When someone becomes a resident at a nursing home, that facility makes a promise to care for that person. Not only do nursing homes get paid millions of dollars to care for their residents, both Kentucky and federal laws demand that they do so in an appropriate manner.
Unfortunately, too many older Americans find the nursing home care they receive is far from ideal. Instead of being taken care of, they are abused and neglected by the very people who should be keeping them safe. Residents may be afraid to speak up and tell someone that they are being abused for fear of retaliation by the nursing home staff.
That is why it is very important for family members and friends to know how to identify the signs of abuse and neglect as identified by experienced Kentucky nursing home abuse attorneys. Our lawyers have more than 70 years of combined experience giving individual clients the personal attention they need and getting the results they deserve. We’ve written the book, Fight Back Against Nursing Home Abuse: What Families Need to Know to Help Their Loved One, and we can help you make the best decision for you and your family during this difficult time.
But, first, we invite you to learn more about the different types of nursing home abuse, the common causes of such abuse, and the potentially tragic effects of such abuse.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse or neglect occurs when a resident is intentionally harmed or neglected, and is hurt as a result. Some common types of Kentucky nursing home abuse include:
Physical abuse is startlingly common among the elderly. Reports of nursing home residents being slapped, pushed, punched or kicked are not uncommon. If the resident is unable to communicate, then the abuse may go on for some time, perhaps until the time of death. Even if the resident is able to communicate, he or she may be too confused to report it or may be coerced into not telling family or friends about the abuse. Outward signs of abuse are the only real evidence, and often these may be incorrectly attributed to the easily bruised skin of the elderly.
Often, the physical or sexual abuse of a nursing home resident is reported only to the nursing home managers or owners. By failing to notify the authorities, nursing home staff and management are looking out for their own well-being and funding, and not for the well-being of their residents.
Psychological abuse of nursing home residents is rampant. Elderly residents may be:
- Berated or ridiculed
- Forced into isolation.
- Otherwise harmed.
This type of abuse can be harder to recognize than physical abuse because it leaves no physical marks. However, any emotional abuse can be extremely stressful and very dangerous to the health and well-being of the nursing home resident. It may also be an indicator that the resident may be physically harmed.
Residents typically enter a nursing home because they need more help than they can get at home. If the resident is unable to perform a basic self-care routine, then the routine is the responsibility of the staff. A nursing home resident may be neglected if the resident is not:
- Given medication according to the schedule established by her doctor.
- Aided in basic self-care tasks such as using the bathroom, washing, etc.
- Checked on regularly.
- Provided food, or the right diet for her needs.
If a nursing home resident’s needs are not adequately met—if she is neglected—then the effects can be catastrophic.
Any of these types of nursing home abuse can result in significant harm or death to a resident.
Common Causes of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
There are, unfortunately, many ways that a nursing home resident may suffer from physical abuse, psychological abuse, or neglect. Some common ways include:
Falls and Poor Facility Maintenance
Falls are a common reason for nursing home injuries and deaths each year. While some falls may just be tragic accidents, other falls may be caused by nursing home neglect. A fall could occur, for example, if:
- The facility is unsafe because of a spill, a wet floor, or a defect in design.
- There is inadequate fall prevention equipment.
- A fall risk assessment was not completed.
- The results of a fall risk assessment were not implemented.
- Medications such as sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs were given incorrectly or the effect on a resident’s ability to walk was not properly considered.
A fall can also occur if a resident was not appropriately monitored or if the facility was understaffed.
A nursing home resident must be given the correct medications, in the correct dosages, and at the correct times in order to prevent serious and potentially deadly consequences.
Consider what could happen, for example, if a resident:
- Does not receive her medication.
- Is given another resident’s medication.
- Is provided medication in a form (such as a pill) that she cannot ingest.
- Receives a double dose of medication or skips a dose of medication.
These problems can occur at any time. However, one common time for medication errors is when a resident is transitioning into a nursing home. Transition into a nursing home can be risky because of staff communication issues, problems getting the required medications, prescription transcription errors, and confusion before a routine is developed.
These types of medication errors are more than unfortunate mistakes. They can often be prevented with due care. When a medication error occurs at a Kentucky nursing home, it is often the result of staff neglect.
