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Nursing home abuse comes in many forms, all of which are unacceptable. It can be intentional or unintentional. Again, both are unacceptable. Nursing homes exist purely for the purpose of ensuring the proper care and safety of the elderly and those with special needs. They have a legal duty to provide adequate care and supervision and to protect residents from all forms of abuse. Whether it is a facility wide problem, an isolated case of abuse of one resident, or a single abusive staff member who slips through the cracks of screening and monitoring, the nursing home is ultimately responsible.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse includes:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Mental/emotional abuse
- Financial exploitation
- Theft of property
Mental and Emotional Abuse
Mental and emotional abuse are elusive because there are no physical marks, the abuse may go unreported by residents, and when it is reported it is often written off as a product of dementia or oversensitivity on the part of the elderly resident. However, mental and emotional abuse can have very serious, even fatal health consequences for the nursing home resident who is essentially held captive by their abuser.
Even without any physical abuse, mental and emotional abuse can include severe intimidation and scare tactics such as threatening the lives of loved ones if victims tell anyone what is happening. Victims can suffer from malnutrition and dehydration, withdraw from activities, develop serious health conditions and suffer catastrophic health events.
Examples of mental and emotional abuse include:
- Verbal assaults
- The “silent treatment”
- Forced isolation, including being forced to take meals alone
- Exclusion from social activities
- Exclusion from normal daily activities
- Isolation from loved ones
- Threats of harm to loved ones outside of the nursing home
Physical abuse is often masked by claims that injuries are the result of accidents occurring as a result of impairments normal to aging. Some physical abuse, such as hair pulling, does not leave visible signs. Physical abuse can happen in a nursing home for a number of reasons. In some cases it is pure cruelty on the part of a staff member, but it can also be the result of inadequate training or frustration on the part of overworked staff members. Very difficult residents may be more likely to be physically abused, but that is no excuse. It is the responsibility of the nursing home to provide the proper care, without abuse.
Examples of physical abuse in a nursing home include:
- Hair pulling
- Intentionally allowing a resident to fall
- Rough handling including dropping a resident
- Unreasonable use of restraints
- Allowing physical altercations between residents
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