Nursing home abuse, protecting your loved one

On behalf of John Peterson

Your aging loved one has the right to live free of abuse.

Moving a loved one into a care facility is difficult for any family. There are situations where it is no longer feasible or safe to try to care for an aging parent or grandparent without the help of trained medical professionals. We rely on nursing homes to provide the necessary medical care and the safe environment that we cannot provide ourselves. However, too often these types of facilities are not providing our loved ones with the care that they need and deserve. Instead, neglect and abuse are becoming all too common.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 95 percent of nursing home residents have reported neglect and 44 percent have reported abuse of themselves or other residents. These numbers are of reported incidents. When vulnerable adults are involved, the numbers could be much higher. Often family members must step in and protect their loved ones who are no longer able to protect themselves. For relatives, it is important to understand what types of abuse are common in a nursing home setting, what warning signs to look for and how to protect a loved one who may be a victim of neglect or other forms of abuse.

Spotting elder abuse

Elder abuse comes in many different forms, including physical, emotional or sexual abuse; as well as, abandonment or neglect, financial exploitation and healthcare fraud. Family members should be aware that some signs of abuse can be similar to symptoms of certain medical ailments and physical or mental deterioration. However, the following warning signs should not be dismissed and should be considered a red flag to further inquiry. Some indications of abuse may include:

  • Unexplained falls
  • Bruises, sprains or broken bones
  • Weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Bedsores or pressure ulcers
  • Use of physical or chemical restraints (heavy sedation or anything restricting freedom of movement)
  • Staff inattention (incorrectly administering medications, hygiene deficiencies, untreated illnesses)
  • Withdrawal or sudden changes in personality
  • Caregiver refusal to allow a resident to visit family members unsupervised

In addition to some common indicators of physical or emotional abuse, other red flags may include double billing, sudden changes in your relative's bank accounts and suspicious changes to legal documents (i.e. will or power of attorney).

Victim rights and stopping the mistreatment

If you suspect that your family member is being abused, the first step is to report it. In Wisconsin, accounts of possible nursing home abuse should be reported with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services here. Residents are protected under state and federal law against abuse, neglect and other actions or behaviors that may impede their quality of life.

It is important for family members to know the risk factors in order to catch any warning signs that may present themselves. Document any evidence of neglect or abuse and speak to an attorney experienced in protecting victims of nursing home abuse. These types of cases can be complicated; our attorneys at Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C. can help you protect your loved one. Contact our firm to discuss your suspicions, the next steps to protect your relative and your legal options moving forward.