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No one wants to think about moving a loved one to a nursing home only to find out they are at high risk for abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, abuse in nursing homes is a widespread problem that affects countless elderly patients across the country. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it’s imperative to visit regularly and learn the warning signs of abuse. If you suspect your family member is being mistreated, you should also speak with an experienced nursing home attorney right away.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

It’s estimated that up to five million older adults experience abuse in a nursing home each year. According to the World Health Organization, around one in six people 60 years and older experienced some type of abuse in a community setting between 2017 and 2018. Elder abuse in nursing homes is rampant, with two out of every three staff members reporting they personally committed abuse within the past year. With almost one out of three nursing homes receiving citations for abuse, the problem is only getting worse.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse takes different forms. The four most common types of abuse are physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves physical contact that results in harm. Examples of physical abuse include pushing, punching, slapping, or kicking a resident. Physical abuse is intentional, and it’s meant to cause the victim harm.

Look for potential physical abuse signs such as bruises, cuts, broken bones, and other unexplained injuries. Emotional changes may be present as well, such as withdrawing from touch or startling easily.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is also called psychological abuse. Abusers typically manipulate elders through intimidation or threats, which can cause injury to a person’s emotional and mental state. Even keeping someone in social isolation can be a form of emotional abuse. While emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, it can lead to mental and emotional scars. In fact, it is common for emotional abuse victims to develop high levels of anxiety and depression.

Watch for sudden changes in your family member’s demeanor, as such changes can signal that abuse is occurring. If they become unusually frightened by an individual staff member or other residents, complain about how the staff has treated them, or are suddenly terrified of being left alone, pay attention.

Sexual Abuse

No one wants to believe that sexual abuse happens in nursing homes, but it does. Unwanted sexual contact of any kind is sexual abuse. Potential abusers include both staff members and other residents. In rare cases, it may involve someone who is there visiting or is a temporary contractor.

Unexplained wounds around the genitals, bruising, bleeding, torn undergarments, or a sexually transmitted disease can point to sexual abuse. The victim might also start to withdraw from activities or social gatherings, develop anxiety, or become depressed.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse can also occur in a nursing home. Understandably, staff and residents may become friendly with one another over time. However, some nursing staff may not truly care about the residents. Instead, their friendliness may be a way of getting close to unsuspecting victims so they can exploit their trust.

Be sure to routinely verify that all funds are still in your loved one’s bank account, that no property from the room is missing, etc. If there is something suspicious with your family member’s accounts, ask them what is going on. Look for unexplained spending habits, new donations, new subscriptions, missing credit cards, or missing checkbooks.

Identifying and Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is not taken as seriously as it should be. Some warning signs are ignored when long-term care facilities dismiss potential issues as dementia or old age. However, it’s imperative to look for potential red flags and report any suspected abuse right away.

If your family member is in immediate or life-threatening danger, call 911. Report the suspected abuse to the appropriate agencies, such as Adult Protective Services and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. 

Nursing home abuse and neglect affect both the victim and their families. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help victims and their families pursue justice against all responsible parties. At Gerling Law, we have decades of experience representing nursing home abuse victims in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. We’ve recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. 

Depending on the circumstances, we can file a lawsuit on your family member’s behalf. During litigation, we need to prove several elements to hold the nursing home accountable. The nursing home must have had a legal duty to care for your family member, which is usually easily proven through a resident contract. The nursing home must have breached its duty and failed to meet the resident’s needs. And finally, the resident must have suffered harm as a result of the breach that led to serious injuries. To learn more about how one of our nursing home abuse lawyers can help you and your family, contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation. If your loved one was abused in a nursing home, let us put our years of experience to work for you. We can help you and your family get the justice you all deserve. Remember:

Go with Experience. Go with Gerling®

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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