When family members make the tough decision to place their loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility, they should be able to do so with the peace of mind knowing that their loved one will be taken care of. Unfortunately, there are times when abuses occur inside a nursing home facility. Nursing home abuse is abhorrent, but it is also vastly underreported. It is estimated that as many as 5,000,000 elders are abused each year but only 1 in 25 cases of abuse is reported to authorities. When family members discover that their loved one has been abused in a nursing home, or if they suspect that abuse has occurred, they need to know where to turn. At Siegel Law, we want to take a moment to discuss some nursing home statistics that are available. By sharing this information with you, we hope that you were able to make an informed decision about the best course of action for your loved one moving forward.
Statistics for Nursing Home Abuse
Data from the National Council on Aging shows us that there are approximately 1.4 million people living in nursing homes throughout the United States. We also have data that suggests that one out of every ten people over the age of 65 will experience some form of elder abuse each year in this country. That number is astounding. There are various types of abuse that can occur in nursing homes. This includes:
Physical abuse – 27.4%
Resident-on-resident abuse – 22.1%
Sexual abuse – 7.9%
Emotional abuse – 19.4%
Financial exploitation – 7.9%
Neglect of basic necessities – 4.2% (though likely higher)
A nation-wide survey of nursing home staff indicates that 36% of nursing home residents have witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly resident in the previous year.
Data available from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) indicates that women are more likely to suffer from elder abuse than men. Around two out of every three elder abuse victims are women.
Those with mental impairments, particularly those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, are more vulnerable to abuse than others. Some studies indicate that approximately 50% of those with dementia are abused or neglected.
A study by the World Health Organization discovered that, shockingly, 64% of nursing home staff members admitted to abusing residents in 2017. Additionally, US government studies have indicated that one out of every five emergency room visits of nursing home residents was attributed to some form of neglect or abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse Is Underreported
Most studies indicate that nursing home abuse, as with all types of elder abuse, is vastly underreported. There are various reasons given for this. Only around one out of every 14 incidents of elder abuse are formally reported, often because family members are the ones abusing an elderly person, and the elderly person does not want to report them. When most people think of nursing home abuse, they think of it occurring at the hands of nursing home staff. While this is certainly one type of abuse, family members can still abuse those inside of nursing homes. This can include physical and emotional abuse during visitations or financial exploitation outside of the nursing home.
Additionally, many elderly residents fear reprisals if they do report nursing home abuse. If a nursing home staff member(s) is responsible for the abuse, then the elderly resident may be afraid of further harm should they report the abuse somebody.
Unfortunately, there are also times when victims of nursing home abuse are unable to report that anything has occurred. Mental or physical disabilities may prevent an elderly resident from telling somebody what is happening to them. In some instances, an abuse victim may not realize that the abuse is even occurring.
The nursing home population continues to grow in the US. Data from the Population Reference Bureau indicates that there will be nearly two million nursing home residents by 2030. As the nursing home population expands, we need to be much more cognizant of the types of abuse that can occur and develop systemic institutional checks that will prevent the abuse.
Causes of Nursing Home Abuse
While the simple explanation such as “this type of abuse is only committed by bad people” could be a conclusion, the reality is that nursing home abuse typically has deeper systemic causes. Some of the main causes of nursing home abuse include:
Underpaid nursing home staff
Lack of nursing home staff training
Improperly qualified or certified nurses in nursing homes
A shortage of resources in a nursing home
A lack of supervision of nursing home staff
Family members of nursing home residents need to continually be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of abuse. This can include both physical signs of abuse as well as emotional and psychological symptoms:
Unexplained broken bones, dislocated bones, or sprains
Unexplained bruising, scars, or welts on the body
Signs of physical restraint around a resident’s wrists
Bruising in the genital, buttocks, or breast areas
Observable malnutrition or dehydration
Dirty rooms, bedding, or clothing
Continual and unexplained infections, to include STIs
Sudden changes in mood or behavior
The nursing home resident showing fear around certain staff
Feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger
Do You Need a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney?
If you suspect that your loved one has been abused in a nursing home facility, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Siegel Law, we have extensive experience handling nursing home abuse cases throughout California. Our competent and experienced team is not afraid to take these cases, and our goal is to stand up for the rights of those who cannot do so themselves. Our nursing home abuse lawyers will investigate every aspect of your case in order to secure the compensation that your loved one and your family are entitled to. This could include coverage of:
Any medical expenses related to the abuse
The cost of relocation to a new facility
Pain and suffering damages
Loss of personal enjoyment damages
Possible punitive damages against a grossly negligent facility