Veteran Abuse in VA Facilities
Has Your Loved One Been Abused at a VA Community Living Center?
In the United States, any man or woman who served in the armed forces has access to Veteran’s Affairs (VA) community living centers. These centers currently provide care to more than 46,000 veterans in more than 130 government-operated nursing homes. While veterans of the United States military should undoubtedly be treated with respect and dignity as they enter their golden years, this is not always the reality.
If you have reason to believe that your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect at a VA community living centers, get in touch with our nursing home abuse attorneys today.
Unfortunately, these centers—which are designed to care for our nation’s veterans—are not always upholding the standard of care expected from them. In fact, severe issues have been exposed nationwide, including cases involving veteran abuse and neglect.
Increased Risk Factors for Veterans
All nursing homes residents are at risk for abuse and neglect, but certain factors increase the risk for veterans at VA community living centers. Such factors include:
- Substance Abuse – Substance abuse is a growing problem among veterans. This is a problem in and of itself and it can also inhibit the patient’s cognitive function, making them vulnerable to abuse.
- PTSD – Many veterans suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause hallucinations or make them more prone to lashing out at employees. Not only can this make caregivers feel “justified” in their abuse, but it can make them feel immune from complaints of abuse. PTSD can also make a patient confused, which can complicate investigations.
- Physical Disabilities – Veterans often suffer from physical disabilities, which can make them more vulnerable abuse. This is especially true in cases where impediments affect their mobility.
Veteran’s Neglect & Abuse – Increased Risk Factors for Veterans
may understand the difficulty of returning to normal civilian life. Many veterans of the United States military suffer from mental health disorders, according to a study published in Advances in Medical Education and Practice. Understanding the increased risk factors for veterans may help you and your family better prepare and react for the potential of ongoing health issues if someone you love classifies as a veteran.
Risk Factors and Health Issues Facing Veterans
Members of the military live at risk of succumbing to their physical or mental injuries whether they experienced a combat situation abroad or remain stationed in the United States. Sometimes the effects of service prove obsolete or minimal, while others may have their entire lives changed forever. Some of the mental and physical health issues and increased risk factors for veterans may include:
- Increased risk of homelessness.
- Substance abuse issues.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Physical disabilities or impairment.
- Veteran abuse–sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, or financial.
- Chronic unemployment.
- Personality changes.
- General difficulties adjusting to civilian life.
If your loved one served as a veteran and exhibits signs of health issues, you should seek help. A medical professional may provide advice on the best course of action. If your loved one lives in a nursing home because they require help with their everyday needs, make sure the caregivers follow the standard of care set out in the Nursing Home Reform Act. Sometimes, caregivers or visitors of another resident may target veterans due to their impaired physical or mental states. If you feel that they may have suffered abuse, neglect, or mistreatment in any way, you may have the ability to take legal action.
Treatment and Prevention
The treatment of health issues among veterans depends largely on the specifics of the disease or ailment. Doctors may treat PTSD and other mental health issues with pharmaceutical measures, as well as ongoing psychotherapy or counseling. Sometimes doctors use both of these methods. Each treatment regimen can take time and trials to find the right balance for individual patients.
Veterans who become physically disabled may require the help of others when getting dressed, maintaining personal hygiene, and addressing basic daily needs. A nursing home offers care from trained staff at all hours of the day. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers services for veterans suffering from ailments associated with various periods of service, and they offer nursing homes for veterans as well.
Veterans in the Care of a Nursing Home
If you think someone you love is suffering from health issues or increased risk factors as a veteran living in a nursing home, the sooner you take action, the sooner you may secure your loved one’s safety. You can speak with a medical professional to devise a treatment plan or find a local service available to help them on the journey to recovery.
In some cases, veterans may qualify to take legal action. You may seek financial compensation related to their pain, injury, suffering, or victimization against a negligent party, such as a nursing home that failed to follow the standard of care to meet a veteran’s individualized medical needs.
Veteran’s Neglect & Abuse – Substance Abuse
Some people might not normally consider substance abuse as something that could be a problem for a veteran in the nursing home; however, according to Clinical Geriatric Medicine, nursing is seeing increasing numbers of older adults with alcohol or substance abuse problems.
