When a loved one can no longer be cared for by their family members alone, many turn to a nursing home to step in and provide the level of care their loved one needs to survive. Family members expect and trust that the ones caring for their loved ones in that nursing home, including doctors and nurses, are doing so with the utmost care and respect for their family members. Nursing homes are trusted with providing essential services including health and hygiene. However, optimal care does not always end up being provided in these settings. Sometimes, unfortunately, the people trusted with caring for the patient are the ones who inflict the most harm.
Nursing home abuse by caregivers takes many forms. For example, a caregiver may physically abuse a patient, including kicking, punching, or assaulting them. Sexual assault or molestation is another form of physical abuse. Patients can also suffer physical injuries as a result of malnutrition or dehydration. Further, improperly administering medication could increase an elderly patient’s risk of falling and injuring themselves.
Recent headlines highlight stories of of defenseless elderly persons or the disabled being intentionally abused by their caregivers. For example, a Florence, Alabama nursing assistant was indicted after being accused of physically attacking a dementia patient. After becoming frustrated with the patient, the nursing assistant was accused of antagonizing the victim, causing the 89 year old patient to become even more combative. According to reports, the nursing assistant struck the patient twice on the stomach and grabbed her arm, causing the patient’s skin to tear and bruise. She also sustained knots on her head. Similarly, in New Jersey, a Certified Nursing Assistant was arrested on charges involving slapping, squeezing the mouth, hair pulling, and pinching a patient. News stories such as these are hard for anyone to read, especially since elderly and sick nursing home patients are essentially defenseless in those situations.
In addition to physical abuse against nursing home patients, now with the prevalence of social media, a new form of abuse has emerged, known as social media abuse. Some nursing home employees have been accused of abusing their patients on social media by posting videos and pictures of their patients in degrading and dehumanizing circumstances, including when patients have soiled themselves. At one facility, a nursing aide posted a video of a resident with dementia on Snapchat. The video showed other employees kicking at his wheelchair and the resident kicking back while the employees laughed in the background. The video was captioned with the word “JERK.”
Similarly, in another nursing home, a patient who was a former church secretary was coached to repeat explicit lyrics on video that was posted on social media. There have been incidents in which videos or pictures of residents were posted while they were partial or fully unclothed in very degrading situations. Some nursing homes are instituting a “no cell phone” policy for their employees to help combat this new form of patient abuse. It is a good idea to find out your loved one’s nursing home policy regarding workers and cell phones.
When visiting your loved ones at a nursing home, it is important to pay close attention and look for signs of potential abuse or nursing home negligence. These may include dehydration, unexplained bruises, poor physical appearance, lack of hygiene, or sudden weight loss. Any of these signs could be grounds for further investigation into the level of care provided to your loved one.