No one likes to think about their loved one suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of those who are tasked with their care. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect are a growing problem in the United States and around the world.
Most people wish for a long and happy life surrounded by family and friends. Living a long life means you eventually reach a point when you depend on others for your daily care. What do you do when the people who are supposed to help you live out your golden years in peace and contentment are causing you pain and suffering? Contacting an attorney skilled in elder abuse laws can help.
What are the most common types of nursing home abuse?
Elder abuse is a growing problem in the United States. The National Center on Elder Abuse classifies elder abuse into six categories.
- Physical abuse. Some of the signs of physical abuse can include bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, broken bones and fractures, open wounds, and signs of restraint. These are not the only indicators that physical abuse is occurring but are some of the most common. Any physical contact with a nursing home resident that results in bodily injury, impairment, or physical harm meets the legal definition for abuse.
- Sexual abuse. Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with a nursing home resident is sexual abuse. This can include unwanted touching, sexual assault and battery, and sexually explicit photographing of a resident. Some of the most common signs of sexual abuse in the elderly are bruising in the genital area or on the breasts, unexplained anal or vaginal bleeding, and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
- Psychological abuse. From the time we are small children, we are taught that our words can hurt others. Verbal abuse of nursing home residents is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. Non-verbal actions also are classified as psychological abuse and can include forced social isolation and treating an elderly person as a child. Some of the warning signs of psychological abuse include emotional upset and agitation, withdrawn or non-responsive behavior, and self-soothing techniques like rocking.
- Neglect. Nursing home staff who refuse to fulfill any of their duties as caregivers are engaging in elder neglect. Some of the most common forms of nursing home neglect include failure to provide adequate access to food and water, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, and other daily living essentials. Signs of neglect include dehydration and malnutrition, untreated bedsores, poor personal hygiene, and unsafe living conditions.
- Abandonment. Leaving an elderly person to fend for themselves when they have physical and emotional dependencies for their daily care meets the legal definition of abandonment. When nursing homes assume the responsibility of caring for your loved one, they are legally bound to provide an agreed-upon level of services. Deserting elderly residents in public locations is one common sign of abandonment.
- Financial exploitation. Improperly using an elderly person’s assets, bank accounts, and property is considered financial exploitation. This kind of nursing home abuse most frequently happens to residents who are suffering from memory impairment like dementia or Alzheimer’s. It includes forging signatures and cashing checks without authorization or permission and stealing an elderly person’s material possessions. Keep a watchful eye out for sudden changes in a bank account or banking practices and the inclusion of additional names on credit cards or bank accounts.
What to do if you suspect abuse or neglect
It can be difficult to know what to do if you suspect abuse or neglect. The last thing you want to do is leave your elderly loved one in the care of someone who may be hurting them emotionally or physically. Taking the right action quickly can help prevent further abuse or neglect and the physical and emotional harm that it causes.
- Law enforcement. If your loved one is in imminent danger, do not waste time. Call 911 or the local police department and request immediate assistance. Police have the authority to investigate. They can secure any warrants needed to gather evidence when abuse or neglect is confirmed.
- Adult protective services. When abuse or neglect is suspected but you are having difficulty verifying it, calling in adult protective services can help. The New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department handle cases of suspected abuse, exploitation, and neglect. There are 5 adult protective services regions serving 33 counties in New Mexico. To find yours, call the main helpline at 866-654-3219. They will direct you to the correct department and help you file a report. An inspector or advocate from adult protective services will conduct a thorough investigation to ensure your loved one is protected.
- Long-term care ombudsman. Ombudsmen empower residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities by educating them on their rights as protected by state and federal law. If you have an elderly loved one who depends on someone else to provide their care, bringing in an ombudsman is a good idea, even if you do not suspect abuse. Ombudsmen regularly visit residents and are skilled at spotting any signs of abuse or neglect. You can use this resource to help locate an ombudsman anywhere in New Mexico.
How to prove nursing home abuse or neglect
If you suspect your elderly loved one is suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of a nursing home or other elder-care facility, you must contact an attorney right away. It is our job to help you prove your case. We can cut through the red tape to compel nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide documents to support your claims.
Criminal and civil penalties are part of nursing home abuse and neglect cases. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have criminal charges filed against a nursing home or assisted living facility or its employees while also pursuing a personal injury case. This is when the expertise of Marcus Cameron and Bill Russell is advantageous. Their combined experience in both civil and criminal law ensures the best possible outcome.
Call our offices today at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to request your no-obligation consultation with our team. First consultations are always free at Cameron & Russell, so you have nothing to lose by discussing your case with us.