Recognizing the Signs of Physical Nursing Home Abuse
According to recent statistics, more than one out of every ten individuals will experience some form of elder abuse, whether in the form of physical abuse, mental or psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse. That being said, it is widely agreed by experts that the vast majority of elder abuse incidents go unreported. In today’s society, it is virtually a necessity for both spouses in a marriage to work, meaning family members may simply not have the financial resources or the time to take care of older loved ones who may require specialized medical care. This leaves a nursing home as one of the few available choices.
There is an implied level of trust between a nursing home and family members when placing their loved one in a nursing home. When that trust is broken by abuse or neglect, the nursing home should be held liable. Nursing home facilities owe the elderly resident—as well as his or her family members—a duty of care. When this duty of care is breached, whether through negligence or through criminal intent, the resulting injuries are a liability which is assignable to the nursing home facility. Our elderly population continues to grow, meaning that without decisive action taken regarding nursing home abuse, the problem could spiral out of control.
Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
The Nursing Home Abuse Guide found that nearly two decades ago, during a two-year period, about 33 percent of all nursing homes were cited for violations of federal standards. These violations either had already harmed an elderly resident, or could have harmed residents. In fact, nearly 10 percent of those nursing homes had violations which were found to pose a serious risk of injury or death to an elderly resident. A decade ago, research concluded that as many as 50 percent of all nursing home staff have confidentially admitted to abusing or neglecting elderly patients. Further, more than half of all CNAs who work in elder care facilities have admitted they have verbally abused, yelled at or used inappropriate language with elderly residents.
While physical abuse may be the most appalling type of nursing home abuse, the dependency and isolation of elderly patients leave them extremely vulnerable to neglect, mental and psychological abuse, sexual abuse and financial abuse as well. Many elderly residents in nursing homes are unable to communicate their abuse to others, or may not tell their loved ones about the abuse because they have been threatened with retaliation if they do. This can lead to depression, sadness and a pervasive sense of helplessness in addition to the consequences of the abuse itself.
Signs of Physical Nursing Home Abuse
When you consider the relative frailty of many elderly individuals, you realize that because of their vulnerable mental and physical status, they are unlikely to be able to physically fight back when verbally or physically abused, and are less likely to be able to stand up to a bully. In some cases, elder abuse may not be taken seriously by family members because they are led to believe their elderly loved one has developed dementia and is simply not making sense. While it is true that nursing home abuse can overlap with mental deterioration, every suspected case of nursing home abuse should absolutely be investigated. Loved ones who have even the slightest inkling that abuse could be occurring should look for the following signs and symptoms of physical abuse:
● Unexplained bruising on the body;
● Unexplained broken bones, sprains or dislocations;
● Any sign of restraint, such as marks on the wrists, ankles or hips;
● Eyeglasses which seem to get broken often;
● Medications which are not taken as directed;
● Refusal of the nursing home staff to allow you to be alone with your loved one;
● Unexplained genital infections or STDs;
● Torn or bloody underwear;
● Bruising near the genitals or around the breasts;
● Bed sores;
● Rapid weight loss or weight gain;
● Any physical signs of malnutrition;
● A sudden change in behavior, like a sudden fear of being touched;
● Frequent falls;
● Unexpected hospitalizations;
● Head injuries;
● Chronic infections, and
● Obvious heavy medication or sedation.
Who Abuses Nursing Home Residents?
Most of the physical abuse in nursing homes is the result of nursing home staff who mistreat or neglect their elderly patients. Some of the physical abuse of the elderly could be committed intentionally, out of anger or frustration, while other instances could be the result of understaffing or a lack of proper training for nursing home staff. Even when the physical abuse or neglect is unintentional, the effects are just as traumatic as intentional abuse, and the nursing home is just as liable. In some cases, physical abuse is caused by other nursing home residents, usually when staff members and families are not present, making it even more likely that the abuse will go unreported. When there is not a healthy ratio of staff to patients, one nursing home resident can hurt another.
Intentional Abuse or Neglect—the Result is the Same
Active physical abuse is easily identifiable when witnessed—pushing, pinching, slapping, punching and kicking. This type of active physical abuse is intentional and meant to cause pain. Misuse of restraints is a common type of physical abuse in the nation’s nursing homes. While restraints are only meant to be used for legitimate medical reasons—and only for very short periods—they are all too often used for discipline or convenience of the staff. Physical neglect may not be intentional, rather is caused by understaffing or lack of resources. Examples of physical neglect could be in the form of failing to provide necessary food, water, clothing, medical treatment, medicines and basic hygiene that every patient needs—both to survive and to maintain their dignity.
When Your Loved One is Abused in a Nursing Home Call the Ciccarelli Law Offices
The experienced Pennsylvania attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices understand what a difficult time this is for your family and for your elderly loved one who suffered nursing home abuse. We believe that having a strong advocate who can successfully navigate the legal complexities of a nursing home abuse case can make all the difference in whether justice is fully served.
If your loved one suffered nursing home abuse, the liable party should pay, and we will work hard to make that happens. Don’t face this difficult time on your own; contact the Pennsylvania 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.