Nursing Home Abuse and Improper Restraint Use and Fall
Nursing home abuse and neglect is a subject few of us want to acknowledge, despite the fact that it occurs fairly often. According to recent statistics, as many as 24.3 percent of nursing home residents have experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in the facility. Remember, this is at least one instance of physical abuse, which does not take into account the mental and psychological abuses, neglect and financial abuse.
Despite the fact that a significant number of nursing home residents are abused in some manner, it is estimated that only one in fourteen incidents of elder abuse are ever reported, often because the elderly victims are unable to report the abuse, or are afraid of reporting the abuse. All too often, elderly victims of abuse are further victimized with threats, intimidation and social isolation. These vulnerable elderly patients may even be threatened with the taking away of basic necessities—food, water, medicine, medical care and hygiene.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
The National Center for Victims of Crime break down elder abuse as 27.4 percent physical abuse, 19.4 percent psychological abuse, 15.3 percent gross neglect, 7.9 percent sexual abuse, 7.9 percent financial exploitation, and about 22 percent either physical or sexual resident-on-resident abuse. Elderly residents who do not have family members or friends who visit often are more likely to be the target of nursing home abuse, as are those with mental impairments, those from lower socioeconomic classes and those in poor medical health.
Perhaps one of the most alarming statistics from nursinghomeabuse.com is the fact that more than 50 percent of nursing home staff have confidentially admitted to some form of elder abuse. When there is a higher number of qualified staff members and nurses, the incidence of abuse goes down, as it does in facilities which are not-for-profit—although nearly 70 percent of all nursing homes are for-profit.
Duty of Care Owed by Nursing Homes to Prevent Physical Abuse of Residents
Whatever the particular situation, all nursing homes owe residents a duty of care, which includes providing a safe environment, and all basic necessities (food, water, medical care, necessary medicines, and respectful treatment). The Administration on Aging defines abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish, or deprivation by a person…of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness.” Although we generally think of physical abuse as hitting, slapping, pinching, pushing or striking, there can be other types of physical abuse which include the improper use of physical or chemical restraints.
Improper Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes
Although there may be instances in which an elderly nursing home resident could be restrained to prevent them from hurting themselves, all too often, these vulnerable elderly residents are restrained as a method of controlling behavior, either as punishment, or simply for the convenience of the staff. Nursing home staff could use physical restraints, such as sheets tucked in much too tightly, wheelchair brakes or bars, straps, belts, ties or other restraints. Restraints could also be chemical, such as sedatives or antipsychotic drugs. Elderly residents in nursing homes could be locked in their small rooms, or subjected to psychological pressure or physical force to ensure obedience. While there are many adverse consequences of the improper use of restraints, the following are a few of the most traumatic:
● Loss of dignity
● Social isolation
● An increase in infections
● A decrease in muscle tone and bone density
● A decrease in mobility
● Functional decline
The Nursing Home Reform Law details the basic rights of elderly nursing home residents. Those rights include the right to be free from, among other things, physical and chemical restraints. There are many actions which are not only more effective when dealing with the elderly, but also more humane, including: providing companionship and supervision, providing a program of safe activities to occupy those who are agitated or confused, appropriate changes in medications, and even positioning residents differently to increase their comfort. When loved ones see unexplained bruising on an elderly resident’s wrists, arms, ankles or legs, the presence of ties on bed frames or other restraining devices, or unexplained grogginess or lack of focus, it is possible improper physical or chemical restraints are being used.
Falls in Nursing Homes
Unexplained falls of an elderly loved one in a nursing home should also be a red flag as far as suspecting nursing home abuse. Although it is impossible to prevent 100 percent of the elderly falls in a nursing home, all too often these falls occur as a result of mistakes or deliberate actions (or inaction) on the part of the staff. There are specific protocols in place for transferring an elderly patient from a wheelchair to a bed and vice versa. In some instances, a staff member may not have sufficient training and experience to complete the transfer properly, or, even when properly trained, may simply not perform the transfer correctly.
In other cases, the nursing home may be understaffed, leading elderly residents to attempt to transfer by themselves after waiting, sometimes for hours. Falls among the elderly can rob the person of his or her mobility and independence, can require surgery (along with potential complications, such as infection and blood clots), can bring a long recuperation with painful physical therapy, and can even result in a life of chronic pain.
How the Ciccarelli Law Offices Can Help When Nursing Home Abuse Occurs
Whether your elderly loved one has suffered improper use of restraints, a preventable fall or any other type of nursing home abuse, the highly experienced attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices want to be an advocate when you need it most. We understand the vulnerability of the elderly in nursing homes, and want to not only help you and your family during this difficult time, but also prevent the same thing from happening to other elderly nursing home residents and their families. We will fight aggressively for the rights of your loved one, and while money will not change the fact that the abuse occurred, it could allow you to find a more suitable living situation for your loved one. Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices today by email or by phone at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422.
When you need a team of experienced Pennsylvania nursing home neglect and injury lawyers, Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices by email or phone at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422. We represent nursing home injury clients throughout the greater Philadelphia area including Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County. We offer multiple office meeting locations, home visits and hospital visits and serve clients in many locations including Philadelphia, Lancaster, West Chester, Reading, Downingtown, Coatesville, Kennett Square, Exton, Honey Brook, and Oxford.