Nursing home abuse is a widespread problem that is made worse by the fact that it is believed to be underreported. Many nursing home residents do not speak out about abuse and neglect because they are unable to due to illness and infirmity, or because they are scared.

A research brief from the National Center on Elder Abuse says that among 2,000 nursing home residents surveyed, 95 percent claimed they had been neglected or knew of a resident who had been neglected. Forty-four percent of nursing home residents in the survey said they had been abused.

A 2010 study published in Nursing Management examining factors that affect abuse of older people in nursing homes found that more than half of the nursing home staff members surveyed admitted mistreating an elderly patient in the prior year through neglect, physical abuse, or mental abuse. Two-thirds of the incidents involved neglect.

The Kentucky Elder Abuse Report 2013 says that from 2009 through 2013 it received 3,196 allegations related to abuse, neglect or misappropriation of residents’ property in long-term care facilities.

There is help available if you or someone you know is being abused in a nursing home. Please contact the Becker Law Office for advice if you suspect abuse or neglect in a nursing home in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, or Tennessee.

A nursing home resident who has been abused may have physical injuries or may have sudden unexpected changes in behavior, particularly in his or her relationships with nursing home staff. Some nursing home abuse results in damage to or loss of the resident’s possessions.

Active mistreatment of nursing home residents is generally categorized as physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.

A nursing home resident subjected to physical or sexual abuse may have injuries such as cuts, bruises, fractures, black eyes, welts, or ligature marks at the wrists or ankles from the use of restraints.

A victim of sexual abuse may have injuries about their groin, breasts or anus. Their bed sheets or clothing may be torn or marred by blood or other bodily fluids.

Passive mistreatment of a resident is considered nursing home neglect. It is usually reflected in a lack of care, such as dehydration, poor nutrition or hygiene, dirty clothing or bed linens, and failure to provide medication or medical assistance for illness or injury, including bed sores.

Abuse victims also suffer from psychological trauma. They may become easily agitated, withdrawn and nonresponsive, or disinterested in activities they usually enjoy. Emotional mistreatment, like verbal abuse, isolating (locking a resident in their room) or shunning, can also cause sudden psychological changes in an abuse victim.

In some cases of abuse, personal property like eyeglasses, hearing aids, clothing, photos, clocks, or TVs, may be damaged.

Sudden or unexpected changes in a nursing home resident’s bank account, will, property deeds or other financial documents may indicate financial abuse.

In all cases, if a nursing home resident says they are being hurt or abused, their complaint should be taken seriously and investigated.

The National Center on Elder Abuse provides more information about the types and signs of abusive treatment common among senior citizens.

First and foremost, if you believe any nursing home resident’s life is in danger, you should obtain medical assistance for them. Notify nursing home staff and, if you are not satisfied with their response, phone local law enforcement or 911.

Next, you should notify the nursing home’s management of your concerns. This should be done verbally right away and followed up in writing.

Save a copy of the letter to management for your files, and file a similar complaint with your state’s nursing home regulatory body:

Maintain copies of any communication from the state or nursing home about your complaint.

You should also contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. An attorney can act more quickly than a government bureaucracy to help you and will work for your interests.

The Becker Law Office assists residents of long-term care facilities and their families in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. We can help correct a dangerous or unlawful situation, and help you obtain compensation for the harm your loved one has suffered.

Through legal action, a negligent nursing home may be compelled to compensate a resident for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other losses, including the cost of relocating a resident if necessary.

While injuries from falls are common among the elderly, they should not occur in a nursing home. Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that residents remain healthy and secure unless they suffer from an illness that cannot be prevented.

The federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees nursing home residents’ rights. It says nursing homes are to care for residents in a way that maintains or enhances their quality of life, and ensure that their health or well-being does not decline unless it is caused by unavoidable medical reasons.

Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,800 older adults living in nursing homes die each year from fall-related injuries and those who survive falls frequently suffer hip fractures and head injuries that result in permanent disability and reduced quality of life.

Nursing home residents who are at risk of falling should be provided assistive devices (walkers, wheelchairs, etc.) and personal assistance when moving between bed and chairs, for bathing and toileting. Nursing homes should also ensure that the home’s environment is free of fall hazards, such as wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height, etc.

If you are concerned about the cause of your loved one’s fall in a nursing home, we suggest you contact the Becker Law Office to discuss this matter further. You can also read more about how we help those who have been injured in falls in nursing homes and hospitals.

A lawyer can step in to protect your loved one’s rights and best interests when nursing home abuse or neglect is suspected. Sometimes just being contacted by an attorney is enough to spur nursing home management into needed corrective action. If your loved one has been harmed, an attorney can help you obtain medical care and compensation.

A nursing home abuse lawyer from the Becker Law Office can investigate if you suspect a loved one has been subjected to abuse or neglect at a nursing home. We can help you obtain medical assistance for a nursing home resident and/or help you to relocate your loved one if that is necessary for their physical or mental well-being.

If you have not already filed a complaint with a long-term care ombudsman or a nursing home regulatory board in your state, we can help you do this.

Most often, if there is a serious or systemic problem at a nursing home, it is only identified and corrected after a complaint is investigated by an outside agency or an attorney working on a victim’s behalf. The complaint you file may protect other residents from suffering from similar neglect or abuse.

In addition to spurring action to correct a problem, an attorney can determine whether an abuse or neglect victim deserves to be compensated for the pain, suffering, costs and/or losses they have endured. A lawsuit or a settlement negotiated with the nursing home may result in a payment for medical expenses incurred because of the abuse or neglect, pain and suffering, financial or personal property losses, and more.

If a nursing home resident is too ill or infirm to act on their own behalf, an attorney can help a family member obtain court-appointed guardianship status to pursue a legal complaint against the nursing home.

The American Association for Justice has a full explanation of how the civil justice system protects elderly Americans.