Seniors typically have several medical conditions that can lead them to take a number of medications at the same time. Some of these medications, including opioids for relieving pain, can be addictive and lead to problems with substance abuse. Alcohol abuse can also be a problem in nursing homes.
If a facility knows that a resident is abusing any medications or alcohol, for example, they should be taking steps to address the problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, substance abuse in seniors can result in the worsening of any medical conditions as well as injuries.
Signs of Alcohol or Substance Abuse
Substance abuse in a nursing home should not go undetected for long. If a senior is abusing a substance such as alcohol or medication, there will normally be signs such as:
- Wanting to take increasing amounts of a medication or substance.
- Taking the medication for longer than necessary.
- Trying to obtain more medication or hoarding medication.
- Developing a tolerance to the medication or substance.
- Suffering from withdrawal when stopping the medication or substance.
- Drinking alcohol alone.
- Drinking alcohol every day.
- Memory loss.
A nursing home should monitor all medicines of a resident. Qualified staff should know how to detect signs of substance or alcohol abuse and identify which residents are most at risk. Not stopping substance or alcohol abuse can have catastrophic effects on the health of an elderly veteran.
An overmedicated or inebriated elderly resident could suffer from new medical problems, the worsening of existing conditions, or accidents such as falls. Substance abuse can lead to dangerous interactions with other medications, potentially leading to serious health complications or death. It can also result in costly medical treatments and hospital bills.
Nursing Home Responsibility
A nursing home is, by law, responsible for all aspects of seniors’ care in its facility, including the physical and psychological aspects, according to the Nursing Home Reform Act 42 U.S. Code § 1395i–3. Nursing homes should try to prevent any harm coming to residents due to substance abuse. Veterans can be especially vulnerable to substance abuse when they suffer from any additional medical issues such as chronic pain from an old combat injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How a Nursing Home Can Fail A Veteran in Their Care
Sometimes, a nursing home does not have an adequate number of staff members to ensure residents’ daily needs are met. A high resident-to-staff ratio can save the nursing home money but can also be dangerous for the residents. Rushed and overworked employees are less likely to detect any signs of substance abuse. In fact, overworked staff may even contribute to substance abuse problems.
If a resident demands a certain prescription drug or alcohol, it may be easier for employees of the nursing home to supply the resident with the substance rather than having to deal with an aggravated senior instead. Residents may also be easier to “manage” when overmedicated or inebriated.
The nursing home could also be responsible for not hiring enough qualified staff, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. It takes qualified and trained staff to understand the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and what steps to take for limiting any abuse. Qualified staff should know what to do and when to inform a medical professional with any concerns.
Nursing home neglect is illegal, and there is nothing worse than finding out that your loved one is suffering in their nursing home when help could be available. If you have reason to believe that your loved one is suffering from neglect in their nursing home, and you suspect substance abuse or substandard care, you can speak to a nursing home lawyer about any legal options that might be open to you.
Veteran’s Neglect & Abuse – Physical Disability
A physical disability, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is any physical condition that makes it more difficult for a person to perform certain activities. Physical disabilities can vary greatly in severity. Those with minor disabilities can still maintain independence and it may not dramatically affect their lives. Those with more severe physical disabilities may require help on a daily basis.
Sadly, one demographic that frequently suffers from the effects of physical disabilities are veterans. Those who serve in the military are at a higher risk of injury due to the nature of their service. This can occur domestically or abroad, during times of peace or in combat. Unfortunately, some injuries incurred during service can lead to disabilities and the need for long-term healthcare.
Learning more about physical disabilities and how they can affect the health and needs of others is important, especially if a person in your life is suffering.
Types of Physical Disability
There are many ways in which a person may be physically disabled. Physical disabilities can affect mobility, vision, dexterity, and any other aspects of physical health. Some disabilities begin early in life, while others are born able-bodied and become disabled due to injury or other circumstances. Veterans, for example, could become injured during service and require care after their service in the armed forces.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 60 million Americans are living with some form of disability. This accounts for nearly a quarter of the adult population in the United States. The statistical probability of a physical disability increases with age. According to the same study, nearly 40% of adults over the age of 65 suffer from a form of disability.
