Signs of Elder Abuse
It is very important to be able to spot abuse in nursing homes in order to protect your loved one, but what should you be on the lookout for? Here are some common signs of elder abuse.
- Unexplained bruising, black eyes or other injuries
- Falls, especially if they are frequent
- The development of bedsores
- Rapid weight loss
- Lack of interest in activities the patient used to enjoy
- A change in demeanor such as aggression or unusual depression
- Emotional agitation or extreme withdrawal
- Unusual behavior changes such as sucking, biting, or rocking
- Fear of being touched
- Patients overmedicated or sedated
- Signs of overmedication like drowsiness, dry and cracked lips, slumping in wheelchairs, drooling, unresponsive behavior, vacant stares and slurred speech
- Caretakers unable to give a reasonable explanation of a patient’s condition or injury
- Signs of neglect, like poor personal hygiene, urine smell, unsanitary conditions
- Patients left in bed for long periods of time
- Residents unattended for long periods of time
- Missing personal items, especially items of value
- Scratches, welts, cuts or bite marks on the face or other parts of the body, especially if they are symmetrical on both sides of the body
- Marks on wrists or other areas of the body left by restraints
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Fractures, sprains, dislocations or head injuries
- A dramatic decrease in physical or emotional health
- Lack or delay of medical treatment
- Increase in elder hospitalization or emergency treatment for injuries
- Fear or hesitation by the patient when he or she receives care or assistance from staff or around another resident
- Incomplete health reports
- Being unable to talk to seniors on the phone for extended periods of time
- Broken eye glasses or frames
- Hair pulls or sudden bald spots
- Instances of wandering or running away
- A residence's reluctance to speak in staff member’s presence
- Caregiver refusing to allow relatives to see the resident alone
- Frequent arguments or tension between the resident and a caregiver
- Patient wanting to be isolated from others
- Resident is frequently ill, and illness is not promptly reported to family and physician
- Reports of a drug overdose or failure to take medication regularly
- Unexplained or unexpected death of a resident
At The Collins Law Firm, we represent nursing home clients who have been the victims of all types of financial, physical or mental abuse as well as those who have suffered as a result of neglect. Some of the more common types of abuse cases we encounter are:
Wrongful Death Sadly, in the United States, it is estimated that 5,000 nursing home residents die each year as a result of abuse or neglect. Serious falls, physical abuse, improper medication, lack of timely and proper medical treatment, malnutrition and dehydration, infection and even bedsores can result in an untimely death. Oftentimes a minor or initially innocuous problem becomes a deadly condition due to failure to detect, manage and treat the problem. No patient at a nursing home and no family should ever have to go through this.
Pressure Sores These sores, also called decubitus ulcers or bedsores, result from inadequate care and are receiving growing attention because of their prevalence. In Illinois, almost 20% of nursing home residents have pressure sores of stage 2 or higher on a scale of 4. Bedsores occur when staff fail to move and reposition patients with limited mobility on a regular basis. As a result, the blood supply to tissue is interrupted and the flesh dies. This causes pain and disability and can even lead to an open wound. When this happens, even more serious complications such as sepsis, gangrene, amputation, and even death can result. It is critical that you insist that the nursing home begin treatment of your loved one’s pressure sores immediately.
Unnecessary Falls at nursing homes occur regularly and repeatedly. In fact, the rate of falls in nursing homes is double that for the same age group living outside of long-term care facilities. The issue is a very serious one according to the following statistics from the Centers for Disease Control:
- Each year a typical nursing home with 100 beds reports 100-200 falls.
- About 1800 nursing home residents die from fall-related injuries every year.
- Between half and three-quarters of nursing home residents fall each year.
- Residents who do fall, often do so more than once, on average 2.6 times a year.
- 10%-20% of nursing home falls cause serious injuries such as bone fractures.
Falls in nursing homes can result in death, injury, disability, functional decline, depression and reduced quality of life for your loved one. It is extremely important to be vigilant for conditions that might increase the chances of a serious fall.
Negligent Care Inadequate care can result in all sorts of injuries to a resident. Neglect can cause incontinence, malnutrition and weight loss, choking, clogged breathing tubes, dehydration, and a decline in the patient’s quality of life. Neglect can also be responsible for bedsores, infection, illness and a deterioration in a patient’s condition due to lack of treatment or proper medication and a failure to coordinate care. Inadequate supervision can lead to burns, falls, and the patient wandering off. In addition, negligent care can also result in patients being over or under medicated, or being improperly treated with antipsychotics or sedatives to make them "easier to handle". Many of these conditions dramatically impact a patient’s everyday quality of life, and if left untreated, can lead to serious injury, disability or even death.
Overmedication Sadly, there are nursing homes who overmedicate their residents on a regular basis because it makes them easier to handle, or because of inadequate staffing. Sometimes the overmedication is an unintentional mistake made by an overstressed, overworked employee. Other times the patient is overmedicated intentionally because they are aggressive, emotional or uncooperative. Keeping a patient sedated for long periods of time for any reason is called "chemical restraint" and can be very dangerous. Here are some facts about overmedicating:
- Fewer than 20% of nursing home residents require antipsychotic medication.
- However, more than 300,000 nursing home residents are on antipsychotics.
- More than 50% of residents taking antipsychotics have no reason for taking them.
- 17% of patients receive greater than the recommended daily dosage of antipsychotics.
- 15,000 nursing home residents die every year because of un-prescribed antipsychotics.
If you observe that a large percentage of patients at a nursing home appear to be on antipsychotic drugs, this may be cause for alarm. It may be a sign that the facility does not take precautions against overmedicating or has a regular practice of overmedicating. If your loved one seems to be acting differently, ask to see a log of his/her medications. Ask about any medications you are not familiar with; ask if they are sedatives or antipsychotics; and if so, why they are being administered, for how long and when the treatment will be over.
If the facility can give no credible, medical reason for your loved one to be medicated, speak to a doctor and insist that he or she be taken off any unnecessary sedatives or antipsychotics.
At The Collins Law Firm we help you through a difficult situation by navigating the legal issues involved, providing your loved ones with the care and safety they deserve, and fighting for justice for your family.