It’s a sad reality, but nursing home abuse has been a growing problem in our society. According to WHO, 1 in 6 people aged 60 or above was subject to abuse in long-term care facilities in the past year. If that’s not scary enough, 2 out of 3 nursing home staff have admitted to abusing patients under their care. Due to this reason, many elders don’t feel safe due to the physical, emotional, or financial mistreatment that may occur in this environment.
So, how to stop nursing home abuse? What can prevent our elderly loved ones from being exploited and mistreated in long-term care homes? To find these answers, we have come up with this article that discusses the types of abuse in nursing homes, their potential reasons, signs, and essential steps and strategies to prevent elder abuse in nursing homes.
6 types of abuse in nursing homes
Types of abuse in nursing homes can range from physical to financial exploitation. It can be perpetrated by nursing home staff members, other residents, or even family members. Below are the six most common types of nursing home abuse:
1. Physical abuse
This type of abuse involves any type of physical force against a resident, such as hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, pinching, or otherwise causing harm. Physical abuse in nursing homes can also involve inappropriately or unnecessarily restraining residents or using physical means to punish them.
2. Psychological or emotional abuse
Psychological or emotional abuse in nursing homes is the intentional infliction of mental anguish by making threats or remarks designed to belittle or frighten a resident. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal insults, name-calling, criticism, intimidation tactics, and isolating a resident from others.
Neglect in nursing homes is the failure to provide proper care or attention to a resident’s basic needs, such as food, hygiene, and medical care. Examples of neglect include failing to provide adequate nutritious meal plans and hydration or providing inadequate supervision for those with cognitive impairment or mobility issues.
4. Sexual abuse
This form of mistreatment involves any kind of unwanted touching of an elderly person’s body with the intent to cause sexual arousal or gratification. It may include sexual assault, rape, or any other form of unwanted sexual contact. However, sexual abuse can also include verbal and emotional harassment of a sexual nature.
5. Financial exploitation
Financial exploitation in nursing homes occurs when someone takes advantage of a resident’s assets for their personal gain without the knowledge or consent of the resident. This type of exploitation can range from outright theft to or using manipulation and intimidation tactics to illegal activities such as fraudulent billing schemes, and identity theft through phishing and vishing scams.
6. Medication abuse
Another common and dangerous care home abuse is medication abuse. It occurs when medications are misused intentionally by either the staff member administering them or the resident receiving them. For example, it can occur when medications are used to sedate a resident against their will, or they are given incorrect dosages that are hazardous to their health.
What are the signs of nursing home abuse?
It can be heartbreaking even to think that your elderly loved one could be subject to abuse in nursing homes. But it is crucial to be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of potential mistreatment so that you can take necessary actions. Here are some of the common signs of nursing home abuse:
- New or unexplained bruises and injuries.
- Sudden changes in behavior, such as becoming unresponsive or withdrawn.
- Refusing to communicate.
- Expressions of fear or anxiety when around certain caregivers or other residents.
- Sudden health deterioration, such as bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, etc.
- Unexplained financial transactions and account withdrawals.
- Poor hygiene conditions, such as foul odors in the room, dirty laundry, soiled beds and furniture, insects in the room, etc.
- Sudden sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and bruises/pain in genital areas.
- Unauthorized use of drugs with known side effects, such as sedation drugs.
What are the reasons for nursing home abuse?
Nursing home abuse can be an incredibly devastating experience for the victims and their families. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the various causes of this kind of abuse, so preventative measures can be taken to protect vulnerable individuals from harm. Common causes of nursing home abuse include:
1. Poor nursing home administration
Poor nursing home administration can lead to abuse in nursing homes due to a lack of oversight, strong policies, resources, or capacity to protect their residents from neglect and mistreatment. Examples of poor nursing home administration include, substandard recording of patient care and financial resources, inadequate training, lack of communication among departments, unenforced policies, and insufficient reporting procedures.
