Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are at higher risk for abuse and neglect than older adults who live at home. Conditions such as dementia and isolation from friends and family make it difficult for these residents to report nursing home abuse. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help keep loved ones safe and hold nursing homes accountable when abuse occurs.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
The Administration on Aging defines nursing home abuse as intentionally causing physical harm or mental anguish on a resident of a long-term care facility.
Nursing home abuse can take many different forms:
- Physical abuse occurs when pain or injury is inflicted.
- Sexual abuse includes fondling or other sexual contact with someone who cannot consent or is physically forced.
- Emotional abuse is verbally assaulting, threatening abuse, or harassing.
- Financial abuse is the exploitation, misuse, or withholding of money.
- Neglect is the failure to provide basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
- Confinement can mean unnecessarily restraining or isolating someone.
- Willful deprivation occurs when individuals are denied medical care, medication, and other requirements that expose them to physical or emotional harm.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 Americans over 60 have suffered from some form of abuse, but studies have shown that cases of nursing home abuse are severely underreported.
“For decades, nursing homes have been plagued with reports suggesting widespread and serious maltreatment of residents, including abuse, neglect, and theft of personal property.” – National Institutes of Health
What Causes Nursing Home Abuse?
There has not been significant research on the specific causes of nursing home abuse. However, there are some accepted explanations.
The following three reasons are widely accepted:
- Stressful work environments, especially staffing shortages
- Staff burnout caused by staffing shortages and required overtime
- Poor staff training on handling resident aggression and challenging behaviors
Nursing Home Abuse Reporting
Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to abuse. Mental impairment (such as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia) and social isolation make it especially important to spot and report abuse for those who may not be able to do so on their own.
Warning Signs of Abuse in a Nursing Home
- Bruises, broken bones, and burns
- Sudden withdrawal from normal activities or frequent arguments with particular caregivers
- Missing money or personal belongings
- Bedsores, weight loss, and poor hygiene
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse
If a nursing home resident is seriously hurt, call 911 immediately. In addition to providing critical medical attention, local law enforcement may help getting criminal charges filed.
If ongoing abuse is suspected, it can be reported through:
- Eldercare Locator
- National Center on Elder Abuse
- Doctors and medical experts
- Anonymous reporting
- Your State’s Ombudsmen
How to Handle Nursing Home Abuse During COVID-19
Nursing home populations are at high-risk for COVID-19, so it is often not possible to visit loved ones. This makes it more difficult to monitor for abuse in a nursing home.
Tips to help prevent abuse during the pandemic include:
- Ask about the facility’s procedures for managing COVID-19, and ensure they have emergency contact information.
- If there is no visitation allowed, ask about video chats or telephone calls to check-in regularly.
- Ask to be put in touch with staff for regular updates.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
Nursing home abuse lawsuits may be filed to prevent further abuse or to get financial compensation for past abuse, including wrongful death. These lawsuits can help victims get money to pay for medical bills, physical and mental health therapy, the cost to change nursing homes or caregivers, and more.
Pursuing a nursing home abuse claim can be the best way to keep residents safe and free from future harm.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit Timeframe
In general, nursing home abuse lawsuits take approximately 18 months to resolve.
Claims against a nursing home usually follow these steps:
- Filing the Lawsuit: The victim and their family, as well as the person or facility allegedly at fault, file the claim prepared by their lawyer, with the court detailing their account of what happened.
- Discovery: Evidence is collected to support each side of the case.
- Trial: If a settlement is not agreed upon outside of court, the case goes to trial for a judge or jury verdict.
- Appeal: If either party does not agree with the verdict, the decision may be appealed.
Statutes of Limitations on Nursing Home Abuse Claims
It is very important to begin a civil suit as soon as possible, as there is a window of time during which legal action can be taken.
This timeframe is called the statute of limitations, and once it has passed, you may be forever prevented from pursuing a claim, even a valid one. The average statute of limitations is between 2-3 years, but it is different in each state.
Working with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney is the best way to find out if your claim falls within a particular state’s statute of limitations.
- Administration for Community Living. (n.d.) Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://acl.gov/programs/Protecting-Rights-and-Preventing-Abuse/Long-term-Care-Ombudsman-Program
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Preparing for COVID-19 in Nursing Homes. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/long-term-care.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fhealthcare-facilities%2Fprevent-spread-in-long-term-care-facilities.html
- FindLaw. (n.d.). Nursing Home Lawsuit Settlements FAQs. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://injury.findlaw.com/torts-and-personal-injuries/nursing-home-lawsuit-settlements-faqs.html
- Hawes C. (2003). Elder Abuse in Residential Long-Term Care Settings: What Is Known and What Information Is Needed? National Research Council (US) Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK98786/
- Landers, D. NOLO. (n.d.) Proving Damages or Injuries in a Nursing Home Abuse Case. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/proving-damages-nursing-home-injury-abuse-case.html
- National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.) Red Flags of Abuse. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://ncea.acl.gov/NCEA/media/docs/Red-Flags-of-Elder-Abuse-English.pdf
- National Council on Aging. (n.d.) Elder Abuse Facts. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/
- U.S. Department of Human and Health Services. (n.d.) How do I report abuse elder abuse or abuse of an older person or senior? Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://www.hhs.gov/answers/programs-for-families-and-children/how-do-i-report-elder-abuse/index.htm