- 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Signs of emotional abuse often come from context, where the victim behaves in strange ways, such as by being unusually withdrawn or uncommunicative, or by adopting repetitive tics.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.
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: