Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers in Fairbanks, Alaska
Nursing home abuse is, unfortunately, far more common than most of us realize. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, there are approximately 3.2 million people in the United States currently living in nursing homes who are subject to nursing home abuse.
Nearly two decades ago, 2,000 residents of nursing homes were surveyed and asked whether they had suffered any type of abuse. Forty-four percent said they had suffered from abuse while in the nursing home, and more than 95 percent said they had been neglected by their caregivers.
The primary complaints, according to NHAC, included exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Elderly nursing home patients who suffer abuse, have a 300 percent greater risk of death as compared to an elderly nursing home patient who does not suffer abuse.
Those who suffer abuse have elevated levels of stress and psychological distress, as well as suffering from decreased levels of confidence in the ability to exert some level of control over motivation, social environment, and behavior.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can come in many forms, including physical abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. One elderly resident of a nursing home who had been slapped, pushed, force-fed, yelled at and pinched, told a state investigator, “I don’t want to be afraid.”
This is emotional abuse at its worst, stemming from physical and mental abuse. As the elderly become more physically frail, they become less able to stand up to bullying behaviors or to physically respond when attacked. When hearing, sight, and the ability to think clearly diminish, this vulnerable group can be taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.
Physical abuse can include hitting, shoving, pinching, kicking, slapping, the use of restraints or confinement, or the inappropriate use of prescription drugs. Emotional and mental abuse can take the form of intimidation through yelling, making verbal threats, or making threatening gestures.
Emotional and mental abuse can also include using humiliation and ridicule against the elderly person, isolating the person from their friends, family and enjoyed activities, or simply ignoring the elderly person altogether. Isolation can be very damaging to an elderly person; social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality, and feelings of loneliness negatively affect both physical and mental health. The risk of dementia for an elderly person increases significantly when a person feels socially isolated.
Sexual abuse of the elderly can involve an actual physical sex act or forcing an elderly person to undress as punishment. Signs of sexual abuse against an elderly person include problems walking or sitting, pelvic injuries, the development of STDs, torn, bloody or stained underwear, bruises on the inner thighs or genitals, pain, irritation, bruising or bleeding from the anus, panic attacks, signs of PTSD, agitation, social or emotional withdrawal from loved ones, suicide attempts, or engaging in inappropriate, unusual, or aggressive sexual activities.
Financial abuse of the elderly occurs when the elderly person’s money, property, or assets are being illegally or improperly used. This could include cashing an elderly person’s checks without their knowledge or authorization or deceiving an elderly person into signing legal documents.
Loved ones might recognize financial abuse by the withdrawal of large sums of money or sudden changes in the manner in which an elderly person typically manages his or her financial affairs. Financial abuse of an elderly person can occur when that person resides in a nursing home, as a staff member may deceive the person or may even threaten the elderly person into giving them passwords, checks, bank cards or deeds to property.
Signs of physical abuse can include:
- Marks on the wrists, ankles, or other signs of restraint;
- Refusal from the nursing home staff to allow family members to visit with their loved one alone;
- Frequent falls;
- Unexplained dislocations, sprains, or broken bones;
- Unexplained scars, welts, or bruises, or
- Reports of a drug overdose.
Signs of nursing home neglect is often mistaken for the normal signs of aging, and can include:
- Unusual weight loss;
- Unsanitary bedding and clothing;
- Bed sores;
- Being dirty or unbathed, and
- Wearing unsuitable clothing for the weather.
Signs of emotional abuse can be more difficult to pinpoint, but can include:
- Emotional withdrawal;
- Agitation, becoming withdrawn or non-communicative;
- Being upset easily, and
- Behavior which mimics dementia such as mumbling or rocking.
Helping Your Loved One Avoid Nursing Home Abuse
It is important to pay careful attention to your loved one and to note any changes in behavior or physical condition. Isolation may be one of the most common signs that there is something amiss with the care your loved is receiving at the nursing home.
When the elder person stops talking to others, is withdrawn, skips social hours or mealtimes and generally seems unlike themselves, they are likely being isolated and neglected. If your “gut” tells you something is wrong, never ignore that feeling, rather take steps to ensure the safety of a beloved person in your life.
Getting the Help You Need for Your Loved One
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, it is extremely important to take immediate steps. We understand just how difficult it is to trust your loved one to another’s care. When that trust is betrayed, it can be difficult to know what you need to do.
Because you are likely very shaken up emotionally, we can immediately instigate a comprehensive investigation into the abuse or neglect. We will investigate the nursing home’s history to determine whether there have been prior allegations of abuse or neglect. Because we have extensive knowledge of the laws governing Alaska nursing homes, we will use this knowledge to your benefit.
At Ringstad Law Office, P.C., we are devoted to obtaining justice for the elderly person who has been harmed by a nursing home staff member. In some instances, the neglect or abuse might not have been deliberate, there may just be a lack of safeguards in place to prevent falls, or there may be insufficient staff to ensure adequate supervision.
Even if this is the case, your loved one has been entrusted to the care of the nursing home staff, and there is a responsibility to live up to that trust. Nursing homes must hire qualified staff, must conduct thorough background checks, and must maintain sufficient levels of staff for proper staff to resident ratios.
Your loved one has the right to live in clean, hygienic conditions with access to water, food, and other basic necessities. The consequences of nursing home abuse can include criminal charges as well as civil lawsuits.
If your elderly loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse, contact Ringstad Law Office, P.C. today. We will ensure no critical deadlines are missed and will deal with the nursing home abuse with skill, experience, knowledge, and compassion.