Nursing homes are supposed to be safe, engaging communities for elderly people to enjoy a high quality of life. Because many of the residents in a long-term care facility require medical care and help with everyday tasks, they can be taken advantage of or mistreated. No one deserves to live in a place that doesn’t provide the best care and environment. Filing a claim against the facility is an emotional and difficult thing to do, but you can get help from the Little Rock nursing home abuse lawyers from McMath Woods P.A.
McMath Woods P.A. is dedicated to helping victims of elder abuse and their families. We will make sure your loved one’s rights are defended and they get the justice they deserve.
How Often Does Abuse Occur in Arkansas’ Nursing Homes?
Arkansas has a population of nearly three million. More than 20 percent of those residents are 60 years of age or older, and 10 percent of those individuals are considered low income. If there comes a time that they need to enter into assisted living or a long-term care facility like a nursing home, they may not be able to pay for a facility that treats its residents fairly and properly.
Across the country, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that the prevalence of elder abuse is around ten percent; however, it’s also known that elder abuse is highly unreported. This makes it difficult to determine just how often nursing home mistreatment occurs.
If you are worried about your loved one, one of the best things you can do is learn as much as you can about nursing home abuse. We can provide you with the information you need, so you’ll be able to more easily detect if your loved one is in danger.
What Is the Difference Between Abuse and Neglect?
You may have heard the words abuse and neglect used interchangeably in regard to the mistreating of elders. These words, however, have their own meanings and imply different forms of ill-behavior.
Neglect often results from a lack of action when a caregiver fails to fulfill their obligations. While it can be categorized as active or passive depending on the situation, it can result in serious harm to the individual. Passive neglect is unintentional and can result from a caregiver who is overwhelmed or undertrained. Active neglect is the intentional disregard for a senior’s needs.
Many issues with nursing homes revolve around not having the staff to give their residents the care they need. Residents may need medication or help with walking. Failing to have the staff to administer medication or check on their residents puts residents at risk. A fall risk resident may try to get up and go to the bathroom on their own and fall.
Unlike neglect, abuse is an intentional or deliberate act that results in serious harm or risk to a vulnerable adult. There are a number of types of abuse that you should be aware of if your loved one resides in a nursing home.
What Are the Kinds of Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse can happen in several ways. While there are types of abuse that occur because of malicious intent, abuse can also occur because the nursing home isn’t able to provide the care that your loved one needs.
Common types of elderly abuse are:
- Physical Abuse. A staff member commits this type of abuse when they use physical force that causes bodily harm, ongoing impairment, or physical pain. Pushing, shoving, or holding a resident with too much force that can leave bruises are all forms of physical abuse.
- Psychological Abuse. Also referred to as emotional abuse, this is defined as inflicting pain, distress, or anguish by verbal or nonverbal means. Yelling, criticizing, insulting, and keeping a resident away from others at the nursing home are forms of mental abuse. This often alienates them, and they may be scared to tell someone about what’s going on.
- Financial Exploitation. This occurs when someone illegally or improperly uses an elderly person’s assets or property. Nursing home employees can take advantage of a senior’s issues with memory and trick them into giving away their money. Perpetrators may forge signatures, steal cash, sign checks, steal possessions, or coerce their victim into signing documents they do not understand.
- Sexual Abuse. Any form of sexual contact without consent is considered sexual abuse. For residents who have issues with communicating, it may be difficult for them to tell another about the abuse that is happening.
- Abandonment. The nursing home staff has a responsibility to ensure their residents are cared for and watched over. When a negligent facility is incapable of taking care of one of their residents for any reason, they may choose to abandon them. They could desert them at a public place or leave them at a hospital.
Which Individuals Are Most at Risk for Being Abused or Neglected?
Some nursing home residents are at a greater risk for being abused than others. The following factors could make someone more susceptible to abuse:
- Individuals with low social support
- Residents who have dementia
- Elders who have experienced previous traumatic events
- Residents with functional impairment or poor physical health
- Female residents
- Seniors with lower income levels
If your loved one is someone you believe to be more susceptible to abuse, there are signs you can look for that can give you an idea of how they’re really being treated.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
It’s difficult to mask the signs of nursing home abuse because the negative treatment can leave various kinds of evidence that you can pick up on. If you suspect your loved one is being abused in their nursing home, you can look for the following signs:
- Unexplained Injuries. This can range from broken bones and fractures to cuts and bruises. While an occasional bump is common, your loved one should not have consistent injuries.
