Nursing homes are communities where loved ones can be provided for and kept safe. Unfortunately, our nation’s elders are vulnerable to abuse. According to the National Council on Aging, about 10 percent of all Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of abuse. They also report that as many as 5 million elders are abused in any given year. Nursing home abuse is often a silent problem, as only 1 in every 14 cases are reported to the authorities. If you or someone you love is experiencing neglect or abuse, our Billings nursing home abuse attorneys can explain your options. Learn the warning signs of nursing home abuse, and when to contact an attorney.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is described as any range of offenses that hurt a person emotionally, physically, mentally, or financially. Though most people in nursing homes are elders, others, such as those with special needs, may also be vulnerable. Nursing home abuse is classified into one of the following types:

  • Neglect is a form of abuse that results in possible or actual serious harm. Bedsores can be an indication of neglect, as these may occur as the result of failing to turn incapacitated patients.
  • False imprisonment. This common type of nursing home abuse occurs when staff prevent a resident from leaving a certain area, such as their room. A person committing false imprisonment will keep a resident from their source of mobility, or threaten the resident if they don’t comply.
  • Financial abuse. A staff member of a nursing home commits financial abuse when they steal a resident’s property or information to commit fraud. They may also coerce a resident to modify their will or deed. Excess surcharges that deprive a resident of their earnings is also a form of financial abuse.

What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

Each case of elder abuse is unique. Some “career criminals” are so cunning they can minimize outward symptoms. Be aware of these red flags for nursing home abuse:

  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss
  • Bruising or bedsores
  • Suspicious injuries resulting from falls
  • Broken bones
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Depression or anger
  • False dementia, which is described as rocking and mumbling most of the time
  • Changes in spending habits, such as more frequent withdrawals or changes in mortgages or deeds
  • Excessive fear around certain people

This is not an exhaustive list. If you have any suspicion of nursing home abuse, take action immediately.

What Can I Do if I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse?

If you suspect a loved one is in danger, you have options.

  1. Verify their story. Check with other coherent residents in the nursing home to see if they can corroborate the resident’s story. Ask for copies of medical records and take photos of injuries and current prescriptions.
  2. Find them another place to stay. If you suspect nursing home abuse, remove the resident from the facility as soon as possible. If you knowingly keep an abused loved one within a dangerous situation, your case is may be severely weakened.
  3. Contact the authorities. Call the police or district attorney’s office and ask to file a grievance. If the D.A.’s office finds sufficient evidence, they will charge the wrongdoers with a crime.

Contact an Attorney

Elder abuse is a crime, and those who abuse the vulnerable deserve to pay for their actions. You have legal recourse beyond criminal justice – your family may also file a civil lawsuit against the facility that employed the abuser. Contact Heenan & Cook, PLLC for a free initial consultation, and we’ll advise you of the next appropriate steps.