Potential Causes of Injury and Disability
Disabilities can be caused by genetics, accidents, injuries, side effects of medications, and for other reasons. In the case of veterans of service, the most likely cause of physical disability is an injury. Some common injuries and other causes of long-term physical disabilities include:
- Diabetes and other diseases that can affect physical mobility over time
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Traumatic injury including car accidents
Living with a physical disability can be very difficult for the individual as well as their family and loved ones. It can affect your life in many ways including financial stress due to expensive medical needs. If you or someone in your life suffers from a physical disability and long-term care is needed, one option is nursing homes.
Nursing homes can be a great option for those who are dependent on others in their daily life. Facilities are generally staffed with trained individuals who can help with medication administration, daily hygiene, nutrition, and more. These types of facilities also offer around-the-clock care, recreational activities, and social opportunities. It is easy to see why this is an appealing option for people with long-term physical disabilities.
Abuse and Neglect
Unfortunately, not everyone who lives in a nursing home has a pleasant experience. Even for veterans being treated within the VA healthcare system, it is sad to consider that abuse and neglect sometimes occurs in these settings. This can be very troubling for disabled individuals and family members who put a great deal of trust in caregivers.
Abuse occurs when physical or emotional harm is inflicted on another person. Neglect describes the failure of a caregiver or facility to act or react appropriately to medical needs. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 mandates that all nursing homes treat their residents with the highest possible standard of care. If abuse or neglect is occurring, this is in direct violation of federal law as described in this act. Not only is the mistreatment of others immoral, it is also illegal. Some victims of nursing home abuse and neglect choose to explore their legal options if another party may be responsible for suffering and ongoing damages.
Veteran’s Neglect & Abuse – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) refers to a serious mental health condition that activates in the aftermath of a traumatic event or experience, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. While every case of PTSD has a unique origin, the veteran community suffers frequent struggles with PTSD, according to Pharmacy and Therapeutics. While researchers have not found a cure for PTSD, several treatment options remain available for those suffering from this disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder can have a dramatic effect on victims as well as their loved ones.
If a caregiver has a veteran suffering from PTSD under their care, they must follow through with treatment and remain vigilant to ensure the veteran’s safety. If you or your loved one suffers from PTSD, learn more about this condition so that you can recognize and manage the many ways it affects your life.
Causes of PTSD
The specific cause of post-traumatic stress disorder varies by case, but the onset almost exclusively occurs after a traumatic event or experience. In times of distress, people may experience a natural “fight or flight” response in the body. While this heightened awareness and rush of adrenaline usually dissipate after a dangerous situation resolves, some researchers believe people experiencing PTSD have difficulty recovering from this state.
Veterans of war, or those in the armed services, are frequent victims of PTSD due to the nature of their work. For example, The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that approximately 15% of Vietnam War Veterans received a diagnosis of PTSD after the war. Some veterans may live with an undiagnosed case of PTSD as well.
While military service can increase your risk of PTSD, anyone can develop this disorder. You may have been involved in an accident, experienced a form of mental or physical abuse, or lived through trauma of a different nature.
PTSD Symptoms in Veterans
The symptoms of PTSD include:
- Becoming easily startled, frightened, or overly reactive.
- Substance abuse and other forms of self-destructive behavior.
- Guilt, shame, or feelings of worthlessness.
- Personality changes.
- Dreams of nightmares, or sleeping difficulties.
- Flashbacks to traumatic events.
- Avoidance of things that trigger memories of the traumatic experience.
- Heightened or prolonged anxiety.
- Suicidal thoughts.
If you or someone you love is exhibiting any of these symptoms, or any other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a medical professional may help you develop a treatment plan. PTSD constitutes a serious condition that can completely debilitate a veteran and even prove fatal in some cases.
Veteran Abuse in a Nursing Home Setting
Sadly, many veterans who risk their lives for their country have a difficult time returning to a civilian way of life. Sometimes veterans with physical or mental disabilities resulting from their service remain vulnerable to abuse if they rely on caregivers for assistance with daily needs. If you or a family member experienced abuse or mistreatment as a veteran while living with PTSD in a nursing home, you may qualify to file a legal claim.
