Millions of Americans reside in nursing homes, assisted living centers, or other long-term care facilities. Estimates show that over 5 million seniors have some kind of dementia, and that there are currently over 40 million senior citizens, many of whom will require some time of long-term care. By 2050, the proportion of senior citizens will balloon to 20% of the total population, a trend that means nursing homes and long-term care facilities will have a lot of people to care for.
So what happens when elderly people in a long-term care facility or nursing home are harmed by the very facility that is supposed to care for them? What are the differences between nursing home neglect and abuse? What can family members do about it?
Though you should always speak to an estate planning and elder law attorney if you have any concerns about a family member or loved one in a nursing home, here are some commonly asked questions about nursing home abuse and neglect.
Question 1. What is the difference between abuse and neglect?
The key difference is the intent. In most neglect situations, the nursing home personnel fail to act reasonably and responsibly. Their negligent actions lead to a nursing home resident suffering harm because the resident does not receive the proper care. The negligent action is often not intentional, but nevertheless leads to suffering.
When nursing home staff personnel intentionally harm a resident, that’s abuse. As with neglect, nursing homes have an obligation to provide a safe and caring environment for their residents. This includes protecting residents from abusive employees.
Question 2. Are there different types of neglect or abuse?
Absolutely. Both neglect and abuse can cause significant harm, and can do so in different ways. Nursing home neglect can harm an elderly resident physically and psychologically. When the staff fails to, for example, provide adequate nutrition, the elderly person can suffer physical harm, but can also suffer emotionally and psychologically.
Abuse can also extend into an elderly person’s financial health. In fact, financial abuse is one of the fastest growing types of abuse that occur in nursing homes. This type of abuse occurs when nursing home personnel use an elderly resident’s personal information or financial details for their own gain.
Question 3. What are the warning signs of abuse or neglect?
Warning signs of abuse and neglect are often difficult for many people to detect. For example, an elderly person who suffers emotional abuse in a nursing home is often very reluctant to talk about it. This type of abuse doesn’t always leave physical indicators, but behavioral and psychological symptoms are often present if you know what to look for.
If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one in a nursing home, or want to know more about abuse, talk to your elder law attorney.