Despite careful research and planning when deciding which nursing home or assisted living facility is best for a loved one, some residents face physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, or suffer neglect that leads to medication errors and medical complications. The consequences of these types of abuse and neglect can be devastating, and in some cases, even lead to death. Family members and loved ones of nursing home residents need to be vigilant in recognizing warning signs of abuse.
Physical abuse occurs when nurses or the staff in a nursing home intentionally inflict bodily harm on a patient. Slapping, hitting, punching, and rough handling can lead to serious injuries such as bone fractures, lacerations, bruising and swelling, or emotional trauma. Unreasonable physical restraint can also fall under this category of abuse. When restraints are used as a form of punishment or to keep a patient confined, it constitutes as abuse.
Verbal abuse, because many residents suffer from cognitive impairment and cannot advocate for themselves, may not be clear when a family visits a resident of a nursing home. Many times, verbal abuse in the form of name calling, use of obscenities, yelling, or verbal threats are made when staff are alone with a patient. Though this type of abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, the emotional trauma associated with this form of abuse can lead to severe depression, anxiety, and combativeness.
Neglecting a resident’s physical, medical, or emotional needs can leave a person feeling isolated, in pain, or lead to medical complications, such as bed sores and malnourishment. Patients that are left in soiled diapers for prolonged periods of time, or who are not provided with scheduled meals or assistance with eating can suffer from infections and ill health. Those being routinely left alone in their room without visitors or interactions with staff and doctors can suffer a serious decline in their cognitive and mental abilities. Residents should be moved out of their rooms during the day, when possible, to take advantage of social interactions available in daily activities.
Sexual abuse of nursing home residents may be one of the most traumatic forms of abuse. Molestation, rape, or unwanted sexual advances and comments can leave patients depressed, fearful, and emotionally or physically traumatized. Patients often fear retaliation if they report the abuse, or are apprehensive because they are afraid that their claims may not be taken seriously. Victims can contract sexually transmitted diseases or suffer physical and mental injury.
Any sign of physical harm, such as cuts, bruises, unexplained swelling, or broken bones, needs to be reported and investigated immediately. Documentation, along with pictures of the injuries, need to be kept in the patient’s file so that patterns of abuse may be identified. There will also be an investigation report or incident report the facility may ore may not provide to the family. If they refuse, ask why. Family members need to be persistent in their demand for answers and diligent in checking for signs of continued abuse.
Dehydration, malnourishment, unexplained weight loss, or bed sores are often signs of neglect. Many nursing homes are understaffed and some patients suffer the consequences. It is the responsibility of the nursing home facility to ensure that there is enough staff on hand to attend to the needs of all patients. Failure to provide these basic services should be reported immediately with demands for a full investigation.
Sudden fearfulness or requests from patients to not have a certain nurse or staff member present can be a warning sign that they are suffering physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse. Many residents hesitate to speak up and specifically identify a person and their actions for fear of retribution, so it is imperative for family members and staff to pay close attention to sudden changes in behavior or personality. Depression, anxiety, withdraw from social interactions, refusal to eat, or unusual quietness can be warning signs of emotional trauma.
If you suspect that someone you know or love is being abused in a nursing home or assisted living facility, we can help. Call our experienced team of New Jersey nursing home abuse lawyers at Davis & Brusca, LLC at 609-786-2540, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are conveniently located in Princeton, New Jersey and we serve clients throughout New Jersey in Middlesex County, Essex County, Hudson County, Union County, Morris County, Hunterdon County, as well as in South Jersey, including Camden County, Cumberland County, and Gloucester County.