The Department of Health and Human Services defines abuse as “[t]he willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish.”
About 5 million seniors a year suffer some kind of mistreatment or neglect. In nursing homes and long-term care facilities, abuse typically occurs when nurses, certified nursing assistants, staffers, managers and administrators leave residents unsupervised and without adequate physical, mental or medical attention. Sometimes, staffers, fellow residents or strangers harm residents intentionally.
Abuse falls into several categories:
- Psychological or emotional
- Gross neglect
Nearly half of the reported incidents involve the neglect and abuse of residents by facility employees, while about 25 percent are resident-to-resident harm. Another 26 percent comes from unknown assailants.
When people think of nursing home abuse, they might think of bed sores from neglect, but there are many different kinds of abuse. Typically, it falls into six categories defined by the National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS): physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, gross neglect, financial and resident to resident abuse. There are also additional types detailed by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).
- Psychological or Emotional Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Gross Neglect
Psychological or Emotional Abuse
The third-most prevalent type of abuse is psychological or emotional, and it accounts for 21 percent of all reports tracked by NORS. This occurs when verbal or nonverbal acts cause anguish, pain or distress through intimidation, humiliation or harassment. Separating elders from family and friends or forcing them into social isolation are also examples of this type of abuse.
Signs of psychological abuse include:
- Strange behaviors of rocking, biting, sucking
- Lack of communication and being withdrawn
- Reports of mistreatment
Like sexual abuse, financial exploitation is one of the more rare forms of abuse. This typically happens when a nursing home employee or another facility resident illegally uses a resident’s funds, property or assets. Examples include: cashing checks without permission, forging signatures, stealing belongings or money, bullying or deceiving a senior into signing financial documents.
Even rarer is when a professional outside the elder care facility takes advantage of a resident. This can involve improper or illegal use of a power-of-attorney privilege or of a guardianship.
Resident to Resident
This type of abuse makes up 22 percent of all abuse. It encompasses all types of abuse just mention, but occurs when other residents prey on weaker residents because of lack of supervision by staff.
|Signs of financial abuse include:|
|Unauthorized charges on an elder’s ATM or credit card.|
|Discovery of forged signatures|
|Sudden changes in legal documents such as a will|
|Additional names on an elder’s bank card|
|Unpaid bills despite adequate funds being available|
|Withdrawal of large sums of money|
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), recognizing and halting neglect is the first step to preventing abuse. In addition to looking for the signs listed above, several risk factors make a senior vulnerable. These risks are put into three big categories: facility, resident and relationship.
- Five Signs of a Problem Facility
- Reporting Abuse
The No. 1 cause of abuse in nursing homes is poor staffing. High turnover, poor training and an overworked staff leads to greater risks for residents. When picking a nursing home, talk to the staff and look into a facility’s credentials to help determine whether a facility is adequately staffed.
Examples of poor staffing include:
- A facility with a high number of residents with dementia and mental impairment with not enough staff
- Poorly trained staff that cannot provide quality care to dementia patients who may be prone to hitting and kicking
- Short staffing leads to overworking current staff who will be tired and less likely to provide good care
|Largest U.S. Nursing Home Chains|
|HCR Manor Care||38,412||279|
|Life Care Centers of America||30,983||231|
|Genesis HealthCare Corp||25,409||206|
|Sun Healthcare Group||20,736||200|
|Extendicare Health Services||16,849||168|
|Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society||12,067||175|
|The Ensign Group||10,065||94|
Bonnie Nidiver and her son, Scott, filed a lawsuit against Cypress Healthcare Center in Butte County Superior Court after Bonnie’s husband, Eugene, died from poor care in the home. Eugene went into the facility for help healing from a broken pelvis and wrist. Ten weeks later, he was dying in hospice. Before surgery, he was fit and active.
According to the Nidivers’s complaint, Cypress staff kept Eugene drugged on antidepressants, sedatives and narcotics. With no one to supervise him, he fell from his wheel chair twice – and the second fall broke his hip. Bonnie visited the nursing home daily and alerted the staff, but no one seemed to pay attention to her.
The Nidivers’s story is not uncommon. Families across the country continue to file lawsuits against long-term care facilities that injured their loved ones.