7 Types of Nursing Home Abuse to Watch Out For in 2024
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect is a common occurrence. Recent evidence indicates that abuse of older people increased in both community and institutional settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 15,000 nursing home abuse or neglect complaints filed in 2020 alone. Nursing home residents who fall victim to any type of nursing home abuse have clear legal rights, which family members can help them assert.
Oklahoma Nursing Home Abuse Laws
Oklahoma’s Nursing Home Care Act defines abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment, with resulting physical harm, impairment or mental anguish.” Elderly residents of Oklahoma nursing homes are legally entitled to a certain standard of care. For example, residents must be provided good personal hygiene, which means their bodies, clothes, and bed sheets need to be kept clean. Also, nursing home employees must make sure that residents are supervised to prevent falls, observed for signs of infection, dressed appropriately, given the correct doses of medication, properly hydrated, etc.
Keep in mind that care facilities are responsible for protecting residents from themselves, employees, other residents, and even visitors (family members). If residents are not provided with this level of care and consequently develop mental or physical issues, it could be grounds for abuse.
7 Types of Nursing Home Abuse to Watch Out For
In general, there are seven types of nursing home abuse. Each category is equally serious, and there can be long-term consequences for elderly residents who experience any type of abuse.
1. Emotional Abuse
Often considered to be the most common type of abuse in nursing homes, emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal acts. The National Center on Elder Abuse includes “...insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, isolation, and harassment…” in its definition of emotional abuse. Some examples include:
- Criticizing or yelling at residents for mistakes
- Mocking residents for their confusion, disease symptoms, or lack of hygiene
- Threatening residents with physical harm
- Isolating residents from friends and family
- Limiting activities that are appropriate for residents to engage in
- Withholding food, hydration, medications, or access to basic hygiene
What to Watch For: Emotional abuse often does not cause physical harm, but victims will usually become withdrawn, anxious, or depressed. A resident may also avoid certain staff members or relay specific conversations that raise flags for family members. A resident may also not ask for help getting up or walking because of fear
of staff and suffer a fall.
2. Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is fairly self-explanatory. It is the intentional infliction of pain or harm. Some examples include:
- Using objects to inflict pain
The use of chemical or physical restraints is also a form of physical nursing home abuse and is prohibited by Oklahoma law: “The resident has the right to be free from any physical or chemical restraints imposed for discipline or convenience. Restraints may be used in emergency situations, or for the purpose of treating a resident's medical condition.”
What to Watch For: Physical abuse victims will have repeated, unexplained injuries, such as bruises, scrapes, bed sores, and even broken bones. Again, the resident may also exhibit fear around certain staff members or verbally tell you that they are being abused.
3. Sexual Abuse
Sexual contact between staff and a nursing home resident should never happen. It’s considered sexual abuse if the act is done by force, threat, or even by taking advantage of a resident’s incapacity. Some examples include:
- Full sexual intercourse
- Oral intercourse
- Unwanted sexual advances (e.g. groping)
- Inappropriate sexual communications
- Showing sexually-explicit images or videos (e.g. nude photos)
What to Watch For: Residents experiencing sexual abuse will have bruising, bleeding, and scratches around their genitals—they may even develop sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Also watch for unusual stains in a resident’s undergarments or inappropriate displays of affection with staff members.
4. Financial Abuse
Financial abuse can take a variety of forms, but it boils down to gaining unauthorized access to and illegally using a resident’s financial assets. This includes everything from cash in a bedroom drawer and bank accounts to investment funds and legal wills. Staff members may engage in financial abuse on behalf of the nursing home, or they may commit the crime for their own personal benefit. Some examples include:
- Using residents’ credit cards or bank accounts
- Forging residents’ signatures
- Misusing the power of attorney
- Overcharging residents
- Coercing residents to sign checks or documents
- Stealing a resident’s money, property, or personal financial documents and statements
What to Watch For: Financial abuse will typically manifest as unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or charges on credit cards, missing valuables from the resident’s room, and unexpected changes to financial documents. In short, if your elderly loved one is missing a lot of money all of a sudden, it’s time to investigate.
Elder abandonment is when an older person who cannot care for themselves and needs assistance is deserted—left to fend for themselves alone. This is most often found in a community setting, but is a type of abuse that happens in nursing homes, too. Nursing home residents generally cannot live independently and need daily assistance with hygiene, meals, and medical care. If a resident is left alone in their room for an extended period of time, or left without a staff member for too long inside or outside the nursing home, this is abandonment. Some examples are:
- A nurse assigned to provide resident care walks off duty in the middle of the shift without telling anyone and does not return
- Staff leaves a resident alone outside and the resident walks off the property
- A resident falls in their room after being left for an entire day without assistance
What to Watch For: Abandonment can cause both psychological and physical harm. The signs may be as obvious as getting a police report that states your elderly family member was picked up confused and wandering the streets, or as subtle as a bruise from a fall because they were unattended.
Neglect is the failure to provide nursing home residents with the care and services needed to keep them in good physical and mental health. Neglecting nursing home residents is considered a form of abuse under Oklahoma law. This type of abuse can be due to understaffing, lack of training, oversight, or even simple apathy. Some examples include:
- Not providing regular baths
- Improperly administered medications
What to Watch For: Neglect can be hard to identify, but make note of injuries that haven’t been reported, poor personal hygiene, dirty clothes or bed sheets, significant weight loss, persistent thirst, and similar.
Documenting and Reporting Types of Abuse In Nursing Homes
If you have any suspicions of abuse in your loved one’s care facility, begin documenting what you see and hear. Take pictures, write down your observations or the resident’s comments, and you can even record video. Oklahoma allows residents of nursing homes and their loved ones to install electronic monitoring devices in their rooms. The resident and their roommate (if they have one) both must agree to the surveillance, and the nursing home must be notified. Recorded footage can be used in both criminal and civil proceedings.
You should also confront the nursing home administrators with your concerns. If the health or safety issue is not addressed, you should report it to Oklahoma’s Long Term Care (LTC) Services.
The Right Next Step
It can be intimidating to go up against a big health care corporation, but it is incredibly important to protect those who need it most, like our elderly loved ones. If your loved one has suffered harm because of nursing home abuse, we can help you hold the facility accountable. GT Law has over 30 years of experience handling nursing home abuse cases and has the expertise you need for your case, so you can focus on your family. Contact us today for your free assessment.
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