Nursing homes have a high standard of care as well as individualized healthcare plans for each resident. If a caregiver or someone else in the nursing home abuses the veteran—either physically, emotionally, or financially—they may bear liability for any resulting injuries that befall the veteran. If they fail to accommodate a veteran’s PTSD, they may also prove negligent in a personal injury case.
Veteran’s Neglect & Abuse – Untreated Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can last for months or even years. According to the American Psychiatric Association, it can occur in people who witnessed a traumatic event, for example war, combat, or a violent assault, among others.
Veterans are especially vulnerable to PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimates that, depending on the service area a veteran served in, between 10-30% of veterans suffer from PTSD.
Unfortunately, PTSD does not simply “disappear,” and a veteran with PTSD will need treatment. A veteran suffering from untreated PTSD in the nursing home can develop chronic pain, depression, and other problems such as drug or alcohol abuse. The effects of untreated PTSD can cause much mental suffering, physical problems, and even shorten the life of an elderly person.
If a veteran in a nursing home is not receiving treatment for PTSD, they may be suffering from nursing home neglect. According to the U.S.Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans in nursing homes should receive PTSD treatment, and resources are available for them.
Signs of PTSD
Symptoms of PTSD may not surface for weeks, months, or even years after a traumatic event occurred. This can make it challenging to diagnose a veteran with PTSD. Some of the signs that a veteran may be suffering from PTSD can be:
Nightmares and Flashbacks
Having nightmares and flashbacks can remind a PTSD sufferer of a troubling event and result in various physical manifestations of stress such as heart palpitations and panic attacks.
Insomnia and Anxiety
Difficulty sleeping, problems concentrating, and feeling anxious or jumpy can all be symptoms of PTSD.
Avoiding Social Contacts
A PTSD sufferer may try to avoid anything that could possibly remind them of a traumatic event, including people, places, and certain activities.
Suffering from PTSD can cause a distorted world view, where a sufferer may find it difficult to experience positive emotions and may have exaggerated negative beliefs about themselves or the wider world.
It can be difficult for veterans to adjust to normal life, even if their time in the military, when the traumatic event happened, was decades ago. Veterans with untreated PTSD may suffer from suicidal thoughts, and it is important that they receive adequate and timely treatment in a nursing home.
Treatment for PTSD in Veterans
If your loved one in the nursing home suffers from PTSD, help should be available for them. Skilled and qualified nursing home staff should be able to detect the symptoms of PTSD. Staff should also be especially vigilant for any PTSD symptoms if the resident is a veteran. Treatments for veterans in nursing homes can include:
Cognitive behavior therapy and other therapies can be an effective treatment for PTSD. It is important that a mental health professional assesses the veteran and suggests a therapy that suits them.
Medication can also help a senior deal with PTSD and improve their life quality. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can control PTSD symptoms. SSRIs are a type of antidepressant, and they can help a veteran suffering from depression due to PTSD.
There could be other treatment options available for veterans with PTSD. It is important to consult with a mental health professional about the treatments that could be available to your loved one.
Nursing Home Neglect
Untreated PTSD can be a form of nursing home neglect. The nursing home is responsible to provide adequate care for its residents. This includes help with daily tasks, medical care, and also mental health care. However, in understaffed nursing homes, or those that lack professionally qualified employees, the signs of PTSD in seniors may go unnoticed or ignored.
The Nursing Home Reform Act clearly states that a skilled nursing facility must “provide services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”
According to Medical Research and Review, regulations also demand that nursing home residents are periodically evaluated for mental or behavioral symptoms and that any such symptoms are addressed in a treatment plan for the seniors.
PTSD is a serious condition and can severely restrict a senior’s ability to lead a normal and happy life. Veterans should not have to suffer without help. The nursing home is responsible for detecting any mental health issues and to ensure that a senior receives adequate treatment for their conditions. Not doing so causes unnecessary suffering and can be nursing home neglect.
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Is your loved one a veteran receiving care at a VA community living center? If you believe that they are suffering from abuse or neglect of any kind, act immediately. We are ready to stand by your side from beginning to end.