The statistics for elder abuse are disheartening. The average number of elder abuse cases reported each year is around 2,150,000 in the United States. However, the actual number of victims may be higher as most cases go unreported. The elderly, being defenseless, can be easy targets for abuse and neglect.
There may be dozens of questions on your mind when you decide to place your loved one in a nursing home. The following six FAQs will provide you with information about nursing home abuse and neglect, and how to get help.
1. What Are Nursing Home and Elderly Abuse? Are They the Same?
They are similar terms but aren’t exactly the same. In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any known, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult or elder. It is also known as nursing home abuse and neglect because it usually occurs in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
Nursing home abuse can include physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect, financial fraud and abandonment. However, neglect remains the most pervasive form of elder abuse. Perpetrators may include children, other family members, and spouses as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living and other care facilities.
2. What Are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?
The warning signs of elder abuse may overlap with common symptoms of dementia and physical deterioration. While one sign may not indicate elder abuse, you can look for clusters of the following physical and emotional signs.Unexplained injuries such as bruises, welts, broken bones, scars, abrasions, and burns may indicate physical abuse.
- Unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unexplained bedsores may be signs of neglect.
- Threatening and controlling behavior of caregivers may indicate emotional abuse.
- Sudden withdrawal from routine activities and unusual depression may be a sign of emotional abuse.
- Sudden change in finances may indicate financial fraud.
- Injuries around breasts and genitalia may indicate sexual abuse.
3. What Should I Do If I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect towards your loved one, you can report the incidence to the office of Adult Protective Services (APS) located in your state. You can find the contact number for each state office on the National Center on Elder Abuse website or the Eldercare Locator website. You can also reach the Eldercare Locator by telephone at 1-800-677-1116. Further, contact the nursing home administrator to demand an explanation or lodge a complaint.
Although you don’t need hard evidence to report elder abuse, you should provide as many specific details as possible. In the end, you should contact a competent nursing home abuse attorney to know your rights and protect them.
4. How Will the Authorities Handle My Case?
If the victim is in imminent danger, you should call 911 or Adult Protective Services and describe the emergency in detail. Chances are the local police will respond to your request and relocate the victim to a safe location. The police will then investigate the incident and file charges with the local judiciary.
Procedures vary from state to state if the threat is less imminent. Usually, the local office of the APS will be directed to investigate the complaint. However, it is better to contact a licensed lawyer who is experienced in handling elder abuse cases. He/she can evaluate the situation and advise you to take appropriate action. A qualified attorney can ensure the well-being of the elderly person and protect his/her rights. Read more about how a lawyer can help.
5. What Is the Timeline of a Nursing Home Injury Case?
Nursing home abuse cases are the most complex litigation cases. The usual timeline from filing the lawsuit to reaching a settlement or a verdict can be anywhere from one to three years. At first, the attorney will investigate the case. He/she will hire expert doctors/nurses to review the medical records of the victim. If experts believe that the nursing home staff did violate standard care protocol, the lawyer will start preparation for filing a lawsuit.
Usually, a nursing home will retain a defense counsel and ask the court for an extension to answer to the lawsuit. This process may take up to 60 days. At this point, deposition begins which may take around a year to complete.
Once the deposition is over, the court will schedule mediation as an attempt to settle the case before the trial. In most cases, mediation is successful. However, if it is unsuccessful, your case will proceed to trial, which may be scheduled several months later. Usually, a trial concludes in one to five weeks.
6. How Much Will Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit Cost?
Usually, nursing home abuse attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means you don’t have to pay attorney fees up front. Typically, one-third of the settlement amount goes to your lawyer. Therefore, you have to pay the lawyer only if you win or settle the case. However, most attorneys will charge you for out-of-pocket expenses such as postage, copies, messenger services, court fees, deposition costs, and other incidental items.
Financial abuse cases may not be charged on a contingency basis because they are difficult to prosecute. In fact, most financial abuse lawyers work on an hourly basis. The usual rate may be anywhere from $100 to $400 per hour. The charges will vary depending on your jurisdiction, the complexity of your case, and the attorney you hire.
Elder abuse can be difficult to detect, particularly if it involves a nursing home resident. Unfortunately, more than half of nursing-care residents are victims of elderly abuse. It is a major sociological concern. The most common reasons of nursing home abuse and neglect include the lack of training, understaffed facilities, stressed or frustrated staff, and too much workload. The above six FAQs will help you understand the various facts associated with nursing home neglect and elder abuse.
Andera Colon is a freelance writer and blogger from Chicago, IL who loves to write about varied topics including health, automobile, technology, and more. Currently, she is focusing on Law related topics. When she is not writing, she enjoys traveling with her friends and taking long walks on the beach.