There is a major crisis in America’s nursing homes, and things are unlikely to get any better in the near future. Aging demographics, industry consolidation, and other factors have led to a major shortage of qualified staff within many nursing facilities. This has created a situation where many of the elderly who live in these facilities are neglected or abused.
An ABC News report from the early 2000s found that elder abuse occurs at approximately one out of every three nursing homes in the United States. Things have gotten far worse in the last two decades since that report originally came out. More than three million Americans live in nursing homes today, and one out of every three report having been abused. A staggering 95% also report having seen other residents being abused.
As shocking as the statistics are, these are most likely very conservative estimates. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says that only one out of every 14 cases of elder abuse ever gets reported. It is easy to understand why so few victims report nursing home abuse. Residents depend on their caregivers for even their most basic needs, and they are often intimidated into not saying anything, because they believe that if they speak up, things will get worse.
Patients might also feel like no one is going to believe them, because they are aging, and their memory is not as good as it used to be. This is especially true among Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Many abusers feel like they can get away with even the most egregious acts, because if their patients speak up, they can just discredit their story because of their condition.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
It is beyond frustrating to think that a facility you entrusted to care for your aging loved one during their golden years has violated that trust. But how would you know? With so few patients willing to speak up, it is incumbent upon family members to be proactive and look for signs that abuse may be occurring.
There are several signs to look for that may be an indication of abuse:
- Physical Signs: Unexplained physical injuries, bed sores and other conditions that go untreated, frequent visits to the doctor or emergency room.
- Emotional Signs: Fear, anxiety, agitation, depression, etc.
- Poor Living Conditions: Poor hygiene, unsanitary conditions in their living area, etc.
- Poor Nutrition: Malnutrition, dehydration, etc.
- Facility Staffing Problems: Staffing shortages, high staff turnover, disorganized staff, etc.
Some signs of elder abuse are fairly clear, but others are more difficult to detect. Here are three commonly missed signs of nursing home abuse:
Slick and Evasive Answers from Staff
If you are having trouble getting a straight answer from one of your aging loved one’s caregivers, this may be cause for concern. For example, your loved one falls down three times within a couple weeks, or they make two trips to the emergency room within a week. You ask what happened, and the caregiver explains it away by saying something like “this is what happens to people as they get older”. General, vague, and dismissive answers can be a sign that something is being covered up, or it could just mean that the caregiver is not sure exactly what happened either, because they were not on duty at the time or whatever. Either way, if staff members are not clearly answering your questions, this is a red flag that could indicate that something is wrong.
A Patient Becoming Confused or Disoriented
When an elderly individual is subjected to abuse, it can take a major physical, mental, and emotional toll on them. Physical and mental exhaustion can cause them to become increasingly disoriented and confused. Confusion and disorientation might also be a sign of deteriorating health, so you will need to look into it further to find out the exact reason this is happening to your loved one.
Another potential sign of nursing home abuse is a patient becoming withdrawn and ambivalent about what is happening around them. If someone is in a horrible situation where they are being abused and they feel like there is no hope of anything changing, they often stop caring about anything and start to withdraw. Now, there could be other reasons for this behavior as well. Many nursing home patients are not happy with their surroundings, and they wish they could go home. But because of their health or other circumstances, they feel like they are stuck in the facility for the rest of their life. This also could create emotional withdrawal.
Has your Loved One Been a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse?
If you believe your aging loved one has suffered neglect or abuse in a California nursing facility, you may file a complaint with the Licensing and Servicing division of the California Dept of Public Health, or with the Department of Social Services. Once you have lodged a complaint, speak with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
At Garmo and Garmo, we are outraged by the treatment many of our seniors receive in California nursing homes. We have successfully represented countless nursing home abuse victims in San Diego, El Cajon, and throughout Southern California, and we are ready to go to work for you. Call us today at 619-441-2500 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You may also send us a message through our online contact form.