Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers: Know the Warning Signs
Millions of seniors are in nursing homes, receiving around-the-clock medical care. Unfortunately, many of these nursing homes are understaffed, and stressed out staff can engage in shockingly abusive behavior.
If you have a loved one in a facility, abuse might be the last thing you are thinking about. However, you must remain vigilant and look for warning signs of physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse. In this article, we will point out the major red flags to look for and how to respond to each. Contact Slappey & Sadd if you have questions, 404.255.6677. One of our Georgia nursing home abuse attorneys can meet with you.Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes
Frustrated, mean, or dangerous staff can become physically abusive with residents. They can punch, kick, pinch, grab, strangle, or slap elderly residents who have no means to defend themselves. Physical abuse can also consist of deliberately withholding food or medicine. Some warning signs you should look for when you visit your loved one include:
- Bruises or welts
- Cuts or abrasions
- Broken bones
- Dislocated joints
- Marks around the resident’s wrists
- Dramatic weight loss
Staff members often have no good explanation for how your loved one received these injuries. If you question the staff about them directly, they might tell an obvious falsehood, such as your loved one got out of bed and fell on her own.
Another sign to pay attention to is a reluctance of staff members to leave you alone with the resident. Often, they are afraid the resident will tell you of the abuse, so they hover about, never allowing you to have a private conversation. If you notice the staff behaving this way, pointedly ask if you can be alone. Reassure the resident that they can tell you anything and not to be afraid.Emotional or Psychological Abuse
Not all abuse is physical. Nursing home staff can also emotionally harass and intimidate many vulnerable residents. Signs to look out for include:
- The resident is fearful of certain nursing staff and acts agitated whenever they enter the room.
- The resident displays dementia-like behavior, such as rocking or sucking their thumbs.
- Staff members make belittling comments to the resident.
- The staff is controlling, e.g., not letting the resident engage in even small tasks that they enjoy, such as reading the Bible or watching television.
Often, emotional abuse is harder to spot than physical abuse because the scars are not visible. One thing you can do is to visit the nursing home at an unusual time. Instead of immediately going to your loved one’s room, hang back just outside the door or sit in the lobby. You might hear the staff threatening or insulting your loved one because they do not think that anyone is there to object.Financial Abuse
Elderly people are also vulnerable to financial exploitation. Unlike other abuse, financial abuse can occur without the senior even knowing. They can literally be in the dark that someone is stealing money from right under their nose. Look for the following signs of financial abuse:
- Your loved one reports that cash is often missing from their room
- There are unexplained withdrawals from the resident’s bank account
- Someone has withdrawn money from an ATM when your loved one is bedridden in a nursing home
- Large investments made in financial products or businesses that the resident has little knowledge of
- Changes to the will or power of attorney, especially when nursing home staff members are appointed as beneficiaries or agents
- New credit cards your loved one has taken out
Sometimes, there might be an innocent explanation for some of the above. Elderly are often forgetful, and they might have misplaced money themselves, or they might have been mistaken about how much cash they had with them. You do not need to immediately accuse nursing home staff of financial exploitation if money is missing, but you should follow up with your loved one.
For example, if they made a large investment, ask them questions and get the name of the person they invested money with. You can then talk to an attorney about what next steps to take. If you suspect that someone has withdrawn money from an ATM without permission, help your loved one change the PIN for their debit card.Sexual Abuse
It is a sad fact that some elderly residents are sexually abused in nursing homes. This is absolutely shocking; nevertheless, it occurs. The signs you should look for include:
- Bruising around the genitals or breasts
- Bloody underwear
- Any bleeding in the vagina or anus that has no medical cause
- Sexually transmitted infections or diseases
Your loved one will probably be reluctant to admit to sexual abuse, finding it especially humiliating. However, something like an STI for an elderly resident is self-explanatory. If you suspect sexual abuse, immediately talk to the management of the nursing home. Ask to move your loved one to a different wing or have new staff assigned to their room.Reporting the Nursing Home to Authorities
If you think that your loved one is in immediate danger, you can call 911 and report the abuse to the police. They can immediately go to the nursing home to investigate. You can also report nursing home facilities to the Georgia Department of Community Health, Healthcare Facility Regulation (HFR), which is the agency with responsibility for investigating complaints about nursing homes. You can call 404.657.5728 or toll-free 800.878.6442. You can leave your name and contact information so that they can get back to you.Meet with a Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
Abuse of the elderly is an outrage that should not be tolerated. You can do your part to protect your loved one and the public at large by reporting suspected abuse. You should also consider what other legal options you and your loved one might have.
At Slappey & Sadd, our attorneys have sued many nursing homes, and we know how to win. As compensation, your loved one could receive money to pay for medical care and compensate for pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Reach out to us today. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 404.255.6677 or submitting this online contact form.