If you witnessed any physical harm, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an elderly person in a nursing home, you have witnessed elderly abuse. Deciding whether you have witnessed abuse of the elderly and how to report it can feel overwhelming. The following article will help you determine if you have witnessed abuse of the elderly and what steps to take.
Types of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
There are several types of elder abuse and neglect. Learning the different ways an elderly loved one in a nursing home can suffer abuse or neglect can help you determine if you have witnessed elderly abuse.
Physical Abuse of Nursing Home Residents
Physical abuse is when an elderly loved one suffers from a bodily injury or impairment due to the direct abuse or neglect of a nursing home staff member. Any unexplained injuries of your elderly loved one in a nursing home could be a sign of this type of abuse. Seeing bruises, bleeding, bedsores, or strange physical behavior from nursing home residents could indicate abuse. In addition, if you witness a nursing home staff member abandon a resident, physical strike a resident, sexually assault a resident, fail to help a resident stand or get into their bed, or fail to give a resident necessary items such as food and water, you likely witnessed physical abuse or neglect. Take pictures, if possible, of the injuries in order to have proof regarding your claim of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Emotional or Psychological Abuse of the Elderly
Emotional abuse creates just as catastrophic effects as physical abuse in some cases. If you witness a nursing home staff member yelling, berating, humiliating, demeaning, wrongly accusing, shaming, or threatening an elderly resident, you seen elder abuse. Some of these causes of psychological abuse are subtle and not as overt as screaming or violent threats. However, even subtle emotional abuse results in devastating and severe harm to senior residents.
Nursing Home Neglect
Neglect is a form of abuse. When a nursing home staff member refuses to help a resident eat or drink, fails to help them move to the bathroom, does not assist a resident with getting up or sitting down in a wheelchair or bed, or simply fails to respond to their basic needs, this is neglect, which is elderly abuse. If you witness any of these types of acts, you witnessed elder abuse.
Elder Financial Abuse
Like other forms of abuse, financial abuse has a serious effect on an elderly person in a nursing home. Some forms of financial abuse of the elderly can include manipulation to switch names on bank accounts or estate planning documents, stealing checks or cash, taking credit cards to make purchases, or taking property without approval. If you witness a nursing home staff member physically taking credit cards, cash, checks or property from a resident, or overhear a conversation where a nursing home staff member manipulates an elderly resident to transfer bank accounts or property through an estate planning document such as a last will and testament, you witnessed financial abuse of the elderly.
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse
If you witnessed any of the above actions, you witnessed abuse. Elder abuse is widespread and, unfortunately, underreported. If you suspect abuse of an elderly resident in any way, you should take the time to report it to the appropriate agencies. First, you should consider reporting the abuse directly to the nursing home staff or management. They should have a protocol in place to respond and handle the neglect and abuse claims of their residents. If you feel a nursing home resident is in immediate danger, you should not hesitate to contact 911 or law enforcement as well.
Every state has a long-term care ombudsman program, which resolves complaints of elder abuse and also advocates on behalf of nursing home residents’ rights. The National Center on Elder Abuse does not directly investigate elder abuse claims. However, they provide valuable resources and guidance if you suspect elder abuse in a nursing home. It is always best to err on the side of caution and report something you suspect may rise to the level of elder abuse in a nursing home setting. Often, nursing home residents suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and are unable to communicate or remember the abuse. In other cases, nursing home residents feel afraid to report abuse as they do not want to disrupt or upset their children, or they feel they may suffer retaliation for complaining. In the most extreme cases, residents feel shame that they are powerless to stop the abuse.
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Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer After Witnessing Elder Abuse
Knowing how to determine if you observed abuse of the elderly and how to report it can be critical to ending the abuse or neglect. If you believe you witnessed elderly abuse in a nursing home, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you with your next steps. No matter what you witnessed know that we do not shy away from tough cases, and we work on a contingency basis.