America's nursing homes are in the midst of a major crisis. Staffing shortages, industry consolidation, aging demographics, and other factors have created an environment in which our seniors are increasingly receiving substandard care. As the population continues to age and the job market remains tight, these conditions are only expected to get worse for the foreseeable future.
Just how bad is the problem of nursing home abuse? An ABC News report from the early 2000s found that elder abuse occurs in at least one out of every three nursing homes in the United States. Since that report, conditions in nursing homes have continued to decline, and today it is believed that approximately five million seniors are abused each year.
Sadly, the studies and estimates that we have vastly understate the problem. This is because most cases of elder abuse go unreported. Seniors are often very hesitant to report nursing home abuse, and it is not hard to see why. Nursing home residents are dependent on their caregivers for all of their everyday needs, and if they complain about the way they are treated, there is an inherent fear of retaliation if they are not believed and they remain under the care of their abuser.
Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Alabama families who placed their aging loved ones in a nursing facility have the right to expect that they will be given the care they need and deserve. And it is an outrage when they learn that a facility which they entrusted to care for an elderly family member has violated that trust by fostering an environment in which neglect and abuse occurs.
For reasons mentioned earlier, your loved one may be afraid to tell you about the abuse. Because of this, it is important to know what signs to look for that may be an indication that abuse is occurring.
Here are some of the most common warning signs of nursing home neglect or abuse:
- Unexplained Injuries or Hospitalizations: As we age, we become more susceptible to injuries such as falls, fractures, bruises, etc. So, a nursing home resident suffering an injury is not uncommon. However, if the staff and even your loved one have a hard time explaining what happened, this is definitely cause for alarm. Injuries can happen for valid reasons, but they can also happen because of physical or sexual abuse or even neglect.
- Deterioration in Condition: Along the same lines as the previous sign, if your loved one was in relatively good health and their condition began to rapidly deteriorate, this is also reason for concern. People tend to develop various health conditions as they age, but rapid and unexplained health deterioration could be a sign of something far worse.
- Poor Hygiene: Many nursing home residents are not physically and/or mentally able to care for themselves, so they must rely on staff to do this for them. If you notice signs of poor hygiene or unsanitary living conditions such as unwashed hair and body, poor dental care, overgrown nails, soiled clothes or bedding, etc., it is a strong indication that, at the very least, they are being neglected.
- Reluctance to Speak when Staff is Present: If an elderly nursing home resident is being abused by a certain staff member, they may feel intimidated and suddenly stop talking when this person is nearby. If your loved one reacts to any facility employees this way, this should raise a red flag. And if you are not allowed to visit with your loved one without an employee being present, this is even further cause for concern.
- Depression or Other Mood/Behavior Changes: If your loved one suddenly becomes depressed, anxious, fearful, or has other unexplained mood or behavioral changes, this could be a sign that they are being abused or neglected. Oftentimes, seniors who are in this situation begin to lose hope. If you notice any behavior that seems out of character, this is definitely something you want to dig into further.
Steps to Take if you Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you believe that your loved one may be subjected to neglect or abuse in an Alabama nursing facility, it is important to take immediate action to rectify the situation. If this is a life-threatening or emergency situation, call 911 right away for help.
If you have suspicions of abuse, fully document all the signs you have observed, and try to speak with your loved one about this privately (if possible). You should also report what you've seen to a facility manager or supervisor. If no action is taken by those in charge of the facility, you can report the abuse to the Alabama Adult Protective Services by calling (334) 242-1350 or toll-free at (800) 458-7214.
Finally, if you suspect your loved one is being abused in an Alabama nursing home, it is best to get in contact with an experienced personal injury lawyer and soon as possible. Your loved one may have a right to damages for what the nursing home and has done to them, but it is important to get an attorney involved as soon as possible, so your legal right to compensation can be protected. Call The Mike Bell Firm today at 205-666-6000 to discuss your case. You may also message us through our online contact form.