There is no decision that is harder than that of placing a loved one in a nursing home. That decision is only made more difficult by knowing the frequency of nursing home abuse. The dynamics of nursing homes, insufficient staff, poor training, and profit before people makes the thought of allowing a family member to be left alone in such an institution unthinkable but sometimes the only option.
Abuse in nursing homes is an unpleasant reality. It is called a hidden crime because so many of the incidents are difficult, if not impossible, to recognize. Most victims feel abandoned and trapped in their environment and are fearful to report abuse because of possible retribution. The injured victim is afraid to report the abuse and the staff may times intentionally conceal the acts. The victim may be of diminished mental capacity and not even understand that they are being abused. It is estimated that approximately 84 percent of abuse cases go unreported or unrecognized. In a report made by the U.S. Congress, and printed in USA Today, it was revealed that one-third of all nursing homes in this country were cited for nursing home abuse, with the injuries reported being as severe as hip fractures. It was reported that more than 5,200 nursing homes were indicted for over 9,000 nursing home abuse cases.
There are many types of abuse occurring in a nursing home, some of them extremely difficult to detect, some of them minor and some of them fatal. Some are intentional and some are as a result of neglect. Despite strict regulations, nursing home residents often suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of the very people entrusted with keeping them safe and secure. Abuse manifests itself in forms such as unnecessary physical restraint, assault or battery, insufficient food or water or the improper use of medication, sexual abuse or rape. Residents may be victims of neglect, suffering from a lack of hygiene or proper medical attention, bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, emotional isolation, and unexplained physical injuries resulting from falling down type incidents.
While it may be impossible to totally eliminate the possibility of nursing home abuse, there are things the loved ones of nursing home residents can do to minimize the potential of family members becoming a victim. Visiting loved ones frequently and unannounced is probably the single most effective way of discouraging nursing home abuse. Talk to the staff and other residents. Observe how the staff interacts with the residents. Please keep in mind that just because someone gives up their home to live in a nursing home they do not give up their rights or dignity. If you suspect abuse or neglect is occurring, even to someone other than your family member, report it to the nursing home administration, state and federal authorities. If you see one instance of abuse there are undoubtedly others that you are not seeing.
If you, or a loved one, know of a family member that has been a victim of nursing home abuse, you should contact the Vermont personal injury attorneys at Jarvis, McArthur & Williams to advise you of your legal rights. You are encouraged to call our office at (802) 658-9411.