2. Social isolation
Social isolation is a major factor contributing to abuse in a nursing home. When elderly individuals are isolated, struggle to communicate, and do not receive regular visits from family or friends, they become more vulnerable to mistreatment. In addition, it gives their abusers the idea that no one will notice or report their unscrupulous deeds.
3. Staff shortage
Another reason behind abuse of elderly in nursing homes is staff shortages. Many facilities may not have enough personnel to adequately monitor and care for residents, leading to abuse. Besides, overworked staff often feel exhausted and underappreciated. It affects their caregiving duties, leading to neglect, misconduct, and financial fraud.
4. Health problems
Elderly residents who suffer from physical health conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or mobility issues may be more vulnerable to nursing home abuse. However, it mostly happens due to their inability to recognize potential danger and report it. Besides, they are an easy target of financial scams as they struggle with memory issues and are less likely to remember suspicious activities.
5. Lack of training and background check
Without proper training and instruction in handling delicate elderly patients, staff may not be aware of the signs of abuse or how to respond and prevent it. Additionally, lack of proper background checks of caregivers and residents could lead to hiring and admitting individuals with problematic pasts. That could put other residents to risk.
6. Financial motivation
Financial motivation has long been known to be a major contributing factor to abuse in nursing homes. It is due to the fact that understaffing, cost-cutting practices, and inadequate pay can lead to caregivers feeling overburdened and overwhelmed which can cause them to act out their frustrations on residents or otherwise neglect them.
7. Inadequate security measures
Unfortunately, many long-term care facilities lack basic security measures that could help reduce the chances of elder abuse in nursing homes. Lack of surveillance cameras, locked doors and windows, alarm systems, or technological devices can give perpetrators access to vulnerable victims without anyone noticing. Furthermore, inadequate security can lead to theft or vandalism, putting staff and residents at risk.
How to stop nursing home abuse?
Nursing home mistreatment is a serious issue and requires collective actions of families, facility administration, and staff to prevent it. Moreover, it requires comprehensive strategies that involve both prevention and intervention. We will now explore some steps and strategies to prevent nursing home abuse.
1. Educate yourself about the forms of abuse
In order to know how to stop nursing home abuse, the first step is to educate yourself on how to recognize these abuses. Be aware of common signs of mistreatment, such as bruises, fractures, behavioral changes, or improper use of medications that cannot be adequately explained. Furthermore, encourage others in your community to increase awareness against elder abuse by attending seminars on prevention methods, joining advocacy groups, and talking openly about this critical issue with family members and friends.
2. Research on potential nursing home and their staff
It is important for individuals considering entering a nursing home to do extensive research on the facility and its staff to ensure that it is reputable and well-run. Additionally, consider visiting the facility in person to evaluate its cleanliness, safety measures, and the attitudes of its staff members. Furthermore, potential residents should ask detailed questions about the quality of their caregivers, training processes, background checks and screening procedures, record of complaints or violations, and disciplinary policies to better understand how they respond to abuse issues.
3. Ensure regular visits from family and friends
Ensure your loved one has regular visits from family and friends who are aware of the signs of elder abuse. Regular visitation can help keep an eye on their physical and mental well-being as well as any changes in behavior that could indicate a problem. If you cannot visit physically; connect via phone, social media, or video calls. It helps maintain a sense of connection while providing another layer of protection against mistreatment. Ask questions about their care and ensure that any issues they raise are addressed appropriately.
4. Monitor your loved one’s finances
Always be aware of your loved one’s finances to ensure they aren’t being taken advantage of financially by staff members or other residents at the facility. Look out for large withdrawals from their bank account without explanation, as well as unapproved charges on their credit card statements or other suspicious activities related to their financial accounts. By staying vigilant and monitoring your loved one’s finances closely, you can maximize the chances of preventing financial scams at care homes.