Some medication errors can also be the result of nursing home abuse. Sometimes nursing home residents are purposely overly medicated. If a resident is seen as a wandering risk or if she has even mild psychological disorders, then staff may overmedicate her. This is seen as easier for the caregiver, but it is a form of nursing home abuse. It is a dangerous and irresponsible practice. The overuse of sedatives in the elderly can have long-term mental and physical repercussions, and may even result in death.
In some nursing homes, staff are doing their best to protect the residents in their care. However, they aren’t provided with the time or the tools to do their jobs effectively. More specifically, the nursing homes fail to hire enough doctors, nurses, aides, and other staff to adequately care for their residents. The current staff are overworked, and they don’t have enough hours in the day to develop or implement the care plans that are required for the nursing home residents. The result can be a missed medication dose, a slip and fall, malnutrition, improper hygiene, or another form of neglect that causes a resident a serious injury.
The lack of proper personal hygiene can be embarrassing and dangerous for a bed-ridden adult. If caregivers do not keep residents clean and dry, painful and dangerous bedsores and infections are much more likely to occur. In addition, illness is more easily spread where residents are not kept clean.
Any of these things can result in significant harm for nursing home residents.
Common Injuries Suffered by Nursing Home Residents Who Are Abused
The injuries suffered by Kentucky nursing home residents are unique and depend on what happened to the resident and her overall health. Some common injuries include:
Bedsores, also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers, are sometimes thought of as a necessary evil when dealing with anyone who sits or lies for long periods of time. However, they are almost always preventable with proper care.
Some of the common preventable causes of bedsores are:
- Dragging a person across a bed without proper protection of the feet, tailbone, back, and elbows.
- Letting moisture occur from wet bed linens or adult diapers.
- Not moving a person frequently enough.
- Not ensuring proper diet or diet supplements.
If a caregiver is not vigilant, a small sore can quickly develop into a serious ulcer. The longer the ulcer persists, the worse it becomes. The ulcer can eventually become a crater which extends into the muscle and bone of the afflicted elder. These serious bedsores can easily become infected, and if the infection proceeds unchecked it can lead to sepsis and death.
Bedsores do not have to happen and proper care will prevent them.
Broken Bones and Bruises
The improper use of restraints or a fall injury can result in a dangerous broken bone or bruise on an elderly nursing home resident. Bruises may take a long time to heal and cause the resident significant pain. A broken bone may limit the resident’s mobility and jeopardize her health and even her life.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
When a person is unable to feed herself, she must be assisted in order to avoid malnutrition or dehydration. Unless careful attention is given to caloric intake, residents can easily become malnourished. Even if residents are able to feed themselves, they may not be eating enough to get the nutrients they need. Nursing home neglect or abuse can result in potentially fatal malnutrition or dehydration.
Many nursing home occupants will end their days in the facility. However, there are times when a resident’s life is cut short. Wrongful death can be caused by neglect, physical abuse, bedsores which worsen and lead to sepsis, falls, medication errors, malnutrition, and other forms of abuse and neglect.
Signs a Nursing Home Resident Has Been Abused or Neglected
There are some signs of abuse that family members should be on the lookout for when visiting the nursing home. If you have a loved one in a Kentucky nursing home then you should watch for:
- Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks
- Bone fracture or breaks.
- Open wounds.
- Sprains, dislocations, or unexplained pain.
- Signs that your loved one received too much medication or not enough medication.
- A sudden change in behavior such as being upset, agitated, withdrawn or non-communicative.
- The nursing home’s refusal to allow you to see your loved one alone.
- Signs of depression.
Additionally, any change in emotional or physical health that cannot be explained by your loved one’s physician may be cause for concern.
Do You Have a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
If your loved one has suffered an injury from physical abuse, psychological abuse, or neglect in a Kentucky nursing home then he may be able to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit to recover damages for the harm that has been done to him and to hold the nursing home responsible for what has happened. Likewise, if your loved one has died then his estate may have the right to file a wrongful death claim for his death.
Nursing home abuse and neglect should not be tolerated. Our nursing home abuse attorneys work hard to make sure that nursing homes are held accountable and that residents, or their survivors, get the recoveries that they deserve. We have successfully handled hundreds of cases throughout Kentucky where people have been hurt or killed by the negligent or deliberate actions of others. We would be pleased to provide you, or your family, with a free consultation. Please contact us at 888-450-4456 to learn more.