Types of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
There are several main categories of nursing home abuse and neglect:
- Physical Abuse – Some residents may be physically assaulted by members of the nursing home staff. Residents may be physically harmed during particularly aggressive attempts to get them to comply with certain orders. The perpetrator of physical injury is often a nursing home employee, but it may be possible a third party who committed the abuse. Nursing homes have an obligation to ensure the safety of their residents when they are admitting people onto their property.
- Emotional Abuse – The most common type of emotional abuse in a nursing home is verbal by nursing home staff. Some employees dehumanize residents with cruel remarks or commit other kinds of psychological injury. Victims of emotional abuse are usually much less likely to tell a loved one about their treatment out of shame or fear. Over time, the continuing abuse further leads to a more isolated state for the resident.
- Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse refers to any sexual contact without the resident’s consent, often by means of threat or force. The perpetrators are often employees, but other residents or even visitors can also commit sexual harm. When third parties commit sexual abuse, the nursing home can still be held liable for failing to keep the resident safe. Many victims are too frightened and ashamed to report the assault, sometimes thinking it was their fault. Many families do not realize what has occurred until a victim is diagnosed with an STD.
- Neglect – Neglect is the least direct form of abuse, but it is still incredibly harmful. Neglect includes failing to provide the resident with food, water, healthcare, and hygiene. Neglect is often the result of employees simply not taking their jobs seriously, though it can also be malicious in nature.
- Financial Abuse – Financial crimes are particularly common among nursing home residents, particularly among elderly residents who may be prone to confusion, such as those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Financial abuse can range from stealing cash to convincing the resident to alter their will in the abuser’s favor. Family members should monitor the financial accounts of their loved ones to make sure no questionable activity is occurring.
The nursing home is responsible for keeping its residents safe, healthy, and comfortable. When they fail in this duty by allowing harm to occur, regardless of the form the abuse takes, they may be held financially responsible.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse
Some signs of nursing home injury are more obvious than others. Different kinds of abuse exhibit different warning signs. Look out for the following signs if you suspect your loved one may be a victim:
- Physical Abuse
- Broken bones
- Signs of restraint such as burns on ankles or wrists
- Broken eyeglasses
- Visible discomfort in the presence of certain staff members
- Bruises or cuts without explanation
- Emotional Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Sexually-transmitted disease diagnosis
- Bruised genital areas
- Unwashed clothes and bedding
- Unexplained weight loss
- Financial Exploitation
- Major purchases on a bank card
- Unexplained large withdrawals
- Sudden changes to wills or other estate planning documents
You should file complaints with the facility if you suspect nursing home abuse or neglectful behavior.
Elder Abuse Statistics
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Nursing Home Data Compendium reports that South Carolina has 146 for-profit nursing homes, 31 non-profit nursing homes, and 11 government-owned nursing homes. Of the 188 nursing homes, the Compendium reported that 155 were dually certified for Medicaid and Medicare, while 33 facilities were Medicare only.
According to the Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2016-17, 536 nursing home complaints in 2017 were related to dignity or respect (staff attitudes), 402 were related to physical abuse, 364 were related to gross neglect, and 350 were related to accidents and improper handling. From July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, the Ombudsman program investigated 7,895 complaints.
A study cited in the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) research brief on abuse of residents of long-term care facilities found 30 percent of adults with disabilities who used personal assistance service (PAS) for support of activities of daily living reported one or more types of mistreatment by their primary provider. According to the brief, Bureau of Justice statistics showed the age-adjusted, serious violent crime victimization rate for persons with disabilities was triple the rate for those without disabilities.
According to the NCEA, National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) data showed 14,258 of approximately 188,599 complaints reported to Ombudsman programs involved abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse
The South Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging operates the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Long Term Care Ombudsmen resolve complaints made by or for residents of long-term care facilities in matters relating to violations of rights and abuse, neglect, or exploitation, in addition to other issues.
You should take preventative measures when you suspect abuse. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) states that complaints concerning abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect, should be made directly to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging.
If you suspect abuse or neglect in a long-term care facility, you should call the Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 1-800-868-9095. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman states that it investigates over 8,000 complaints annually.