Over three million adults in the U.S. live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. With aging demographics and the Baby Boomers entering full retirement, the nursing home population is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. This is creating higher patient loads and staffing shortages, and when facilities are not able to find enough workers, they often hire employees who are not properly vetted and are not qualified for the job.
The current state of America’s nursing facilities has led to a growing number of nursing home abuse cases. An ABC News investigation from almost two decades ago found that elder abuse occurs in approximately one out of every three nursing homes. The numbers are even worse today. It is now estimated that as many as five million elders are subjected to abuse each year. Sadly, this is most likely a very conservative estimate, because only about one out of every 20 elder abuse cases are ever formally reported.
It is far too easy for nursing home staff to cover up the abuse that occurs within their walls. Those under their care depend on the staff to care for them, and the elderly are often intimidated into silence. Another difficult problem to overcome is that abusers often target Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, because they are less likely to remember clearly that they were abused, let alone report it to anyone.
This makes abuse victims feel hopeless, because they don’t believe they have anywhere to turn for help. Many who have aging loved ones in nursing homes are horrified to learn that a facility they entrusted to care for a close family member has allowed their trust to be so egregiously violated.
Commonly Missed Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
There are several signs of elder abuse occurring in nursing homes. Some things to look for when you are checking up on your aging loved one include:
Some signs of abuse are more difficult to detect. Here are three signs of nursing home abuse that are commonly missed:
Slick Explanations for an Injury: Abusers are often very good at conning people with stories that sound believable. They can be really friendly and outgoing, acting like they “want to help you” make sure your elderly loved one stays safe. How do they explain the fact that your loved one seems to get hurt so much? They always have a story, and they are good at telling it, because oftentimes, they’ve convinced themselves that it’s true. So, if your loved one displays some of the previously mentioned signs of abuse and the caregiver’s story always sounds too good to be true, it is time to become suspicious and dig deeper.
Disorientation or Confusion: An elderly person who is being abused can start to become increasingly confused and disoriented as time goes on. This can happen because of the emotional exhaustion related to the abuse, malnutrition or dehydration because of neglect, or similar issues. The reason this sign is commonly missed is because confusion and disorientation are relatively common among individuals over age 65, and this could be a symptom of a medical problem such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, or just problems with sight and hearing. If your loved one is experiencing these symptoms, do not accept the facility’s explanation at face value. Take a closer look and find out if there are any other signs of nursing home abuse.
An Attitude of Resignation or Ambivalence: Nursing homes are not always the happiest places to live in. And sadly, many seniors reach the point where they “just don’t care” anymore. This is another commonly missed sign of nursing home abuse because, again, it could be a sign of abuse, or it could be a sign that the senior is generally giving up on life for other reasons; such as the realization that their health is declining, and the fact that they are likely going to die in that facility. Take any signs of withdrawal, resignation, or ambivalence very seriously and ask additional questions to get to the bottom of what is causing it.
What to Do if Your Loved One is a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse
If you believe that your loved one is being abused or neglected in an Alabama nursing home, the first step is to report the abuse to the Alabama Department of Public Health by calling 800-356-9596. Next, get in touch with an experienced Alabama nursing home abuse lawyer. At Burge and Burge, we are outraged by the widespread abuse that occurs in nursing facilities, and we work tirelessly to ensure that those responsible are held fully accountable. We can guide you through the legal process from start to finish, and we will fight hard to recover the full and fair compensation your loved one deserves.
For a free consultation with one of attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or send us a message through our web contact form.