Although it is illegal and immoral to physically abuse nursing home residents, physical abuse occurs all too often either by nursing home staff or other residents. Elderly patients are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse given additional health problems and frail conditions. Nursing home residents are often isolated from their families or see them on an infrequent basis, resulting in them suffering in silence and experiencing long-term physical and psychological injuries from their abuse.
What Are the Types of Physical Abuse Nursing Home Residents Suffer?
Physical abuse of the elderly can fall into one of three categories of mistreatment. These include the following:
- Active abuse. Active abuse is intentional, and the perpetrator means for it to cause the victim to be injured or experience pain. It can include pushing, slapping, pinching, punching, burning, shaking, and shoving the victim.
- Misuse of restraints. While it is illegal under federal regulations to use restraints other than for medical reasons, nursing homes often misuse restraints by using them to discipline the patient or for the staff’s convenience. Victims can suffer serious injuries when trying to get out of the restraints. Residents can also suffer loss of muscle tone, body mass, and other problems from being restrained in an immobile position.
- Physical neglect. Forms of physical neglect—that may be a type of elderly abuse and neglect on their own—can also be a type of physical abuse. Examples of this include failing to provide sufficient food and liquids, lack of clothing, and failing to maintain sanitary conditions for the resident to reside in—both in terms of physical care and the facility in general.
What Are Signs That Your Loved One Is the Victim of Physical Abuse?
The warning signs of physical abuse are often much easier to spot than psychological abuse, where the symptoms are behavioral or hidden. However, physical abuse can have both physical and psychological indicators that this abuse is taking place. Some signs to watch out for include:
- Cigarette, scalding, and other burns
- Abrasions, especially around the wrists and ankles, that suggest your family member has been physically restrained
- Broken bones, sprains, and dislocations
- Black eyes
- Cuts and bruises
- Internal organ damage and bleeding—potentially life-threatening
- Sudden, unexplained hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Substantial weight loss
- Insomnia and other sleeping problems
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Withdrawal from others and depression
- Anxiety and fear of other people, especially of nursing home staff
- Refusal to take his medications
- Changes in his behaviors and personality
- General deterioration in your family member’s health
When Can a Nursing Home Be Liable for Physical Abuse of Residents?
While physical abuse in nursing homes can happen for many reasons, nursing homes have a duty to provide a safe environment free of any type of abuse for its residents. Often a nursing home can be liable to compensate the victim of the abuse for his injuries, such as for failing to do the following:
- Failing to investigate staff before hiring. Nursing homes should conduct a background check on prospective employees, especially any who have a history of physical abuse. Sadly, some people are attracted to working in nursing homes because they enjoy abusing others and look for employment situations where they can work with vulnerable clients and patients—such as in a nursing home setting. Nursing homes should be able to identify these people before hiring them with a proper investigation into their history.
- Failing to supervise. Nursing homes must supervise their staff and take immediate steps to stop any type of abuse, including physical abuse. Especially since the signs of physical abuse are so visible, proper supervision should stop this inhumane treatment of residents.
- Failing to hire sufficient staff. When nursing homes are understaffed, even good employees can abuse residents out of stress and being overworked. This creates a vicious cycle of even more shortages of employees due to high turnover.
- Failing to train employees. Employees caring for nursing home residents can be poorly educated, poorly paid, and ill-equipped to deal with the physical and emotional disabilities of residents. When nursing homes fail to train workers for the challenges of their jobs, nursing homes can be held responsible when a resident is injured due to physical abuse.
- Failing to stop resident abuse. Sadly, nursing home residents are often physically abused and abused in other ways by other residents. When nursing home staff does not take proper steps to stop the mistreatment, the nursing home could be held liable.
- Failing to respond to complaints. When nursing home residents or their family members complain of any type of abuse, nursing homes should investigate the complaint promptly and take immediate steps to stop the mistreatment. Sadly, this does not happen often.
Your family member may not be able to stand up for his rights to stop the abuse he is experiencing and to seek the compensation for his injuries that he deserves. Call Brauns Law today to learn how we can help you to assist your loved one.