Many nursing homes provide responsible and compassionate care for individuals who are too ill or frail to live alone or with family. Unfortunately, not every facility provides the same level of attention or care. When residents of nursing homes show warning signs of abuse or neglect, loved ones must take action. The South Carolina nursing home abuse attorneys of Joye Law Firm can help.
For more than five decades, our legal team has been fighting on behalf of nursing home abuse victims and their families to secure financial recovery and justice. Contact us today for a free case review with our South Carolina nursing home abuse attorneys. We will discuss what you can do when you’ve seen warning signs of abuse and neglect in a loved one who lives in a nursing home.
With law offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Clinton, we have a long track record of holding nursing homes accountable throughout South Carolina.
Types of Abuse and Neglect
Although nursing home abuse and neglect are often talked about together, they each represent distinct types of harm:
- Abuse refers to the intentional infliction of injury, intimidation, deprivation of care, punishment, financial malfeasance, or unreasonable confinement that causes physical harm or pain or mental or emotional injury.
- Neglect occurs either from the failure to provide a dependent or vulnerable person with the care needed to ensure the individual remains free from harm or from the failure to react to situations that may potentially result in harm.
Examples of nursing home physical abuse and neglect can include:
- Physical assault, such as punching, beating, slapping, kicking, pinching, pushing, shaking, or dragging
- Threats of physical violence
- Deprivation of food or water
- Failure to provide medical care
- Physical restraint or unreasonable sedation or medication
- Rape, sexual assault, unwanted sexual touching, or sexual exploitation
- Yelling, cursing, or belittling
- Failure to monitor
Understanding the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Of course, nursing home abuse can leave a victim with clear injuries and harm. However, it is critical for family members and friends of nursing home residents to understand that not all signs of abuse or neglect will be obvious. Many forms of abuse and neglect have more subtle signs that can go unnoticed for a long time.
Many victims of nursing home abuse or neglect lack an awareness of what is happening to them or the ability or willingness to reach out for help, often out of fear of continued or increased abuse. This makes it important for friends and family members to familiarize themselves with the signs of abuse and neglect.
Signs of Neglect
Common signs that a nursing home resident has been or is being neglected by staff include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Bedsores/pressure ulcers
- Infections, particularly frequent infections or infections not promptly reported to the resident’s family and physician
- Poor personal hygiene
- Soiled clothing and bedding
- Inadequate or inappropriate clothing for the weather
- Unclean living areas
- Medication errors
- Unsafe living conditions, including lack of necessary climate control, lack of running water, slip/trip and fall hazards, and fire hazards
Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse often produces the most visible signs of harm inflicted on nursing home residents. Common signs of physical abuse can include:
- Bruises and cuts
- Broken bones, particularly wrist, arm, and hip fractures
- Damaged clothing or eyeglasses
- Restraint marks
- Any unexplained injuries, or the presence of multiple injuries in various states of healing
- Fear of being touched
- Fear of being left alone or left in the presence of staff members
- Reluctance to speak in the presence of staffers
- Refusal of staffers to let family members spend time alone with residents
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of a nursing home resident can include sexual assault and battery, any nonconsensual touching of a sexual nature, or sexual exposure. Signs that a nursing home resident has been victimized by sexual abuse can include:
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or infection in the genital area
- Bruising or itching around the genitals or breasts
- Unexplained bleeding in the genital area
- Trouble sitting or walking because of painful genitals
- Stained, bloody, or torn underwear
Signs of Emotional/Psychological Abuse
Emotional and psychological abuse of a nursing home resident often takes place over an extended period as the abuser slowly wears down the victim. A resident may not even realize that they are being subjected to emotional/psychological abuse. Signs of such abuse may include:
- Sudden and abrupt changes in behavior, such as agitation
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities
- Becoming unresponsive or non-communicative
- Soothing repetitive behaviors such as mumbling, rocking, or sucking one’s thumb
- Anxiety or depression
- Suicidal ideation
Signs of Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation of a nursing home resident can be difficult to detect since financial abuse often involves nominally obtaining a resident’s consent to exploitative transactions. However, signs that a resident is being financially exploited include:
- Unexplained financial transactions
- New recurring subscription expenses
- Charitable donations to unknown or unregistered organizations
- Addition of authorized persons to bank accounts and credit cards
- Bills and expenses that go unpaid, especially when a resident should have sufficient assets
- ATM withdrawals when a resident has no ability to access an ATM
- Large withdrawals from bank accounts
- Changes to power of attorney, life insurance policies, brokerage accounts, property titles, or wills
- Cash, checkbooks, debit/credit cards, or valuables that go missing from a resident’s room
Risk Factors for Abuse of the Elderly
Unfortunately, elderly people in nursing homes face significant risks of abuse and neglect from staff members and fellow nursing home residents. As people get older, they become less physically and psychologically capable of defending themselves against physical attack, bullying behaviors, and verbal abuse. If a nursing home resident is suffering from cognitive or memory issues or limitations, it makes it easier for an abuser to take advantage of the person. If suffering from severe conditions such as dementia, a nursing home resident may not even realize or remember that they’ve been abused or neglected.
Nursing home residents may not have many opportunities to report being victims of abuse or neglect. They may not have access to a telephone or email, or they may have few or no friends or family members who frequently visit. Even if a nursing home resident reports abuse or neglect, family members may be reassured by facility management or the story may be attributed to dementia or an accident such as a fall.
Actively Look for Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Many of the signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect can be easily missed. Family members and friends of nursing home residents should familiarize themselves with the signs of abuse and neglect. When visiting a loved one in person, by phone, or videoconference, watch out for the signs. Do not hesitate to ask questions and demand answers from nursing home management if you suspect neglect or abuse.
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you believe that a loved one in a nursing home has suffered abuse or neglect, take steps to protect their safety and their legal rights:
- If you suspect that a family member is facing immediate threat of harm, contact law enforcement to obtain assistance to protect your loved one from further injury.
- Document your suspicions, including signs of abuse or neglect you’ve observed in your loved one along with other warning signs from the nursing home facility, such as complaints from other residents, lack of clean facilities, staffers slacking off on the job, etc.
- Keep copies of your family member’s medical records, which can help provide evidence of physical or emotional/mental trauma from abuse or neglect.
- Report your concerns to the nursing home management so they can take steps to remedy conditions that may be facilitating abuse or neglect.
- You may also want to report your concerns to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Health Facilities Licensing.
- If necessary, you may want to move your loved one out of the facility to a family member’s or friend’s home or into another nursing facility.
For help dealing with this difficult situation, contact the dedicated nursing home abuse lawyers at Joye Law Firm. Give us a call at 888-324-3100 for a free, confidential consultation. Our compassionate team will answer your questions and discuss your legal rights and options. We’ll explain how our firm can help your family pursue compensation and justice for the harm your loved one has suffered due to nursing home abuse and neglect.