Abuse in nursing homes can be categorized into three types: physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional and mental abuse. Abuse, no matter its form, can be terrifying for both the patient and their loved ones and it is important to contact both law enforcement and a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as you suspect any type of abuse may have taken place.
Normally, abuse is either going to come from another resident or a staff member. If the abuse is coming from another resident, that facility has an obligation to identify that there is something going on and make sure they prevent it. This is required even if it means separating individual residents or potentially intervening between residents.
If it is coming from staff, the facility has an obligation to stop the treatment and report it to not only the law enforcement but other nursing homes and assisted living facilities governed in Florida by the Department of Health. Additionally, they are obligated to report those types of conditions to the Department of Health because an individual caregiver may be subject to licensure and discipline for that type of conduct.
Sexual abuse in a nursing home environment does not have a different definition than it does to the regular public. Unfortunately, residents are either touched or mistreated and the touching either occurs around their genitals or with a sexual intent. It happens not only by the people that care for the residents but may also occur through other residents, when the staff is not monitoring people appropriately. Sometimes residents will act out on other residents either because of mental illness, a psychological issue, or simply because of their dementia or other conditions.
Patients that are particularly vulnerable, are people that have dementia or some sort of developmental disability, or individuals that are in memory care units because they are incapable of communicating any abuse with their loved ones effectively.
An absolute obligation is set forth in the Florida statutes, protecting nursing home and assisted living facility residents from sexual abuse. The facility and its employees are obligated to keep the patients safe.
The obvious warning signs of a loved one being sexually abused is if there are physical manifestations such as bruises or bleeding—rectal bleeding or genital bleeding. That is a problem and the family needs to go to law enforcement immediately.
Other signs that are more subtle are when residents become distant from family members, personalities are altered, they become very defensive about being checked for bruises, sores, and injuries, or they simply refuse to talk to their loved ones about how they are doing in the nursing home. Those are outward signs that need to be looked into because elderly people are still smart and are ashamed of what is going on because they cannot stop it.
Emotional and Mental Abuse
Yelling at residents by staff or degrading comments constitutes emotional and mental abuse. Often staff is ill-equipped to deal with the needs of a particular resident, so what will happen is they will torture them by threatening to or actually withholding care or food if the resident doesn’t do what is asked of them, even if they are incapable of it.
The harm that can result from this type of abuse can, in fact, lead to suicide. Mental and emotional abuse in nursing homes lead to depression. It could also lead to an individual becoming malnourished or a particular resident acting out when they otherwise they would not.
If the family begins to see their loved one losing weight quickly or if they are afraid of a particular caregiver or resident can be warning signs of abuse. It can be another resident that they may be afraid of who is bullying them. If the patient begins regressing in their personalities or they become quite and distant, those are warning signs that may be a problem.
People that are handicapped or people that require a large or high degree of care are normally more susceptible to the emotional abuse simply because they require significantly more attention than someone that just needs to be looked after to make sure that they are okay.
Physical abuse in nursing homes can be very obvious to notice by loved ones, such as injuries and bruises resulting from an assault. Additional measures of physical abuse are lack of proper care, such as requiring residents to remain in undergarments for a long period of time or sit in their own filth.
Residents and patients with mental health conditions are often the most at risk because they require the greatest amount of care from the caregivers. Often caregivers lash out at the residents out of stress and hit or abuse them. Additionally, other residents may attack patients if they are not properly observed
If a loved one is suspicious that the patient may be suffering from abuse, contact law enforcement immediately.
Bringing About an Abuse Claim
A patient’s loved ones can bring a claim about emotional and mental abuse against nursing homes under the Florida statute that addresses a failure to provide dignified care unless the abuse manifests in more physical symptoms, in which case there are other statutes that the nursing homes have not complied to and may be brought a claim against.
If you believe a loved one is being sexually, emotionally, or physically abused, call law enforcement immediately. After that call, contact a Clearwater nursing home abuse lawyer to guide you through the civil investigation while law enforcement is conducting a criminal investigation.