As a population, residents in a nursing home are especially at risk for abuse. The families and loved ones of nursing home residents should understand the signs of abuse so they can take steps to stop it. In some cases, it may be appropriate to pursue legal action to recover compensation for the suffering the abuser has caused. Abuse in a nursing home can take many forms. Some forms are more visible than others, and repeat abusers will often try to mask their wrongdoing in various ways, making detection that much harder.
Regardless of the form abuse takes, one of the tell-tale signs that abuse may be occurring is an institution’s unwillingness to provide straightforward answers to questions about the wellbeing of a resident. Another red flag is if the nursing home does not allow a resident to be alone with family members or other visitors.
In practical terms the forms of abuse can be grouped into several categories:
- Physical abuse involves an intentional infliction of pain or injury upon a person’s body. Included within the notion of physical abuse are behaviors that affect the person’s wellbeing, such as withholding food (for example, as a form of punishment), or deliberately withholding prescribed medications or administering incorrect medications. Physical abuse may be immediately visible, in the form of bruises, cuts, or broken bones. If a nursing home is unlawfully restraining a resident the resident may have bruises or other injuries on wrists and ankles.
- Emotional abuse can be more difficult to detect, especially in a person who has difficulty communicating, as is often the case with advanced dementia patients. Emotional abuse includes bullying behavior (yelling, insulting, terrorizing) as well as purposeful neglect and isolation. Signs of emotional abuse often come from context, where the victim behaves in strange ways, such as by being unusually withdrawn or uncommunicative, or by adopting repetitive tics.
- Neglect is a distinct category of abuse that applies in situations where a caregiver, such as a nursing home, has expressly agreed to assume responsibility for elements of a person’s wellbeing and has failed to perform those services. If a nursing home is failing to provide contracted-for services, such as food, laundry services, cleaning, or bathing, it may be committing acts of neglect. Unlike physical or emotional abuse, the nature of neglect often hinges on the specific language of the contract governing the resident’s stay in a nursing home.
Nevada’s elder abuse law, NRS 41.1395, applies to abuse of people who are 60 years of age or older, whether they live in a residential community or not. In some situations plaintiffs under the law can recover double damages and may also qualify for separate reimbursement of legal fees. Every personal injury case requires careful consideration of facts, and elder abuse is no different. What can set elder abuse apart, especially with an institution as the potential defendant, is the added layer (or layers) of resistance and lack of cooperation one can expect to encounter, especially if a nursing home is committing unlawful acts that could threaten its ability to attract new clients or put its licensure at risk.
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation in matters of personal injury. If your loved one has suffered abuse in a nursing home and you would like to discuss your legal options, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.