5. Encourage communication
If you are wondering how to stop nursing home abuse, encourage your loved one to speak up if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable around certain staff members or fellow residents at the facility. Let them know that there are people available to help them if they ever have a problem, and remind them that they don’t have to suffer in silence. Also, remember that many patients refuse to communicate out of fear, trauma, or embarrassment. So, be patient with them, talk to them gently, and use reassuring techniques to encourage communication.
6. Check medical records regularly
Monitor your loved one’s medical records for unexplained injuries or sudden changes in health conditions. The review should include an examination of medications and treatments prescribed, as well as any changes in vitals, such as blood pressure or heart rate. Additionally, it is important to ensure that caregivers are properly administering medications, such as checking for correct dosage amounts and verifying that the drugs have been dispensed on time. Finally, request a psychosocial assessment if you suspect physical or emotional abuse.
7. Provide adequate training to staff
Nursing homes must have skilled and compassionate staff who are adequately trained to handle abuse and neglect situations. In addition, making sure there are enough qualified supervisors can help reduce instances of mistreatment. Because regular supervision provides accountability for those providing direct care services. Furthermore, empowering staff by providing access to reporting systems and complaint procedures encourages them to take action whenever they suspect something amiss – this could potentially stop further mistreatment before serious damage occurs.
8. Report any suspected abuse immediately
To prevent nursing home abuse, any suspected abuse must get reported immediately. Speak up if you suspect something isn’t right with your loved one’s care. Whether you are visiting in person or over the phone, bring up any issues you notice so they can be properly addressed. Report any suspicions of abuse to the nursing home administrator or direct them to the local long-term care ombudsman. Additionally, document the details like time, date, and witnesses along with photographic evidence if available.
- Many forms of abuse take place in nursing homes, and we need to educate ourselves and stay alert to recognize the signs.
- Various social, financial, psychological, and administrative factors trigger and perpetuate care home abuse.
- There is no alternative to reporting elder abuse in nursing homes and taking other preventive measures like researching the facility, checking health and financial records, and regular communication with the resident.
It is with great hope that we as a society can not only identify the signs of care home abuse but actively work to prevent it from occurring in the first place. We have tried our best to highlight how to stop nursing home abuse and how we can better protect our loved ones living in a senior living facility. However, there is still much room for improvement when it comes to awareness and education about this issue.
We encourage every reader to do their part. Whether it’s by advocating for changes in policies, or reporting any misconduct to the legal authorities, everyone should be mindful of how they can assist in making this problem a thing of the past. We hope our post serves as a call to action and that you will join us in our efforts to end nursing home abuse.
- What are the risk factors of elder abuse?
According to NCOA, around 5 million older adults face some form of abuse. The most prominent risk factors associated with elder abuse include:
- Cognitive impairment or disability
- Frailty or health problems
- Dependence on caregivers
- Mental health issues
- Financial vulnerability
- Substance use disorders
- Lack of social support and isolation
- What are the 3 most common complaints about nursing homes?
The three most common complaints about nursing homes involve staffing shortage issues, unhygienic living conditions, and poor food quality. Apart from these, many people express dissatisfaction over slow response times, neglect and abuse, and lack of socializing opportunities.
- How to anonymously report a nursing home?
If you believe a nursing home is not providing the necessary care and attention to its residents, it is important to report them and you can do it anonymously as well. Here are a few ways to file an anonymous report:
- Call nursing home abuse hotline of your state
- Connect with your local area Ombudsman
- Get in touch with the Adult Protective Services (APS) in your state
- Call Eldercare Locators toll-free nursing home abuse complaint hotline at 1-800-677-1116
- File a confidential report to NAPSA
- Call 911 and make an anonymous report
- How to report a facility to the State?
Reporting a nursing facility to the State can be done by filing a complaint with the state’s long-term care Ombudsman, who is responsible for protecting the health, safety and rights of nursing home residents. To do this, you will need to provide contact information for yourself and the facility and detailed information about what has happened or is happening to support your complaint.