Types of Nursing Home Abuse

As our elderly population continues to grow, so has the need for long-term care in nursing home facilities. Sadly, along with this, has come a steady increase in instances of abuse. Often time, the mistreatment of an elderly person goes undetected, undiscovered and/or unreported, making it difficult to precisely pinpoint just how large the problem is. Studies conducted in 2010 revealed that nearly 10% of nursing home residents stated that they experienced some form of abuse in the previous 12 months, but more than 50% of nursing home staff admitted to abusing or neglecting a resident within the prior year. These figures suggest that nursing home abuse is actually far more prevalent than what many think.

There are many ways in which a resident can be mistreated, harmed, exploited, injured and/or endangered. Most incidents can be categorized into one or more of the following broader terms: (1) abuse; (2) neglect; (3) misappropriation. Illinois’ Nursing Home Care Act defines each of these as follows:

  • "ABUSE" means any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a resident other than by accidental means in a facility.
  • "NEGLECT" means a facility's failure to provide, or willful withholding of, adequate medical care, mental health treatment, psychiatric rehabilitation, personal care, or assistance with activities of daily living that is necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness of a resident.
  • "MISAPPROPRIATION of a resident's property" means the deliberate misplacement, exploitation, or wrongful temporary or permanent use of a resident's belongings or money without the resident's consent.

Provided below, is a further break-down of each of these categories, including specific examples of some of the most common types of mistreatment that occurs in nursing homes:

  • Physical Abuse: pushing, shoving, slapping, punching, kicking, biting, burning, scratching; rough-handling or unnecessary use of excessive force; improperly restraining resident, whether physically or chemically; confinement; untreated infections, bedsores, welts, abrasions, bruises; causing other physical harm or bodily injury;
  • Mental, Emotional, Psychological Abuse: threatening, bullying, terrorizing, menacing; intimidating, embarrassing, insulting, humiliating, ridiculing; isolating, confining, ignoring; unnecessary use of restraints or improper restraint methods; inappropriate blaming, accusing, or scapegoating; other verbal or physical actions that cause a resident to become mentally or emotionally distressed, anxious, worried, and/or fearful.
  • Sexual Abuse: rape, sexual assault, inappropriate touching, or any type sexual contact that is non-consensual or forced (including incidents involving residents whom lack the capacity to give proper consent); sexual harassment; forcing a resident to undress in front of others; showing pornographic material; exploiting a resident sexually in any manner.
  • Active Neglect: leaving a resident unattended, unsupervised, or un-cared for; denying or ignoring requests for basic needs or care; failing to administer medication according to treatment plan or other medication errors; failing to intervene or take action to prevent resident-to-resident abuse; not having enough staff to meet the needs of every resident; allowing a resident’s condition or status to deteriorate when treatment, services, or medical attention could have remedied the issue;
  • Self-Neglect/ Passive Neglect: allowing the resident to neglect themselves with regard to personal hygiene, medication, medical treatment, or basic living needs; failing to discover that a resident requires assistance, when a staff member could or should have through the exercise of reasonable care.
  • Property or Financial Abuse: theft or misuse of a resident’s money, checks, credit cards, accounts, assets, or property; identity theft; denying a resident use or access to money or personal belongings; restricting or preventing a resident from determining eligibility or applying for Medicare or Medicaid benefits; improperly advising, assisting, or coercing a resident to make changes to wills, powers of attorney, or life insurance policies; fraud or forgery; failing to provide notification regarding spousal impoverishment rights; not paying bills on a resident’s behalf (i.e. health/life insurance) when facility agreed or obligated to; overbilling healthcare insurance or Medicare/Medicaid, or submitting claims for services not rendered.

Nursing home abuse is a serious issue, and should not be ignored. If you suspect that a resident is being mistreated, have witnessed an incident, or see warning signs of abuse or neglect, then it is important to tell someone. The sooner you take action, the better, especially when injury or harm has already occurred. In addition to being cited for regulatory violations, the nursing home can also be held liable for damages caused as a result of their negligence.

Call us at 773-516-4100, or send us a message online, to discuss your personal injury concerns confidentially and free of charge, with our experienced lawyers.

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