Kingston Medical Malpractice Attorney Discusses Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is SCARY. Why? Well, first, providers really can manipulate residents and patients. They are in a position of control and authority which may intimidate some residents, particularly older ones, from stepping forward and reporting the abuse. Second, since providers are in this position of control, they can hide or alter signs of abuse to prevent detection.
Don’t get me wrong, the MAJORITY of nursing home providers are absolutely FANTASTIC! With that said, nursing home abuse is a reality. It certainly happens, and it happens much more frequently than one might think. So what are some signs of nursing home abuse?
First and foremost, I think one of the most important signs of fraud and abuse actually comes from the providers while YOU are there visiting a resident. During visiting hours, you should have unrestrained access to visit. This might fluctuate depending on the home and their policies, but it should stay uniform and consistent. If you are flat out denied access to visit a resident, that is a MAJOR problem. Moreover, if you arrive and are delayed access, that is another sign that there may be something going on. Of course, this does not mean that it is abuse. It could also mean that the home is facility is messy, the resident’s room is not properly up kept, or even something harmless like the resident is sleeping, in the bathroom/shower, or being treating for a condition. But this should NOT be an EXCEPTION to the rule and not becoming a pattern. If this happens EVERY time you are there, something is wrong. Furthermore, if staff stands in the room or at the doorway while you visit the resident, this is also an indicator that staff might be trying to intimidate the resident in not reporting abuse to you!
Second, and more commonly what we think of when there is nursing home abuse, there could be physical manifestations. Obviously signs are bruises, cuts/bleeding, scraps/abrasions, sores/blisters, infections, or even open wounds. But also look behind physical injuries. Is there a major change in weight? Is there any hair loss? Teeth are a good indicator—how do they look? Also look at their nails. Not just for being properly trimmed, but look at cuticles. If cuticles are picked at or bitten, and that is not a normal habit of the resident, maybe something is making them nervous. What about clothing, bed sheets, curtains, towels, etc—are they clean? Are there stains on them; particularly blood or fecal matter? Use you other senses too. How does the resident overall smell? When you get close to them, say for a hug, how does their hair smell?
Moreover, when there are significant injuries always get a medical opinion. Staff might saw the resident fell or slipped, but certain injuries cannot be covered up. For example, a resident with a broken arm or leg (tibia or fibula) should have certain other injuries manifest with it. Particularly the WAY it broke. If the resident really fell, injuries such as large bruises not just in the area of the injury, but also on other parts of the body (i.e. if falls on arm, will also bruise ribs, back, shoulder, etc). But what kind of break is it? There are a few different kinds of broken bones. The most COMMON when it comes to abuse is spiral fractures/breaks. That happens when the bone is being pulled in two different directions—like the individual trying to spin away and someone else pulling the individual’s arm out—and breaks in a spiral pattern. This is also common for sports injuries where an ankle gets caught but the body keeps going and rolls. If the home says the resident fell, and there is a spiral fracture, contact an attorney immediately.
Third, and not always as obvious, look for emotional changes. Is the resident quieter now? Are there new, weird happens being manifested? Are they giving away money or personal possession, or are those goods missing? Does the resident seem depressed, hostile, agitated, defense? These are further warning signs that can be REALLY tricky because they may naturally occur during socialization process when first arriving at a home.
In addition to all of these factors, also keep track of medications if you can. This is hard to do, but is really scientific and should be easy to predict. This is because prescriptions are carefully listed with dosages—the amount to take, how often, and when. Are medications running out quickly? These could mean that staff is over-medicating the resident. Are medications lasting for a long time? This could mean that staff is failing to administer the medication!
All of these factors can be used together to make a determination. If you are not sure that there is abuse going on, then there is probably a good reason why this pops into your head! Speak with a trained attorney just to make sure! Consultations should ALWAYS be free for certain types of cases, and this in one of them.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.