- Bed Sores. Seniors need exercise to stay healthy and they need to get out of their room to maintain a high quality of life. Bed sores may be evidence that your loved one is being left too long and too often in their bed.
- Sudden Change in Mood. If your loved one was usually energetic and upbeat but now they’re lethargic or easily startled, this could be because someone is abusing them.
- Inability to Communicate. While those in nursing homes may have difficulty with speech, if you notice a change in your loved one’s ability to communicate that seems out of character, it could be because they’re being overmedicated. Nursing homes may overmedicate residents because it’s easier to control them in this state.
- Poor Personal Hygiene. Seniors in nursing homes may require help with personal hygiene tasks. This includes brushing teeth, showering, and changing clothes. Noticing that your loved one doesn’t have fresh clothes, sheets, or is dirty could be evidence of neglect.
- Dehydration/Poor Nutrition. Hydration and nutritious food are essential for seniors. Lack of water and healthy food makes them susceptible to contracting illnesses or physically weakens them. A neglectful nursing home won’t make sure your loved one is hydrated or getting the nutrition they need.
- Unsanitary Environment. The nursing home should be clean and sanitized to help stop germs from spreading and improve the comfort level of residents. Accidents may happen, but nursing home staff should clean up a mess in a reasonable amount of time. If the nursing home is dirty, it may not be the best environment for your loved one.
When you visit your loved one, you may want to consider speaking to other families or residents about their experience with the facility. You could also try going outside of typical visiting hours. If any caregiver attempts to stop you from seeing your loved one, this is a red flag.
How Do You Report Elder Abuse?
When you realize that your loved one is not living in a safe environment, you may not know what to do. Your first steps should be attending to your loved one. You can get them medical care to make sure they aren’t hurt any further and have someone monitor their health. You should report the abuse to Arkansas’ Adult Protective Services (APS) and work on getting your loved one out of that environment.
If you contact APS, they’ll ask for the following information:
- Name, address, and phone number of the elder you’re calling about
- Names of family members or others who are aware of the situation
- The medical condition the senior is suffering from
- A description of how the person is being mistreated or abused
After you call, it’s likely a visit will be made. An APS worker will hold a confidential interview with the victim to discuss how they’re being treated. Medications will be reviewed, and the victim’s needs will be evaluated. Depending on the situation, there may be a discussion about eligibility for public programs. Finally, the APS employee will observe the living conditions for safety. Every effort will be made to involve the family to develop a plan of action for the client and remove them from their situation.
Then, you can contact a lawyer. They can help you get the evidence you need to show that your loved one was abused. This can be from medical records, the state of the nursing home, and eyewitness accounts from people at the nursing home.
What Are the Characteristics of a Quality Long-Term Care Facility?
Whether you’re looking to move your loved one to a facility that will care for them properly or are looking for a nursing home for the first time, it’s important to know what characteristics a quality long-term care facility possesses.
- Respect for Elders. No matter what their physical or mental condition, all residents deserve to be treated with respect. All staff members should be friendly, supportive, and caring while assisting seniors. Employees should also be cognizant of residents’ privacy by doing simple things like knocking before entering rooms.
- Comfortable and Clean Environment. Long-term care facilities should make every effort to provide residents with a home-like Residents should be able to decorate and furnish their rooms as they please. The facility should also be cleaned and maintained regularly. Hallways should be lit and clear of obstacles and all spaces should be sanitized and orderly.
- Open Communication. A good nursing home invites family members and friends to drop in to see their loved ones any time that is deemed reasonable. If the facility has strict visiting hours and loved ones are not allowed to see their family any other time, there may be cause for concern.
- Quality Dining Options. As discussed above, hydration and nutrition are crucial. Nursing homes should provide well-balanced and attractive meals in locations that encourage social interaction. Accommodations should be easily made for individuals with health problems and religious or ethical needs.
- Various Activities. Long-term care facilities should provide a variety of social, physical, creative, and educational activities that will appeal to all residents. Community events and planned group activities can also benefit residents and their families.
How Can Your Family Benefit from Hiring Legal Representation?
Knowing that your loved one had to deal with abuse in their long-term care facility is horrifying. You deserve to have peace of mind that someone is on your side and looking out for your loved one’s best interests. We will investigate your loved one’s case and the environment of the nursing home to build a strong case that proves your loved one has been abused.
The attorneys from McMath Woods P.A. will do everything to get your loved one compensation for what they’ve been through. We will also strive to ensure the nursing home understands the weight of their negligence in the hopes that other residents are never mistreated. Contact us for a free consultation about your case.