Nursing homes have a moral, spiritual, and legal obligation to care for the seniors trusted to their facility. Unfortunately, that does not help the countless seniors who have been abused physically, sexually, and emotionally throughout the United States. When care facilities neglect or abuse seniors, families have the right to make the voice of their loved ones heard and to hold these organizations accountable. That's where Peterson & Associates, P.C. can help.
We are Kansas City's premier personal injury attorneys—we help clients receive financial security after suffering unjust and severe injuries. When it comes to nursing home abuse cases, we take an aggressive stance knowing that our work improves the quality of life for our community's most vulnerable individuals.
Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes
Physical abuse involves using force or violence against a patient. It may entail:
- Hitting or slapping
- Spitting on
- Inappropriate use of medications and physical restraints
Highly violent abuse can cause serious disabilities such as:
- Broken bones
- Head or brain injury
- Chronic pain
- Exacerbation of existing medical issues
Some abusers are savvy enough to only cause injuries that do not leave marks or to ensure signs of violence are hidden by clothing. However, these people deserve to be held accountable just as much as those who severely cause readily visible injuries.
Seniors in nursing homes may be vulnerable because of their medical conditions, dependence on others, and mental state. Often, they have little or no contact with the outside world. This makes it easier for abusers to mistreat them. Physical abuse may be perpetrated by:
- Nursing home staff
- Other residents
- Visiting family members
Nursing homes must provide proper oversight to ensure physical abuse doesn't happen. However, most nursing homes are staffed at the lowest permissible levels. This means nurses or other managers may not see acts of violence, whether they are between residents or inflicted by staff members on their patients.
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Sexual abuse can happen to someone of any age, gender, race, disability status, and so on—but, especially among nursing home patients, certain factors make an individual more likely to be targeted. Predators tend to focus on individuals who cannot defend themselves or ask for help.
Four main characteristics correlate with the risk of nursing home sexual abuse:
- Higher levels of dependence can make it harder for someone to report abuse for fear of retaliation.
- Decreased cognitive function, such as the losses associated with Alzheimer's and dementia, may make it easier for a predator to explain away an individual's reports as false or unreliable.
- Physical frailty can make it harder for individuals to defend themselves against sexual assault.
- Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than men.
Because of assumptions about nursing home patients' sexuality (or lack thereof), those who try to report abuse already face an uphill battle. When an individual has additional vulnerabilities, they become a more likely target for an abuser.
Due to generational and situational factors, seniors may be less likely to report sexual abuse. Therefore, friends and family should watch for symptoms often linked with sexual abuse.
Physical signs of sexual abuse include:
- Injury to genital, rectal, oral, or breast areas
- Genital pain or itching
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
- Unexplained changes to weight
- Unexplained medical complaints like headaches, stomach aches, etc.
Emotional and behavioral signs of sexual abuse include:
- Significant and unexplained changes in behavior
- Unusual attention-seeking, aggressive, or delinquent behaviors
- Extreme non-compliance or over-compliance
- Depression, crying spells, or suicidal ideation
- Flashbacks or other trauma reactions
- Difficulty sleeping
- Attempts to avoid conversations about potential indicators of abuse
- Resistance to medical examinations
- Withdrawal from activities or people, including friends and family
- Deterioration of peer relationships
- Fear or avoidance of specific individuals, genders, or situations
- Avoidance of touch or physical closeness
Individuals with physical or mental health conditions may also see existing symptoms worsen. While nursing home patients' health may decline naturally, if you see any significant changes that happen over a short period and cannot be explained by caregivers, they may be a sign of abuse.
Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Emotional abuse, also called psychological abuse, wears a victim down mentally. Sometimes, abusers combine multiple types of abuse, using emotional manipulation to keep someone under their control. However, abuse does not have to be committed with the intention of harming someone. Mistreatment may be more about the abuser than those they come into contact with.
Emotional abuse can take multiple forms, including:
- Verbal assault
Neglect and isolation are also forms of emotional abuse, often used to make patients believe they have no social support and are not worthy of attention. Unfortunately, nursing home staffers who control a patient's movements and activities can often easily cut someone off from their community.
Surviving emotional abuse is difficult for a person of any age group, but nursing home patients specifically may experience worsening preexisting medical conditions due to their distress and anxiety. Emotional abuse is also likely to cause mental health struggles. Some signs you may notice if your loved one has been abused are:
- Difficulty trusting others
- Fear of specific people or situations
- Wariness when others are around
While survivors may feel uncomfortable reporting emotional abuse, especially those who grew up in a world where showing emotional pain was a weakness, some may dance around the issue by mentioning a dislike of or reporting difficulties getting along with certain staffers. If the issue arises, you can support your loved one by validating their concerns and asking what the person did to make them feel that way.
Do You Need to Speak to a Kansas City Nursing Home Neglect and Elder Abuse Lawyer?
Our nursing home abuse attorneys have helped multiple families find justice for their loved ones. Caregivers who take advantage of vulnerable seniors must be stopped—and one of the best ways to make a difference is to file a lawsuit. Not only does litigation bring attention to the problem staffers, but it also opens a facility up to scrutiny of its hiring, training, and management policies. Abusive caregivers are often a systemic issue, and the only way to make facilities safer is by making their bad actions cost them.
If you're looking for a Kansas City nursing home neglect and elder abuse lawyer, you may be surprised to learn that Peterson & Associates, P.C. offers contingency fee arrangements. That means our firm absorbs the cost of investigation, finding expert witnesses, and litigation—in other words, you don't pay a cent. In fact, you only pay if we win your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss the next steps in your case.