For residents moving into nursing home facilities, there are a lot of things they must face when they move out of their own homes. Unfortunately, one of the things that they may encounter is abuse of various types, including physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and neglect. But one aspect of the abuse faced by seniors is that a lot of it remains unknown. Some studies indicate that as many as fourteen or fifteen cases of elderly abuse go unreported. Understanding why this happens isn’t simple, but there are possible factors that help to explain this phenomenon. Read on to learn about five reasons why nursing home abuse is frequently unreported.
- Failure to Recognize Signs: Nursing home abuse isn’t always obvious, even to the victims. Many of the relatives and loved ones of nursing home residents aren’t familiar with the signs of abuse and thus, don’t take note of them when they occur. Even the nursing home staff may not properly identify the signs of abuse either because they erroneously associate the symptoms with the residents’ age, medical conditions, or cognitive issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This impacts the residents’ own perceptions of what happened to them and makes it difficult to describe the situation or in some cases, adequately recall the experience if they are suffering from emotional conditions, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, or are disabled. While different forms of nursing home abuse manifest in multiple ways, there are various red flags to look out for. Watch out for the following indicators of abuse:
- Broken bones;
- Broken possessions, such as eyeglasses;
- Bruises and scrapes;
- Changes in mood, behavior, and sleeping pattern, or appetite;
- Chronic dehydration;
- Social withdrawal and isolation;
- Underwear that is torn, stained, or missing;
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or infections;
- Unusual changes in bank accounts;
- Unpaid bills; and/or
- Weight loss that can’t be explained.
- Fear of Retaliation: Although declining cognitive abilities in residents explains some unreported abuse cases, residents may not speak out because they are afraid of what will happen to them next. If their main caretaker is the abuser, they wonder about the caregiver’s anger and repercussions if they will continue to take care of them and suffer further abuse. If not them, then who will take care of them? The fear isn’t limited to the resident only; nursing home staff may be reluctant to report their abusive co-workers or supervisors for fear of losing their jobs or of other mistreatment at work.
- Shame and Embarrassment: For residents who are fully aware of their abuse, they may be hesitant to discuss it because they are filled with shame or embarrassment. Being ashamed that they couldn’t ward off the abuse or defend themselves is a common reaction for many abuse victims.
- Inadequate Staffing at Nursing Homes: The problems caused by understaffing are well documented and the relationship between this and unreported abuse cases is yet another issue. While facilities may find it difficult to maintain an optimal resident to staff ratio, understaffed facilities may fail to properly train staff to detect and report signs of abuse, fail to properly conduct background checks, and fail to adequately investigate all abuse allegations.
- Ignorance of Reporting Process: If your loved one is abused at their facility, then they may not understand how to report it. That is why you want to make sure that you and they know what to do if abuse has occurred. You should communicate with them so that they will tell you and then you can report it on their behalf, if they are scared or intimidated. For immediate danger, calling 911 is the method. For suspected abuse, you can contact the police, an ombudsman, and the facility’s administrators, who are mandated reporters.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney to Protect Your Loved One
Because abuse in nursing homes is so often unreported, it’s up to the resident’s loved ones to notice when it’s happening and then hold the facilities accountable. If your family member experienced abuse or neglect in their nursing home, you should get in contact with an experienced attorney right away. Here at Walton Law, we are ready to fight for the interests of nursing home residents. Contact us to get started today.