elderly man left alone in nursing home elder abuseThere is no doubt that your loved one needs the intensive, round-the-clock care provided by a nursing home facility, but you still worry about their safety, given how vulnerable they are. You are right to worry. The National Council on Aging estimates that at least five million older Americans are physically, emotionally, or financially abused each year and that many cases of elder abuse are never uncovered by family members or authorities.

If you suspect that your loved one has been mistreated or intentionally harmed in a Kansas City nursing home, you need to arm yourself with information and then contact Peterson & Associates for help holding the abusers accountable for their actions.  

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse refers to any intentional, harmful, or negligent act that causes harm or distress to an elderly resident in a nursing home or long-term care facility. Examples of the types of abuse elderly nursing home residents suffer include the following.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse in nursing homes involves the intentional use of force that results in bodily harm, pain, or impairment. This can include hitting, slapping, pushing, restraining, or any form of physical assault. Signs of physical abuse may manifest as unexplained injuries, bruises, fractures, or frequent injuries.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse is characterized by actions that cause mental anguish, distress, or fear. This can involve verbal abuse, humiliation, threats, isolation, or manipulation. The effects of emotional abuse may not be immediately visible but can lead to anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or changes in behavior.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation involves the unauthorized or improper use of an elderly resident's funds, assets, or property. This can include theft, coercion, fraud, or manipulation for personal gain. Warning signs may include unexplained financial transactions, missing valuables, or sudden changes in the resident's financial situation.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse in nursing homes involves any non-consensual sexual contact, advances, or exploitation of an elderly resident. This form of abuse is a grave violation of the resident's rights and can lead to physical injuries, emotional trauma, or changes in behavior.

Medical Abuse or Negligence

Medical abuse or negligence occurs when a resident's medical needs are not adequately addressed or when unnecessary medical procedures are performed. This can result in worsening health conditions, complications, or prolonged suffering.

Social Isolation

Social isolation is a subtle yet harmful form of abuse that involves intentionally isolating a resident from social interactions, family visits, or community activities. This can contribute to feelings of loneliness, depression, and a decline in overall well-being.

What Is Elder Abuse?

You might hear the term elder abuse used interchangeably with nursing home abuse. Elder abuse refers to any intentional, harmful, or negligent act that causes physical, emotional, or financial harm to an elderly individual. This form of abuse is not confined to residential facilities; it can occur anywhere, including the individual's own home. It can be committed by family members, caregivers, or online predators. While criminal charges can be pursued against any abuser, a civil claim for financial damages can generally only be pursued if the abuser is a medical professional, hired in-home caregiver, or negligent social worker.

What Is Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect is a form of abuse that occurs when residents do not receive the necessary attention, assistance, or support to meet their basic needs. This can manifest in various ways, including physical, emotional, or medical harm.

Patients in nursing homes can be harmed by neglect through inadequate supervision, leading to falls or accidents. Lack of assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, feeding, or mobility, can result in hygiene-related issues, malnutrition, or dehydration. Neglect may also be evident in insufficient medical attention, untreated health conditions, medication errors, or delays in necessary medical care. Emotional harm may occur due to isolation, lack of social interaction, or neglect of the residents' emotional well-being.

Nursing home neglect compromises the health, safety, and overall quality of life for vulnerable individuals under the care of these facilities. Inadequate staffing levels or untrained staff can contribute to neglect in nursing homes. When there are not enough caregivers to meet the needs of residents, it increases the risk of neglect and substandard care.

How Should I Report Nursing Home Abuse?

In Kansas City, reporting nursing home abuse is a critical step to ensure the safety and well-being of elderly residents. If you suspect abuse or neglect, it is important to take immediate action. 

Who Should I Call?

If a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911. Report suspicions of nursing home abuse to the appropriate authorities. In Kansas City, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) oversees the licensing and regulation of nursing homes. You can file a complaint with KDADS online, by phone, or by mail. Additionally, contacting the local Adult Protective Services (APS) or law enforcement can be crucial for immediate intervention.

How Long Do I Have to Report Abuse?

While there is no specific mandated timeframe for reporting nursing home abuse in Kansas City, it is advisable to report suspicions promptly. Timely reporting ensures a swift investigation and intervention to protect the affected residents.

Does My Loved One Need a Lawyer?

If you believe your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, consulting with a lawyer specializing in elder abuse and neglect can be beneficial. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process, help gather evidence, and advocate for your loved one's rights. They may assist in filing a civil lawsuit against the facility, seeking compensation for damages, and holding the responsible parties accountable.

Can My Loved One Be Compensated for Their Losses?

In cases of nursing home abuse, a lawyer can help victims and their families seek compensation for medical expenses, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the abuse or neglect. They may also assist in pursuing punitive damages to hold the facility accountable for egregious actions.

How Can I Prove My Loved One Was Abused or Neglected in a Nursing Home?

Discovering that a loved one may be a victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home is a distressing situation that demands swift action. It is crucial to recognize the signs of potential abuse, understand the necessary steps to take, and gather the evidence required to address the issue effectively.

Recognizing Signs of Abuse or Neglect

Be vigilant about changes in your loved one's behavior, appearance, or overall well-being. Signs of abuse or neglect may include unexplained injuries, sudden weight loss, emotional withdrawal, changes in hygiene, or reluctance to speak about their experiences. Pay attention to their living conditions, staff interactions, and any unusual occurrences during visits.

Immediate Safety and Medical Attention

If you suspect abuse, prioritize your loved one's safety. Seek immediate medical attention if necessary, and ensure their well-being is the top priority. Document any visible injuries or conditions and keep detailed records of your observations.

Report to Authorities

Contact the appropriate authorities to report the suspected abuse. This may involve reaching out to the nursing home administration, the state's Department for Aging or Adult Protective Services, and local law enforcement. Each of these entities can play a role in investigating and addressing the reported concerns.

Preserve Evidence

Safeguard any potential evidence that may support your case. This includes preserving clothing, bedding, or personal items that may have signs of abuse. If your loved one communicates about the abuse in writing, keep those records.

Document Everything

Maintain a detailed record of your loved one's experiences, including dates, times, and descriptions of any observed incidents or changes in behavior. Include conversations with staff, administration, or health care professionals related to the suspected abuse.

Seek Legal Advice

Consult with an attorney specializing in elder abuse or nursing home neglect. A legal professional can guide you on the appropriate steps to take, assist in gathering evidence, and explain your rights and options.

By recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect, reporting to authorities, preserving evidence, seeking medical attention, and consulting with legal professionals, you can advocate for your loved one's rights and contribute to ensuring their safety and well-being.