Tips on protecting your loved one from nursing home abuse

Elderly woman in a hospital bed

For many reasons, some families in the Chicago area are forced to make the difficult decision to place their elderly loved ones in a nursing home. Quite often, however, these families are faced with devastation when they learn that their family member has become the victim of nursing home abuse. This occurs when a caregiver’s intentional actions cause harm or create a situation in which harm is a serious risk for the vulnerable elder for whom they are providing care. Abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as financial exploitation and gross neglect.

A prevalent problem

The National Center on Elder Abuse found in a recent study that 44 percent of surveyed patients had been the victim of nursing home abuse, and 95 percent stated that they had been the victim of neglect or had seen another resident be neglected. In another study, 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted that they had previously mistreated or neglected patients within the prior year. That included admissions of physical violence, neglect and abuse. In an additional study that surveyed certified nursing assistants, 17 percent indicated that they had grabbed, pushed or shoved a resident of a nursing home, 51 percent stated that they previously yelled at residents, and 23 percent admitted to insulting or swearing at a resident.

A sobering example that makes these statistics more real has recently come to light in Chicago. The Chicago-Sun Times reported that a woman is suing her husband’s care facility and hospital after doctors discovered that the 80-year-old had a used condom lodged in his stomach. The non-verbal, bed-ridden man was being treated for suspected gastro intestinal bleeding during surgery when doctors made the discovery. The woman says that the condom is clear evidence that her husband was sexually abused during his stay in the nursing home. 

Tips to prevent loved ones from being victimized

In order for families to prevent their loved ones from experiencing abuse and negligence in a nursing home, they should consider the following tips:

  • Thoroughly research every nursing home. Find out all information regarding prior lawsuits, inspection reports and staff-to-patient ratios.
  • Inspect the premises on a regular basis.
  • At least one family member should be involved in the day-to-day activities within the care facility. Caregivers are less likely to abuse patients family members are regularly there and may ask questions.
  • Observe how staff and residents interact.
  • Interview residents and their families to learn about any unreported misconduct or suspicions.

Ultimately, being the patient’s advocate in every way is the best defense against abuse. It is much better to be overly cautious, especially when a loved one is unable to communicate.

Illinois families have resources they can utilize to prevent their family members from experiencing elder abuse at their nursing homes. Those who have endured the trauma of abuse, however, can still find help through contacting a personal injury attorney do discuss their rights and legal options.