Abuse of Nursing Home Patients

McLario, Helm, Bertling, & Spiegel, S.C.

Abuse of Nursing Home Patients

When we place a family member or other loved one in a nursing home, we trust they will be well cared for. Unfortunately, some employees of these elder care centers are not worthy of the trust society has placed in them.

They may neglect or abuse the people entrusted to their care. Generally, nursing home abuse falls into one of three categories: Physical, Emotional and Financial.

Abuse Breakdown By Source

Statistically, 9.5% of all seniors will experience some kind of abuse. Elder abuse comes in many forms. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, neglect accounts for 58.5% of elder abuse, while sexual abuse is the least common at 0.04%. The same study found 91% of elderly care facilities lack the appropriate staff to care for patients, helping explain why neglect is so common, even if it is not always intentional.

  • Neglect: 58.5%
  • Physical Abuse: 15.7%
  • Financial Exploitation: 12.3%
  • Emotional Abuse: 7.3%
  • Sexual Abuse: 0.04%
  • All Other Kinds of Abuse: 5.1%
  • Unknown: 0.06%

Shocking as these figures may be, it doesn’t mean justice is unattainable for victims of elderly abuse. The experienced lawyers at McLario, Helm, Bertling, & Spiegel, S.C. can help you find justice for your loved one.

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The Difference between Abuse and Neglect

While abuse and neglect are not the same, they can have the same effects on the victim: pain, psychological stress and physical injury. Abuse and neglect both threaten the emotional and physical wellbeing of the victim.

The simplest way to differentiate between abuse and neglect is considering whether damages have occurred actively or passively. If an injury could have been prevented, it is likely neglect. If an injury is the result of a direct action taken by another, it is likely abuse. Another way to consider the distinction is abuse is a deliberate attempt to cause harm, while neglect is the failure to prevent harm.

Physical Abuse: Hitting, Restraining and Sexual Exploitation of the Elderly

Nursing Home Patient with Broken ArmPhysical abuse of the elderly and other nursing home or assisted living facility patients takes many forms. From pushing and shoving to hitting, burning and even sexual abuse, victims’ families must be on the lookout for their loved one’s wellbeing.

Designed to prevent patients from injuring themselves or others, medical restraints can be useful in preventing injuries. They can also be used as a form of punishment and abuse.

Locking patients in bed, a wheelchair or using drugs (referred to as chemical restraints) to limit their activity when not medically required is abuse.

Restraint-based abuse and neglect can lead to burns, broken burns and even death, usually caused by strangulation.

Fortunately, the signs of physical abuse are easily identifiable and hard to disguise. Unexplained or repeated bruising, cuts and broken bones indicate physical abuse may be taking place. If there is bleeding in the anal or genital areas or undergarments and bedding are blood-stained, sexual abuse might be occurring.

Sexual abuse of the elderly takes more forms than inappropriate touching and rape. Some elderly victims are forced to take part in unwanted sexual acts or made to watch others performing sex acts.

Physical Neglect: Ignoring or Otherwise Failing to Care for the Elderly

We trust medical facilities to take care of our loved ones, but can be betrayed by neglectful or understaffed administrations. Many assisted living centers are understaffed. While this means neglect is often unintentional, it is no less damaging.

Neglect takes many forms, and can be the result of willful ignorance or understaffing. Neglect could be:

  • Regular tardiness, or even absence, of scheduled meals, pills, bathing, or changings
  • A rash caused by dirty clothing
  • Dirty linens
  • Improper care
  • Overflowing trash bags
  • Unclean living standards

If you believe your loved one is the victim of physical neglect you are entitled to justice. A facility knowingly or unknowingly allowing these conditions to continue may be guilty of neglect.

Emotional Abuse: Humiliation, Intimidation and Isolation of Seniors

Emotionally Abused Elderly WomanMany people do not respect others but, by and large, this is the cost of living in society. When these individuals are employed in nursing homes, their lack of respect for others can culminate in emotional abuse. Besides obvious verbal abuse like name calling, verbal put-downs and belittlement, emotional abuse includes other, more serious acts like intimidation and isolation.

Intimidation of the elderly happens for many reasons. Sometimes, it may be used to coax a patient into taking medication or other beneficial actions. In other instances, it can be used to prevent patients from reporting problems.

Either way, intimidation is absolutely unacceptable.

Some nursing home patients are abused by being isolated from the rest of the community. Staff either limit their ability to interact with friends, family and the rest of the community or completely ignore them. Severe isolation can lead to depression or even death if necessary medications are not given.

The most troubling thing about emotional abuse is how hard it can be to spot. Be sure to stay in close contact with your loved one and pay attention to any sudden changes in personality. Humiliated, intimidated and isolated seniors often speak less than normal, avoid looking others in the eye and suddenly restrict their social interactions.

Emotional Neglect: Isolation and Ignorance

Emotional neglect of elderly persons or other assisted living residents is even harder to spot than emotional abuse is, but it is just as damaging. Emotional neglect takes many forms, ranging from being ignored to partial isolation. It can often leave the victim feeling lonely, cut off, and helpless.

Another form of emotional neglect is the ignorance of emotional changes. If you notice your loved one is suddenly depressed or highly emotional and no steps are being taken to remedy the situation, emotional neglect may be a factor. Depression alone is not emotional neglect, many seniors struggle with depression as they age, but failure to treat depression is neglectful, and can be very dangerous.

Financial Abuse: Theft, Fraud and Scams

Senior Man Defrauded of Life Savings Holding Empty Walletavings they have accumulated. Being in a position of vulnerability, the elderly often find themselves the target of financial abuse, even by their caregivers. Nursing home staff can steal social security payments, forge checks and even take valuables from a patient’s room.

The total amount stolen can reach into the thousands of dollars.

Financial abuse in nursing homes may not be limited to one victim. Instead, the perpetrators can be abusing many residents, unjustly enriching themselves by defrauding several people either at once or over a period of time.

There are several warning signs indicating such abuse is taking place.

Be on the lookout for sudden changes in financial stability, unusually high numbers of checks being written to specific individuals and discrepancies in their checking and savings accounts.

Preventing financial abuse of seniors in and out of nursing homes is possible. Stay on top of their finances and be sure to review their expenditures to cut off any abuse before it gets out of control. A great way to stop financial exploitation is establishing a trust to provide additional financial oversight and a legal framework to protect the elderly. Milwaukee’s experienced trust lawyers at McLario, Helm, Bertling, & Spiegel, S.C. can help you form a trust to protect against financial fraud.

Nursing Home Abuse Can Be Stopped

If you suspect physical, emotional or financial abuse of a nursing home patient, do not delay in notifying the authorities and contacting Milwaukee’s nursing home abuse attorneys at McLario, Helm, Bertling, & Spiegel, S.C.

Our experienced lawyers offer free consultations to victims and their families. Civil litigation can recover damages for the suffering and expenses incurred through the abuse and punish the facility for the mistreatment.


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