If you have a parent, or other elderly loved one, who is a resident at a nursing home and you are concerned about his/her quality of care, you may very well have reason to be. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is a prevalent – and growing – problem in the United States. Many of the facts and figures regarding abuse of the elderly in general are downright shocking, and certainly give loved ones of nursing home residents reason to be concerned about the possibility of their loved one suffering abuse or neglect. Of course, there are plenty of nursing homes that provide excellent care to the residents. If, however, you are concerned that your parent (or loved one) is being abused or neglected at a nursing home it may be time to consult with a nursing home lawyer. This is one of those times when the old adage “better safe than sorry” definitely applies.
Elder Abuse Facts and Figures
Abuse and neglect of the elderly is, unfortunately, not a new problem in the United States. It is, however, a growing problem and one that has gained a significant amount of attention in recent years. The sheer number of elderly individuals now living in the U.S. is one reason why we are hearing more about the issue. Accurate statistics relating to abuse and neglect of the elderly are difficult to come by for two reasons. First, many states lack a uniform method for gathering data regarding elder abuse, making is difficult to compile nationwide statistics. Second, victims of nursing home abuse are frequently reluctant to come forward for fear of reprisals or simply because they are ashamed to be a victim. Moreover, many victims feel they are physically and/or emotional dependent on the very people who are abusing them. The following facts and figures, therefore, are thought to be extremely conservative, meaning the true figures are likely much more alarming:
- As many as 1 in 10 elderly individuals have suffered some type of elder abuse.
- About two million elderly individuals are abused or neglected each year
- There are approximately 5 million elderly victims of financial abuse each year.
- For every one incident of abuse reported to authorities, five more go unreported.
The statistics that relate specifically to nursing homes are even more startling. According to the results of studies and surveys published by the National Center on Elder Abuse:
- Nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes has been cited for violations of federal standards that had potential to cause harm or that had caused actual harm to a resident during a two year period.
- In a survey of nursing home residents, 44 % said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected.
- 1 in 2 nursing home staff admitted to mistreating patients.
When Should You Consult a Nursing Home Lawyer?
Unless your loved one comes right out and tells you that he/she has been abused or neglected at the nursing home, you may have to rely on your own perceptions along with some of the common signs of abuse to determine when abuse or neglect has occurred. Some signs to watch for include:
- Repeated “falls” or accidents
- Bruises on the wrists or ankles (from restraints)
- Rapid and unexplained weight loss
- Disheveled appearance and/or poor hygiene
- Deteriorating medical condition without apparent cause (may be the result of failing to give medication as ordered by the physician)
- Withdrawal or depression
- Uncharacteristic anger
- Missing property
If you notice any of these signs, make an effort to talk to your loved one. Sometimes all they need is reassurance that they will be believed and/or that they have no reason to feel ashamed. Your next call should be to an experienced nursing home lawyer. Elder abuse can be both a criminal offense and the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility and/or individual caregivers. Your nursing home lawyer can review your concerns and provide you with advice regarding your legal options. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is one of those problems where if you “feel” as though something isn’t right, it probably isn’t and the sooner you take action the sooner you can get your loved one out of the situation.
If you have additional questions about nursing home abuse and neglect in the State of North Carolina please contact the experienced nursing home lawyers at Kulas & Crawford. by calling 772-398-0720 to schedule an appointment. In addition, please download a free copy of our “Solid Estate Plan Checklist.”