Abuse vs. Neglect in Nursing Homes
While neglect falls under the broader umbrella of abuse, it also occupies a unique position. Most forms of abuse are intentional; they are willful acts of malice against older people. Neglect, by contrast, represents a failure to uphold a duty of care. When an elder is committed to residency in a care facility, the facility accepts a responsibility to maintain and monitor the health and well-being of a resident. Failure to uphold that duty is a form of negligence referred to as neglect.
While neglect may be discussed differently, it is still a form of abuse. Neglect can occur by accident, but if this accidental lack of oversight results in injury, illness, or even death, it still represents a failure of the care facility’s accepted responsibilities.
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Due to the wide variety of possible forms of abuse, signs of abuse can be widely varied. When attempting to determine signs of abuse, any of the following may be present, depending on the type of abuse:
- Physical abuse. There may be frequent and noticeable physical injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, bruises, burns, broken bones, dislocated joints, or head injuries. This may also result in a pattern of repeated hospitalization with vague or unclear explanations of how injuries occurred.
- Psychological abuse. Signs may include new or unprompted depression, anxiety, or paranoia; a victim may also become isolated (whether self-imposed or otherwise) or develop a pattern of low self-esteem.
- Financial abuse. Signs could include missing money from a wallet or bank account with no explanation, unpaid bills, sudden changes in control over finances, or missing belongings.
- Sexual abuse. There may be signs of injury around the genitals and pelvic area and the sudden appearance of new sexually transmitted infections.
- Neglect. Poor hygiene, malnourishment or dehydration, sudden weight loss, missed medications, and unclean lodgings or clothing can all be signs of neglect.
If one or more of these signs occurs, it is vital to talk to your loved one about whether or not they are being abused.
How to Ask a Loved One if They’re Being Abused
Discussing elder abuse with a loved one can be difficult. It’s critical to keep in mind that first and foremost, they may be a victim of an abusive situation. They may not be comfortable speaking about their experience due to fears of consequences for their safety. Providing them with a confidential and safe place to talk will go a long way toward making them feel comfortable enough to open up.
Creating a safe place to talk will help you assess if legal action is necessary. If you cannot easily create a space for them to talk, you can use the Elder Abuse Suspicion Index to determine if abuse may be occurring.
Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
While the damages incurred in a nursing home abuse lawsuit will be specific to the case itself, a few types of damages are common. Pain and suffering, punitive damages, and reimbursement for medical expenses or lost wages are damages often awarded in nursing home abuse cases. In some cases, victims can win reimbursement for attorney costs as well.
How Much Can My Loved One Recover for Their Damages?
Just as the types of damages may vary from case to case, compensation for those damages will also vary. The awards will be specific to the types of damages.
- Pain and suffering damages are the most commonly awarded damages and usually result in the highest compensation. Plaintiff attorneys may refer to these damages in amounts that multiply medical expense costs or by the length of time that injuries persist.
- Punitive damages are awarded very rarely but can result in considerable compensation. Attorneys must prove gross negligence or willful and malicious intent, but the resulting settlement is often quite high.
- Reimbursement for medical expenses will typically correspond to the total cost of medical bills and any ongoing treatment or recovery fees. This can include physical therapy, costs of medication, or other outpatient treatment.