There are over 2,000 cases of nursing home abuse reported in Pennsylvania each year. Sadly, this estimate is likely inaccurate because most elder abuse cases are never officially reported. Nursing home residents often suffer from age-related medical conditions that make them vulnerable to acts of abuse, neglect, and manipulation. Although these residents are protected by state and federal laws, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is notorious for overlooking negligent facilities and abusive staffers. In fact, the state attorney general’s office usually prioritizes Medicaid fraud cases over investigations involving patient care.
Nursing home abuse is usually divided into 4 categories:
- General neglect
- Physical abuse
- Financial exploitation
- Psychological abuse
There are countless acts of general negligence and abuse that can lead to personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death lawsuits. For example, employees are responsible for keeping a nursing home clean and relatively hazard-free. They also need to provide residents with life-saving medications and treatments that have been prescribed by their respective doctors.
A nursing home can be held responsible for the following failures:
- Failure to maintain a safe facility
- Failure to hire responsible and qualified employees
- Failure to supervise and protect residents
- Failure to train employees
- Failure to uphold health and safety policies
- Failure to provide medications and treatments
Unfortunately, many families struggle to recognize the more insidious indicators of nursing home negligence because the warning signs are so subtle. The only way to protect your loved one is to visit their facility frequently and review the 5 key indicators of nursing home negligence:
- Poor hygiene: When you visit your loved one, make sure that you critically review their living conditions and state of cleanliness. Many elderly people struggle when it comes to carrying out acts of self-care. Staffers may need to help residents bathe, brush their teeth, and change their clothes. A neglectful caretaker will ignore a resident’s needs and leave them in soiled clothing or bedding. Even if your loved one is cleaned up for your visit, you can still form an opinion by examining their room and the condition of other residents. Other clues to look for include: poor dental care, bed sores/ulcers, overgrown nails, etc.
- Unexplained injuries: Thousands of residents are physically and/or sexually harmed by nursing home staffers and co-residents each year. The Nursing Home Abuse Center lists the following advice for concerned family members: “The elder’s physical condition should be monitored so that the risk of physical abuse is diminished. It’s okay to talk with the elder in order to find out their concerns. Family members should also pay attention to any medications the elder is taking.” Signs of physical abuse include – but is not limited to – bruises, scratches, broken bones, fractures, dislocated limbs, bite marks, cuts and lacerations, torn clothing, fractures, and more. Sometimes, unexplained injuries occur due to a lack of supervision and personal assistance. You need to seek legal representation if your loved one is struggling between rooms, being dropping by staffers, or tripping over known and unresolved accident hazards.
- Malnutrition or dehydration: Malnutrition and dehydration are common signs of neglect and abuse. A negligent staffer may ignore a doctor’s care plan or overlook how little a resident is eating or drinking. Malnutrition can result in excessive weight loss, fatigue, cognitive dissonance, yellowing skin, dental issues, organ failure, and death. Dehydration is also dangerous because it can lead to the following complications: kidney failure, seizures, brain damage, and death. Common signs of dehydration include: dry skin, sunken eyes, delirium, low blood pressure, and extreme thirst.
- Mood or behavioral changes: Many family members struggle to accurately recognize and interpret the psychological effects of emotional and social neglect. Frustrated and abusive staffers have been known to ignore, isolate, and even yell at vulnerable residents. For this reason, you need to encourage and facilitate open communication with your loved one. It’s also important to talk to them in a safe, private setting – in other words, you should be concerned if an anxious staffer is hovering nearby and refuses to leave. Possible signs of emotional abuse include feelings of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, agitation, and low self-esteem. Emotional abuse can also result in passivity, non-communicative behavior, and inexplicable mood swings.
- Financial problems: Financial exploitation is the most common – and regularly unreported – type of elder abuse in the United States. Each year, thousands of nursing home residents face poverty and even homelessness because their caretakers empty their accounts, steal their credit cards, forge their signatures, and trick them into making unwise financial decisions. You can protect your loved one from financial abuse by watching out for these signs of financial abuse: unpaid housing or pharmacy bills, missing assets or property, forged checks and documents, unexplained bank withdrawals, property transfers, and suspicious changes in your loved one’s estate planning documents.
Is Your Loved One the Victim of Nursing Home Negligence? Call Metzger Wickersham Today
Contact the nursing home abuse attorneys at Metzger Wickersham if your loved one has been victimized by negligent and abusive staffers. Our experienced and trial-tested legal team can listen to your story, investigate the facility in question, and develop a litigation strategy that holds the negligent parties responsible for their actions. We can help you recover damages that safeguard your loved one’s health, interests, and financial security.
Contact Metzger Wickersham at (888) 286-2850 to schedule a free consultation.