What Does Nursing Home Abuse Look Like?

Almost thirty years ago, the Congress of the United States, the medical community throughout America, and then president, Ronald Reagan, came together to expose and address an epidemic problem that too many elderly residents of our nation's nursing homes were being abused, neglected and given inadequate care. President Reagan then signed the Nursing Home Reform Act, as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. That Ronald Reagan initiative changed forever society's legal expectations of nursing home care in America.

Because of Ronald Reagan, nursing homes wanting Medicare or Medicaid funding must provide services so that each resident can "attain and maintain his/her highest practicable physical, mental and psycho-social well-being." 42 U.S.C. 1395i-3(b)(4) and 42 C.F.R. 483.25. It is the law. Nursing homes are not warehouses. The nursing and medical care provided in a nursing home must live up to the minimum standards set by President Reagan. His hope to dramatically improve and clean up the nursing home industry is still attainable. Unfortunately, there still are nursing homes in our community that fall dramatically short of even the most basic care required by law.

Here are some signs of abuse you should watch for if you have a loved one in a nursing home. Some signs are easy to see, but others can be hidden from sight. Take some time every so often to do an assessment of the nursing home conditions of your loved one.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Although most facilities provide good care, some nursing homes, because of bad management, poor corporate owner support, may cause avoidable suffering and death. Sadly, many nursing home residents are starved, dehydrated, over-medicated, and suffer painful pressure sores. In addition, they may be isolated, ignored, and deprived of social contact and stimulation.

The following is a list of some forms of nursing home abuse:

  • Assault and battery
  • Sexual assault and battery
  • Rape
  • Broken bones
  • Unreasonable physical constraint
  • Prolonged deprivation of food or water
  • Use of physical restraints, like straps or belts
  • Use of chemical restraints, like sedatives or sleeping medications
  • Use of psychotropic or other medications for any purpose not authorized by a physician
  • Excessive dosages of medication
  • Withholding needed medication
  • Confinement to a room or fixed location

Nursing home abuse victimizes the most vulnerable of our community. Although many residents can report mistreatment, some cannot even describe what happened. If your relative or friend is a nursing home resident, you can help by watching out for signs of abuse, including:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Inability of nursing home staff to give an adequate explanation of a resident's condition
  • Open wounds, cuts, bruises, welts, or bedsores
  • Slapping, pushing, shaking or beating
  • Non-verbal signs from the nursing home resident that something is wrong, such as:
    • Unusual emotional outbursts or agitation
    • Extreme withdrawal or lack of communication
    • Unusual behavior, like sucking, biting, rocking, etc.
    • Humiliating, insulting, frightening, threatening or ignoring behavior towards family and friends
    • Desire to be isolated from other people

These lists are no more than starting points. When it comes to abuse, if you feel something may be wrong, it probably is. If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or elder abuse in Western Iowa or Nebraska, you should take action quickly and contact us at 402-934-5500 to set up a free consultation with Carlson & Burnett attorney, Rich Hitz. Rich frequently addresses audiences in Nebraska and Iowa on nursing home abuse and neglect issues and has led and organized educational seminars for other lawyers in an effort to increase professional awareness and understanding of these issues.

Retrieved from: "Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect" by Marya Sieminski, 8/28/2007

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