need to depend on nursing home staff for everything from human interaction to life-sustaining medication magnifies the impact of verbal abuse and neglect. The emotional impact of these events can have an effect on the resident’s physical health as well, and may trigger mental health issues. And, in some circumstances, both physical abuse and neglect can be fatal.
In short, both neglect and abuse can have a traumatic impact, both mentally and physically. And, due to dependence on nursing home staff and the slower healing and weakened immune systems common in the elderly, the impact may be much more significant than you expect. If someone you care about is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, don’t delay taking action. Schedule a consultation with a personal injury law firm with extensive experience handling nursing home abuse cases today.
Nursing Home Abuse and Families of Residents
If you have a relative you believe is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, your concern is likely focused on them. That’s as it should be, but you should also be prepared to feel the impact yourself. Here are some ways abuse of a family member may spill over:
- Your relationship with your family member may be impacted if they withdraw due to anxiety or depression, and may be forever altered if depression accelerates cognitive decline
- It can be very stressful to watch a loved one suffering and be unsure how to or whether you can help them
- Abuse and neglect may necessitate additional medical care and/or counseling that may require contribution from the family
- Tending to the injuries or psychological issues, addressing the abuse or neglect, and potentially moving your loved one to another facility may mean lost work time or sacrificing other plans
- You or other family members may find it necessary to make alternative arrangements, such as bringing your elderly relative to live with you
The bottom line is that nursing home abuse and neglect is rough on everyone. Of course, your first priority will be to ensure that your loved one is safe and well cared for. But, if your family member has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you should also talk to a nursing home attorney. The compensation your loved one may be entitled to can help pay medical bills and other expenses, and provide a means of setting your family member up in a better, safer environment.
To learn more about your rights and options, talk to an experienced nursing home lawyer at Harrell & Harrell. Just call 904-251-1111, or fill out the contact form on this site.