Nursing home abuse is a broad term that covers several specific types of abuse. Any time an elderly resident suffers from physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse at the hands of nursing home staff, that is considered nursing home abuse.
Physical abuse can involve any kind of unwanted touching but most often involves pushing, hitting, or otherwise injuring an elder resident. Emotional abuse can include putting down or screaming at residents, or manipulating elders who have impaired mental functions. Financial abuse can be as simple as stealing any money or valuables an elder may have or as complicated as using the elder to open credit cards or bank accounts without proper authorization. Sexual abuse can be any inappropriate touching or contact that an employee makes. Finally, neglect can include leaving an elder on the floor after they fall, not moving a bedridden resident regularly, or failing to change or wash residents who can’t do so themselves in a timely manner.
If you suspect that a resident is being abused, there are several organizations that can be notified. If there is evidence of physical, sexual, or financial abuse, you should contact local law enforcement. The police have the jurisdiction to intervene in any ongoing illegal activity like assault. Additionally, you can file a complaint with the nursing home ombudsman in your area. The ombudsman is responsible for mediating complaints between nursing homes and residents.
On the federal level, you could file a report with the Eldercare Locator or the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). The Eldercare Locator is a federally sponsored program from the Department of Health and Human Services that has an elder abuse hotline. The NCEA is a federal department devoted to vetting and addressing reports of abuse.
When it comes to preventing nursing home abuse, there are some important preventative steps that can be taken. First, it is vital to extensively vet the nursing home you are considering housing yourself or your family member in. Make sure to take note of the amount of staff that you see around compared to the number of residents living at the facility. In addition, if possible you should check reviews from the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the residents.
Once you or a family member are living at the facility, find out whether your state allows you to plant a hidden camera in the room. Having a hidden camera can help you discover and preserve evidence of misconduct by staff which will give you more power in pursuing justice but is not legal in all states.