Signs of Elder Abuse
Elderly people are often dependent on others for care.
They may need assistance with mobility, the tasks of daily life, or with managing their affairs. Unfortunately, some caregivers are negligent or abusive, putting elderly people at risk of harm.
Signs of elder abuse aren’t always obvious. Elderly people may be unwilling to report abuse for fear of retaliation, and some may have dementia or sensory impairments that interfere with their ability to understand or report what has happened. Family members can help protect their senior relatives from harm by learning how to recognize abuse and how to identify factors that raise the risk of abuse.
At the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm, we understand the sensitive nature of elder abuse cases. Sometimes, families learn that another member of their family is the abuser. Whatever the situation may be, we handle each case with discretion and compassion, to minimize harm for your elderly loved one. If you believe a senior relative has suffered abuse, contact us today to request a free, no-obligation case consultation: (855) 414-1012.
Abuse in Nursing Homes
Nursing home residents depend on staff to varying degrees. Some residents may be unable to move independently, requiring assistance with dressing, bathing, and personal hygiene. Those are basic needs, yet some residents are denied those necessities, and that’s a form of abuse.
According to the Texas attorney general’s office, these are other forms of abuse that may occur in nursing homes:
- Involuntary confinement/seclusion
- Intimidation, humiliation, and harassment
- Deprivation (of food, medication, care, or activities)
- Physical and sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Mocking or remarks (even if a resident cannot hear or comprehend the behavior or remarks)
- Exploitation (such as stealing a resident’s medication or money).
Common Signs of Abuse
Physical assault is the most easily detectable form of abuse, because it tends to cause suspicious injuries or visible bruising. Even when no injuries are visible, families should be alert to changes in their loved one’s behavior or health, as those are often signs of abuse and neglect.
Common manifestations of abuse and neglect include:
- Poor hygiene
- Fearfulness or anxiety
- Withdrawal from friends, family, or usual activities
- Rapid unexplained weight loss or dehydration (which could result from deprivation or from refusal to eat and drink)
- Bedsores (from being left in one position for too long)
- Reluctance to communicate/make eye contact.
Financial abuse, which may occur in a nursing home or in a family member’s care, may be evident if an elderly person has unpaid bills or lacks necessities. People who financially abuse elderly people often intercept checks that are intended for that person’s care and either forge their signature or coerce them into signing.
Texas Nursing Homes Rank Poorly
In January 2017, the AARP released a report in which it called the quality of care in Texas nursing homes “shamefully poor.” The report mentioned that in fiscal year 2015, inspectors found 454 violations in nursing homes that posed “immediate jeopardy” to residents, but violations rarely result in state-level sanctions or enforcement actions.
Risk Factors for Neglect
In 2016, inspectors cited a Houston nursing home for failing to institute policies to prevent mistreatment, abuse, and neglect. Inspectors found that the staff had failed to properly treat a woman who suffered agonizing pain after a fall – 18 days after that accident, an X-ray revealed she had suffered a hip fracture.
Administrators should make sure procedures are established and followed and that workers receive ongoing training. Frequently, however, inspectors find that even when nursing homes have policies to protect residents, those policies are not properly enforced. This is a problem more likely to occur in nursing homes that are understaffed.
Understaffing in nursing homes is not a new problem. In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that insufficient staffing was associated with health problems in nursing home residents. In the most understaffed nursing homes, residents were more likely to suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia, and blood-borne infections.
Families have the right to ask nursing homes to reveal their specific policies; if administrators seem reluctant to do so, that could be a sign that the facility isn’t safe. Another warning sign of lax attitudes or policies is a facility that is unclean or is in disrepair.
Help for Families
If you believe your elderly relative has been the victim of any type of abuse, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. The Evans & Herlihy Law Firm has helped many families in Austin, and throughout Texas, pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones – and we work on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing up front for representation. Our fee comes from any settlement you may receive.