Nursing Home Abuse FAQs
What are the causes of nursing home abuse?
Many times nursing homes do not hire enough, as well as qualified,
staff. Under qualified, insufficiently trained, and overworked staff
can result in nursing home neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, many
living in nursing homes are unable to properly communicate instances
of nursing home neglect and abuse because of their physical or mental
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What are the different types of nursing
home and elder abuse?
Mental : fear, agitation, hesitancy,
depression, withdrawal, sudden behavior changes, unusual behavior
patterns, unwillingness to communicate, disorientation, confusion,
unjustified isolation, rude, humiliating, derogatory comments by
staff, specific complaints by residents
Physical : wounds, cuts, abrasions,
burns, bruises, welts, swelling, broken bones, sudden, inexplicable
weight loss, unexplained/hidden injuries, unwarranted restraints
(either physical or chemical), specific complaints by residents
Nursing Home : bed sores (decubitus ulcers),
unsanitary environment, malnutrition, dehydration, smells of urine
and/or feces, unkempt appearance, poor personal hygiene, untreated
medical condition, specific complaints by residents
Exploitation/Financial : sudden, unjustified
selling of property, missing/stolen money or property, radical changes
in handling personal/financial affairs, specific complaints by residents
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What are some recognizable signs that nursing
home abuse could be occurring?
Any of the following signs of nursing home neglect and abuse could
warrant further investigation:
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains, or fractures in various
stages of healing.
- Bedsores or frozen joints.
- Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections; vaginal
or anal bleeding; torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.
- Sudden changes in behavior.
- Staff refusing to allow visitors to see resident or delays in
allowing visitors to see resident.
- Staff not allowing resident to be alone with visitor.
- Resident being kept in an over-medicated state.
- Loss of resident's possessions.
- Sudden large withdrawals from bank accounts or changes in banking
- Abrupt changes in will or other financial documents.
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How prevalent is nursing home
More than 1.6 million Americans reside in more than 16,000 nursing
homes across this country. A 1998 study conducted by the U.S. General
Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that more than half of the suspicious
deaths studied in nursing homes were probably due to nursing home
neglect, including malnutrition an dehydration. The study also found
that about 1 in 3 California nursing homes had been cited by state
inspectors for “serious or potentially life-threatening care
problems” that are likely to be found across the nation. Unreported
instances of nursing home neglect and abuse most also be taken under
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How Can I Choose A Safe Nursing Home?
Although there is not a full proof way to choose a nursing home,
there are steps you can take to better ensure the safety of your
family members. By asking questions and looking for signs at the
facility you can better prevent unnecessary instances of nursing
home neglect and abuse from occurring. Here are a few questions
you can ask the facility (information from Medicare):
- Is the home and the current administrator licensed?
- Does the home conduct background checks on all staff?
- Does the home have special services units?
- Is there nursing home neglect and abuse prevention training?
As with any important decision, by doing your homework you can
help put your mind at ease with your final decision. Some other
useful tips include:
- The nursing home and its administrator should be licensed by
the State to operate
- Do the nursing home’s procedures to screen potential employees
for a history of abuse meet your State’s requirements? Your
State’s Ombudsman program might be able to help you with
- Some nursing homes have special service units like rehabilitation,
Alzheimer's, and hospice. Learn if there are separate waiting
periods or facility guidelines for when residents would be moved
on or off the special unit.
- Do the nursing home’s training programs educate employees
about how to recognize resident abuse and neglect, how to deal
with aggressive or difficult residents, and how to deal with the
stress of caring for so many needs? Are there clear procedures
to identify events or trends that might lead to abuse and neglect,
and on how to investigate, report, and resolve your complaints?
- Are there policies or procedures to safeguard resident possessions?
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If I suspect nursing home abuse
what can I do?
Many serious health problems and deaths have occurred because of
nursing home neglect and abuse. If you suspect that your family
member may be the victim of nursing home neglect immediate action
can save any further tragedies from happening. The problem should
be brought to the attention of the nursing home, and if problems
do not cease than government assistance and legal assistance is
available. Contacting your state attorney general’s office
to report nursing home neglect or abuse and using private attorneys
can bring the matter to light and to justice. If you have any questions
regarding the nursing home neglect or abuse of a family member in
a nursing home, please contact us.
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