Approximately two million of our loved ones in America live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.  Placing a loved one into an assisted living center can be a difficult decision, and once there, the facility has both a moral and legal obligation to ensure the safety of the seniors entrusted to them.

Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987.  According to this law, elderly patients in nursing homes or long term care facilities have the right to the following:

  • Privacy
  • Access to appropriate physical, mental, and social services
  • The ability to freely communicate
  • Treatment with dignity and respect
  • Treatment free from abuse and neglect
  • Decision making authority when appropriate
  • Freedom to file complaints without fear of retaliation
  • Freedom from physical restraints
  • The ability to participate freely with family, other residents, and community groups
  • The ability to participate in their medical care plan when appropriate

Types of Elder Abuse

Although the moral obligation has always existed, and the law was passed decades ago,  statistics indicate that abuse to elders in nursing homes and long term care facilities is widespread and vastly underreported.

Signs of Elder Abuse 

  1. Physical Changes

The following physical changes are often a sign of abuse within a nursing home or long term care facility.

  • Weight Loss
  • Dehydration or Malnutrition
  • Bedsores
  • Bruises
  • Physical markings unrelated to any illness
  • Torn or ripped clothing
  • Overmedication or Oversedation
  • Unexplained infections
  • Broken bones without explanation (or fractured bones)
  • Challenges to normal sleep habits
  • Failure to bathe your loved one, or keep them clean
  • Failure to wash sheets or clothing
  • Injury in or around the genital area (possible sexual abuse)
  • Newly developed sexually transmitted disease

2. Emotional and Mental Changes

Many seniors have dementia, however, newly developed emotional or mental changes should put you on notice that something has changed.  Acting out could be a sign that your loved one feels afraid to speak when nursing home staff is present and fear retaliation.  If your loved one does show actual fear around the staff of the facility, this could also be a sign of abuse.

However, some signs are more subtle.  If a resident has been abused, oftentimes they will react by blaming themselves for insignificant problems, stop participating in activities, stay isolated, regress mentally, or have visible depression or anger.  It is important to take note of any new emotional or mental changes that you see in your loved one, as it could be a sign of abuse.

3. Financial Changes 

In most cases, a member of the family will control the finances of the resident in the nursing home or long term care facility.  However, if your loved one still has financial access and control to their money, it is important to recognize any unexpected transactions.  Frequent withdrawals, new loans, contracts, mortgages, will or trust revisions can be a sign that your loved one may have had their finances breached by a facility staff member.

4. Negligent Communications and Behavior

If a nursing home or long term care facility refuses to answer your phone calls, makes it challenging to visit your family member, appears unorganized and frantic, acts unprofessionally, are absent from the facility, and/or has inadequate communication with you, this could be a sign of elder abuse.

Contact Us Today for Help 

Your loved one deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Elder abuse resulting from the negligent acts of the staff of a nursing home or long term care facility is against the law.  Oftentimes, your loved one may have faded memories due to dementia, therefore it is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible regarding your claim.  You may contact the personal injury lawyers at the O’Donnell Law Offices, serving clients in Kingston, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Pittston, for a free consultation today.

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