It’s never easy to move an elderly loved one into a nursing home, but when they can no longer care for themselves, a nursing home may be the best place for them.
Unfortunately, the reality is that abuses do occur in nursing homes, just as they occur in schools and daycare centers for children. So how can you tell if your loved one is being abused and what can you do about it?
Discovering Nursing Home Abuse
Even older adults are reluctant to openly speak about abuse. This is because the abuser instills a state of fear and the abused knows that he or she can’t be protected from reprisals 24 hours a day. This presents a problem for loved ones, especially when suspicions are raised.
How does one confirm that abuse is really taking place to their loved one by someone in the nursing home?
There are some common signs that can indicate when something is going on. Identifying the signs of nursing home abuse are often apparent, if you’re observant and know what to look for.
One of the more obvious signs is unexplained cuts and bruises, though they may be in areas covered by clothing. A discreet survey of the individual may uncover such injuries.
If the abuse takes the form of neglect, the nursing home resident may experience sudden weight loss or cracked lips from dehydration. Similarly, other abuses may cause the individual to feel depressed, which can also lead to a loss of appetite and the ensuing weight loss.
Also, be aware of unsanitary conditions. Even small matters may be suggestive of a larger problem of neglect. This may be one reason family and other guests may have to wait to see their loved ones in the nursing home. A delay in visiting hours might indicate that staff members attempting to hide signs of abuse and neglect, particularly if the delays are common or frequent.
When Can a Family File a Lawsuit Over Nursing Home Abuse?
This is a delicate topic because the law is very specific in this regard.
Under most circumstances, only the injured party or the individual being abused can file a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home over alleged abuse. In situations where the nursing home resident is physically or mentally unable to act on their own behalf, a legal guardian may file on behalf of the resident. Similarly, an organization acting on the abused person’s behalf may file the lawsuit.
In pursuing the case, the plaintiff must be able to prove the elements of a civil lawsuit in relation to the nursing home abuse. The first element is the easiest to prove because it requires that the plaintiff show the nursing home’s obligation of a duty of care. This is established in the contract that was signed at the time the resident was admitted into the facility.
Next, they must show that the nursing home staff breached that duty of care, either through negligence or deliberate acts.
This ties into the third and final element since the plaintiff must also show that the breach caused harm to the plaintiff. This means showing evidence of physical abuse by staff members, such as injuries and bruises, or showing general neglect, by providing photographs of a poorly maintained facility.
Winning this type of personal injury lawsuit can result in a damage award that takes several factors into consideration. One primary concern is the physical pain and suffering experienced by the plaintiff, but mental and emotional suffering are also considered.
Additionally, the defendant will have to pay for any additional medical treatments required by the neglect. This includes psychological counseling, as well as treatment for physical injuries.
It’s important that we can have confidence in the professionals assigned to care for our elderly loved ones. This is especially true in cases where that care is an ongoing situation out of our control. It’s unfortunate that abuses in these situations occur, but when they do, we must take action to stop them from continuing.
By pursuing a civil case, you can help your loved one resolve a devastating situation, bring attention to the problem, and possibly gain compensation for the treatment of injuries and psychological damages that those abuses have incurred.