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The National Center on Elder Abuse was established by the U.S. Administration on Aging over twenty years ago. Its goal is to protect elderly citizens who were victims of abuse or neglect from those who were supposed to be taking care of them.
The prevalence of nursing home negligence in the U.S. is unknown as not all cases are reported. However, studies suggest that between one and two million Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized by caregivers. When nursing home facilities are understaffed and underpaid or when they choose to put profits above the health and safety of their patients, the results can be heart-breaking.
In such cases, do not stay silent. The team of medical malpractice lawyers from The Law Offices of Joseph Lichtenstein can help save an elderly loved one from nursing home negligence and/or abuse.
Identifying Neglect in Nursing Homes
Neglect is different from abuse in that the harm to the patient does not occur because of something that the caregiver has done; rather, it is something that they have not done. Such incident can fall under medical malpractice and victims can receive compensation.
Elderly patients require varying amounts of care and attention. When the nursing home staff does not provide adequate care and it results in injury to the patient, this could constitute a case of neglect. One sign that could point to neglect is falls. Although falls can occur even when adequate care is taking place, it could be a red flag to the fact that proper observation is not taking place. This is serious because even a relatively minor fall could result in a broken bone due to the fact that the bones are weaker.
Another tragic occurrence which can result from neglect is suffocation and strangulation in beds. Either because they became trapped between the railings of the bed or the mattress was too small for the frame, there are up to 30 deaths in nursing homes every year. It is also important to be on the lookout for dehydration or malnutrition. Patients with dementia or other illnesses could forget to eat or drink even if food is brought to them. It is the responsibility of the staff to ensure the patients are not suffering in this way.
Bedsores (Pressure Sores) are another issue which can occur when patients are left in their bed for extended periods of time. Also known as pressure sores, these are formed when a patient is left in the same position for too long. These sores most often occur over areas of thinner skin which cover bones, such as elbows, ankles, and the back of the head. The pressure causes the blood flow to the specific area to be obstructed. It first appears as a red mark on the skin, which goes away once the pressure is released. If the pressure is not relieved, it will turn into a blister, but it does not go any deeper than the epidermis. Once it reaches the third stage, the wound has reached the bottom layer of tissue and is difficult to heal due to the lack of blood supply. In the fourth stage, the wound can reach down to the bone through the muscle and tendons. Not only are bedsores difficult to treat and heal, but it can cause life-threatening infections.
Types of Elder Abuse
There are other types of elder abuse than just elder neglect. Other types of abuse can prove to be just as harmful or even worse. The first and most easily recognizable type of abuse is physical abuse. This could range from hitting and shaking to kicking, pinching, beating, and burning. If your elderly loved one displays signs of any unexplained injuries, such as bruises, cuts, sprains, or broken bones, this could be abuse. It is important to examine the behavior of the patient to see if anything is amiss. Also, if the nursing home refuses visitation or seeks to discourage the family from visiting, it could point to abuse rather than an accident.
Sexual abuse is another type of treatment which can occur at nursing homes. This broad category includes any type of unwanted sexual contact. When the elderly patient suffers from mental illnesses, they may not remember what has happened or understand what is going on. Instances of sexual abuse in nursing homes include sexual assault, rape, coerced nudity, and more. Emotional abuse can also be difficult to detect. It is defined as any type of behavior which causes the victim emotional pain and distress. Examples of this type of behavior include: harassment, humiliation, threats, insults, and isolation.
Lastly, financial abuse is an all-too-common type of elder abuse. Either through manipulation or threats of violence, the abuser could attempt to gain control of their finances or be added to their will. In order to prevent misuse or theft of their money from occurring, it is important that the family of the elder keep track of their bank account. If there is any unexplained activity, it could point to this type of issue. You should also check to make sure that you are not being billed for unnecessary services by the nursing home itself.
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If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected by their caregivers, there are steps you can take to address the situation. In more serious cases which require immediate action in order to protect the elderly loved one, you should contact the police. However, if the victim’s life is not in danger, you could instead contact the local adult protective services in your area. For cases of abuse in New York, you could contact Adult Protective Services, the New York State Office for the Aging, or the New York State Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman.
By being aware of the warning signs of neglect, you will be better able to identify if it occurs. However, in order to prove it to the authorities, you should attempt to keep careful documentation of the alleged abuse. For example, you could take photographs of the living conditions or any injuries which occurred. You could also keep track of finances if you suspect the patient was being taken advantage of in this way.
If you need assistance or help in proving your case, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team at the Law Offices of Joseph M. Lichtenstein, PC. We have successfully helped countless families with similar cases and have over 60 years of experience which we could put to use in helping you.
The Law Offices of Joseph Lichtenstein provides legal services to most areas around New York City, including the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Long Island, Westchester, Suffolk County and Nassau County. Call us today at (888) 392 3104 or send us a message through our Contact Us page to find out if you have a legitimate medical negligence case. We offer New York communities our expertise as medical malpractice lawyers and birth injury lawyers, among other legal services. All initial consultations with us are FREE.