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4 Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Nashville medical malpractice attorneys explain how to recognize abuse of the elderly and how you can protect your loved ones

As the Baby Boomer generation gets older with each passing year, nursing homes and adult care facilities are being flooded with elderly citizens in need of constant medical and professional supervision. But as numbers swell, residents may not receive the same level of attention they once did.

The most common form of physical abuse in nursing homes is neglect, but more active forms of mistreatment occur every day in assisted living facilities across the country.

An article published on February 2nd warns readers about the disturbingly high percentage of antipsychotic drugs being unnecessarily given to nursing home residents. Even more disturbing is that the state of Tennessee has the highest rate (30.1%) of unapproved antipsychotic drug use in the entire country.

Many nursing homes claim to use these antipsychotic drugs to calm down residents who are confused or volatile. The drugs are meant for people suffering from schizophrenia and other mental health conditions, but have potentially deadly side-effects, including cardiovascular problems and the risk of infection.

Abuse comes in many forms. Read this breakdown for details on four of the most common types of nursing home mistreatment:

  1. Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is a huge problem among nursing homes and adult care facilities today. Legally defined, physical abuse is considered any non-accidental, unnecessary act of force against an elderly resident. Unwarranted use of antipsychotic medication or other drugs fall under this type of abuse, as well as unnecessary physical restraint.

Neglect is another frequently occurring instance of physical abuse in nursing homes, and occurs when an elderly resident doesn't to receive proper medical care and treatment.

Physical abuse is perhaps the most obvious of nursing home mistreatment since the residents will oftentimes have bruises, scratches, or other bodily marks. Unfortunately, there are other, more damaging forms of abuse that are not as evident.

  1. Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse in nursing homes is more subtle than physical abuse, but just as heinous. Such mistreatment occurs when the abuser purposefully causes distress and anxiety to the resident, leaving them in a state of emotional pain. Verbal abuse falls under this category of mistreatment, and includes:

  • Shouting or threatening language

  • Ridicule or verbal humiliation

  • Repeatedly blaming the elderly resident for things that are not their fault

  • Ignoring the elderly resident, or subjecting them to periods of isolation (also neglect)

Although not as evident as physical mistreatment, emotional abuse is just as harmful and damaging to the elderly resident, as it can affect their well-being and even lead to physical illness.

  1. Financial Fraud and Exploitation

Financial exploitation is probably the most common form of nursing home abuse. Elderly residents are especially vulnerable to fraud because they are so reliant on their caregivers.

Although financial exploitation can happen in a variety of ways, there are three main kinds of fraud that occur more often in nursing homes and adult care facilities:

  • Credit card/bank account theft: Caregivers can often easily obtain access to elderly resident's credit card and bank account information. In some cases, caregivers steal this information and misuse the money, or even worse, engage in identity theft. To protect your loved one from theft, it is important to limit the accessibility of the resident's financial information by requiring that it be approved by you or the resident first.

  • Healthcare fraud: A more dangerous form of financial exploitation is healthcare fraud, which occurs when the caregiver charges money for services that are not performed. Healthcare fraud is not only financially criminal, but can be dangerous to the resident since they may not be receiving the medical treatment they need.

Caregivers should be monitored closely to ensure that residents are getting the treatments they've paid for.

  • Scams: Just like everywhere else, scams that trick people into giving money are common in nursing homes. Fake charities, up-front fees, and fraudulent promises can—and do—exploit people all the time. But elderly residents are typically less capable of spotting a scam, so caregivers and loved ones must keep a constant watch out for con artists.

  1. Sexual Abuse

It's almost unthinkable to comprehend, but the sad truth is that sexual abuse does occur in nursing homes. Caregivers have a position of authority over their elderly residents, which make the resident especially vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is not necessarily physical. Forced viewing of pornographic images or material, or forcing an elderly person to undress without cause, is also considered sexual abuse.

Protecting Loved Ones From Abuse

It can be tough to make the decision to put a loved one in a nursing home. Whether it's your husband, wife, mother, father, or other relative, ensuring that they get the best treatment and care is essential when the day finally comes to get medical help.

Visit the Nursing Home Abuse Center website to learn more about identifying mistreatment and what your legal options are.

If you believe your loved one may be experiencing abuse from their nursing home or adult care facility, then don't hesitate to contact an experienced Tennessee medical malpractice lawyer at Gilreath Law (Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis) to discuss your case today.

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