Omaha Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
Nursing home abuse is a widespread issue for the elderly community. Of the U.S. nursing home population, 44% have reportedly been abused, while only 10% of elders living at home have experienced abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse Services
This disparity shows that we must do more to protect our loved ones while they are in the care of others. The elderly are often targets for abuse and neglect because they often cannot fend or advocate for themselves, and they are not in constant contact with family members. If your loved one is in a nursing home or an adult daycare, thoroughly research the facility. The most common types of abuse are physical, emotional, and financial. Try to educate yourself on the signs of abuse so you can identify the issues quickly and keep your loved ones from harm.
Abuse and neglect are both instances of mistreatment; however, they are not considered the same thing. As a rule, abuse is an intentional, purposeful, knowing act that causes harm or serious risk to a vulnerable senior. Abuse can be physical, mental, or emotional, and can include any exploitation of an older person or violation of the basic rights they are entitled to.
While neglect is seen by many as a form of abuse, there are differentiating factors. Neglect is, by and large, a lack of action - a failure to perform caretaking duties and obligations. Neglect can be categorized as either passive or active, but that depends on the intent of the caregiver. Passive neglect is unintentional and can be the result of an undertrained or overworked caregiver, or can simply be the result of a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Active neglect is when a caregiver shows an intentional disregard for the needs of an elderly person.
Physical abuse is highly dangerous, especially when combined with other preexisting health issues that many seniors have. Physically abused elders have a 300% higher risk of death. Physical abuse can be easy to spot, as your loved one may have unexplained injuries such as bruises, welts, black eyes, cuts, broken bones, or head injuries. But, abuse can be harder to identify, too. Signs of physical abuse and neglect include:
- Weight loss
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Worsening overall health
- Poor hygiene
- Increased vulnerability to illness and infection
- Psychological changes
- Anxiety and fear of others
- Eating disorder
- Withdrawals and depression
- Refusal to take medications
- Changes in behavior and personality
Emotional abuse can be harder to detect since it does not leave physical scars. Being constantly berated or talked down to can have a negative effect on the victim’s physical and mental health. It is dehumanizing, and it can cause deep and painful suffering. The signs that a patient may be experiencing emotional abuse are:
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Inability to make decisions
- Loss of interest
- Low self-esteem
- Passive and non-communicative behavior
- Changes in behavior and personality
Even knowing the signs, it can still be hard to detect emotional abuse because behavioral changes in a senior citizen could be attributed to illness or struggling to deal with the loss of independence. If it is abuse or neglect, the victim’s behavior will often change when the abuser comes around. Signs and symptoms to look for include:
- Nervousness or cowering in the patient
- Abrupt changes in the patient’s mood
- Basic hygiene not being provided to the patient
- Aggression or tension between the patient and caregiver
- Caregiver refuses to let you talk to the patient alone
- Caregiver isolates the patient from family
- Caregiver gives contradicting statements about the patient’s behavior or injuries
- Caregiver treats the patient like a child
Sexual abuse is one of the most difficult forms of abuse to discuss because victims often fear speaking out about it or do not have the understanding or language to properly explain it, but it is extremely important to step in to protect them. Not only are cases of sexual abuse traumatizing, they can have a long-term effect on physical health, resulting in STDs and STIs. Signs to look out for include:
- Unexplained bruises or bleeding, specifically around the genitals
- Difficulty walking, sitting, or standing
- Torn or bloody sheets or clothing
- Sudden contraction of an STD or STI
- Sudden anxiety or symptoms of PTSD
- Self-harm or attempted suicide
Financial abuse is another common problem. Every year, over 500,000 seniors are victims of financial scams that cost up to $3 billion annually in lost funds. The elderly make up 70% of America’s wealth due to the fact that they have larger savings. This fact (coupled with the fact that they can be too trusting) can make them easy targets.
When reviewing your loved ones’ medical plan, make sure to also pay attention to their financial situation. It is important to pay attention to:
- Unexplained ATM withdrawals, bank transfers, or charges
- Sudden changes to wills, trusts, or powers of attorney
- Missing personal items
- Forged financial documents
- Lack of receipts or invoices for major purchases
Financial abuse may include theft, fraud, identity theft, and confidence games, such as:
- Taking an elderly person’s money, possessions, property, or other financial assets
- Committing fraud by forging an elderly person’s signature on documents or checks
- Telemarketing scams, cons, or confidence games to gain the elderly person’s trust and exploit them financially
- Refusing to care for an elderly person unless they pay the abuser in cash
- Refusing to allow an elderly person to access their financial assets
- Charging the elderly person’s insurance provider for unnecessary or non-existent treatments
- Misusing the power of attorney to steal or embezzle the elderly person’s funds
- Stealing an elderly person’s identity
Each case of financial abuse is different, and the perpetrator could be a staff member, administrator, medical professional, other resident, visitors, and even family members. When discussing financial matters, it is important to be extra vigilant, and you may wish to contact an estate planning attorney for assistance.
The effects of elder abuse do not just stop at physical or emotional trauma. The impact extends to:
- Social consequences: Seniors who are victimized by abuse can become isolated due to the trauma they experience, withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy. This can have a negative effect on their overall demeanor and quality of life.
- Need for increased medical care: The physical damage that occurs as a result of elder abuse can lead to lifelong conditions or injuries. This can lead to higher medical bills and the need for more services, which were unnecessary before.
These are just a few of the consequences that may occur when a senior is treated in an abusive manner.
There are a number of federal protections for seniors in the United States, including the Nursing Home Act, Elder Rights Act, and the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights, but the state of Nebraska also has specific laws regarding nursing homes. Enforced by the Adult Protective Services and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Adult Protective Services Act provides legal protection for the elderly in Nebraska, ensuring that their rights and safety is protected.
In addition to the legal protections, this act outlines specific regulations that protect seniors from abuse and offers a route to report abuse. The agency can open an investigation into a nursing home, assist law enforcement, obtain court orders, and provide support to you and your loved one.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused in a nursing home, you should not hesitate to contact the Adult Protective Services’ hotline at (800) 652-1999. This act also requires professionals, including doctors, administrators, and nursing home staff to report abuse as soon as it is known to them.
Taking legal action can be a daunting task, but for a matter as serious as nursing home abuse, contacting a law firm should be a top priority, and Bottlinger Law L.L.C. is here to help. We can provide assistance on how to regain your assets from financial abuse or file a lawsuit against a nursing home. Contact an Omaha personal injury attorney at our office at (402) 505-8234 for a free consultation.
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