The 2023 Oklahoma Guide To Nursing Home Abuse Cases
As the retired adult population increases and life expectancies lengthen, families are often faced with difficult decisions on how to care for their elderly loved ones. In 2019, over 54 million Americans were 65 and older. Experts predict that by 2030, there will be a 50% increase in the number of elders over the age of 65 who require nursing home care. Studies estimate that 70% of adults who survive to age 65 will need some type of nursing home care or rehabilitation before they die.
It can be heart-wrenching to move your loved one to a nursing home, and finding a facility you can trust is critical to making sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible for everyone. Nursing homes should be safe places where families know their loved ones get the care they need. And often, they are—yet some facilities don’t provide a high quality of care and elderly residents become victims of various forms of nursing home abuse or neglect in Oklahoma.
There are many reasons why nursing home abuse occurs in the first place, ranging from untrained or unethical staff to corporations prioritizing profit above all else. Regardless of the reasons, it’s important for family members to educate themselves about nursing home abuse so they are prepared to recognize and address it if needed. This article will provide you with foundational knowledge on the topic so you can ensure your elderly loved one is receiving the best care possible.
What Qualifies as Nursing Home Abuse in Oklahoma?
From a legal perspective, the term “abuse” is broader than one might think. As defined in the Oklahoma Nursing Home Care Act, abuse is “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment, with resulting physical harm, impairment, or mental anguish…”
More casually, nursing home abuse is any type of harm—whether physical, emotional, sexual, or financial—experienced by elderly residents in long-term care facilities.
Families who have trusted a facility to care for their loved one have every right to worry about nursing home abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), approximately 10% of nursing home residents experience some form of abuse each year.
Most Common Types of Abuse in Oklahoma Nursing Homes
There are seven primary categories of nursing home abuse, each of which has serious consequences. Learning about these categories can help you protect your loved one and other residents because you’ll be able to easily determine what’s acceptable in these facilities, and what’s not.
Physical Abuse: Using physical force to intentionally inflict pain or bodily harm that results in an injury or impairment. This includes hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, etc., as well as inappropriately using chemical or physical restraints.
Emotional Abuse: The NCEA defines emotional abuse as, “the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts including, but not limited to verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, isolation, and harassment.” The most common type of nursing home abuse in Oklahoma and across the U.S., this can manifest in many different ways:
- Yelling, mocking, harassing, or threatening nursing home residents
- Lying to residents with the intention of causing emotional distress
- Socially isolating residents from friends and family
- Withholding food, water, and medications
Sexual Abuse: Having non-consensual sexual contact with an elderly person, or sexual contact with someone who cannot communicate consent. This includes:
- Sexual assault and battery (rape, sodomy, coerced nudity)
- Unwanted touching
- Sexually explicit photographing
Financial Exploitation: Misusing or withholding an elder's funds, property, or assets for the perpetrator’s personal benefit. The annual losses by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion. Examples include:
- Stealing from an elderly resident
- Cashing a resident’s checks without authorization or permission
- Forging a resident’s signature
- Using a resident’s credit cards
- Coercing or deceiving a resident into signing a legal document (e.g., power of attorney or will)
Neglect: Refusing or failing to provide basic life necessities (food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc.), which causes harm or illness. This type of abuse is not the result of accidental actions, but rather carelessness or apathy. For example, if a resident is malnourished or has bed sores that go untreated.
If you know or suspect your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect, report it. Nursing home residents have clear legal rights and we can help you and your family assert them.
3 Signs an Elderly Person is Suffering From Nursing Home Abuse
When a loved one is suffering from degenerative diseases like dementia, it can be very difficult to assess their mental and physical well-being. How can you know if their mood swings or scratches are due to the disease, or because they are victims of abuse in their nursing home? There is no clear answer, but these three warning signs can indicate abuse:
1. Physical Signs
Many forms of nursing home abuse will leave visual cues. Be vigilant if your loved one has unexplained bruises, scrapes, or broken bones; poor hygiene; unsanitary conditions; dehydration or malnutrition; weight loss; untreated medical conditions; safety issues in their room or facility; or even repeated hospitalizations and trips to different emergency rooms.
2. Emotional Signs
Again, it can be tough to distinguish between abuse and some disease symptoms, but your loved one will show emotional signs if they are victims. Look for mood swings or dramatic changes in personality; depression; fear of staff members; extreme withdrawal or self-isolation; loss of appetite; and frequent agitation.
3. Financial Signs
Often the financial or material signs are the easiest to uncover, when you know what to look for. Beware of unexplained withdrawals of money from accounts; unpaid bills; a pattern of missing valuables; abrupt changes in a will or other legal documents; and new names being added to a bank or investment account.
How Do You File a Complaint Against a Nursing Home in Oklahoma?
If you know, or even suspect, some type of nursing home abuse is happening to a loved one, your first step is to address it with the nursing home facility. If the health or safety issue is not addressed or remedied, it’s time to report it.
Long Term Care (LTC) Services oversees the health and safety of residents living in licensed long-term care facilities (nursing homes, residential care homes, assisted living centers, etc.). You can file a complaint with the LTC by sending an email to [email protected] or calling 1-800-747-8419. Here is the entire complaint procedure.
Give a detailed report of every instance of abuse you witnessed or specifics on why your suspicions were raised. Your complaint will be investigated and may save elderly residents from further pain or suffering that impacts their mental and physical health.
Who Investigates Nursing Homes in Oklahoma?
LTC surveyors conduct annual licensure surveys in each nursing home facility and perform complaint investigations. Surveyors will also make follow-up visits to facilities under investigation to ensure issues are corrected or addressed.
Oklahoma Nursing Home Abuse Cases
If your loved one was seriously injured or passed away due to suspected neglect or abuse, you have options. Contact our firm for a free consultation to determine if you have a case. GT Law Firm has over 30 years of experience handling nursing home abuse and we can help your family get a resolution.
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