Wondering how common is nursing home abuse? Every year, at least one in 10 American seniors becomes a victim of elder abuse. The nearly 14,000 cases of nursing home abuse reported annually are believed to represent just a fraction of the total number of incidents that actually occur.
Thanks in part to this under-reporting, most seniors and their families are not aware of the scope or frequency of this type of abuse. Sadly, it is all too common. This lack of awareness can contribute to seniors’ risk of becoming victims themselves.
Keep reading to learn what abuse looks like, who is at risk, and what to do if you suspect abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse Takes Many Forms
One of the reasons nursing home abuse in South Carolina goes so under-reported is that it can take many forms. This includes the most commonly recognized forms, such as physical and sexual abuse. However, it also encompasses mental and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial abuse.
Moreover, abuse can be perpetrated by anyone. This includes:
- Nursing home staff and contractors.
- Other nursing home residents.
- The family or visitors of other nursing home residents.
This broad range of potential types of abuse and abusers can make it challenging for seniors and their families to recognize and combat abuse.
It also can create confusion and uncertainty about:
- Who is responsible.
- Who families and seniors can report abuse to.
- What can be done about different kinds of abuse.
Additionally, as in all cases of abuse, being victimized can leave seniors feeling ashamed, embarrassed, or intimidated. This can further contribute to delays in identifying, reporting, and resolving abusive situations.
Why Abuse Happens
Digging into nursing home abuse statistics, it quickly becomes clear why abuse of all kinds is so rampant. Certainly, there are “bad actors,” people who prey on the elderly because they view them as easy targets. In many cases, however, the causes of abuse are more complicated and insidious.
Sometimes, abuse is perpetrated by other residents. This often happens because the abusers are ill. They may have dementia or other conditions that:
- Impact their perceptions of reality.
- Inhibit their ability to control themselves or make good decisions.
- Leave them confused, short-tempered, and prone to physical or verbal outbursts.
Patients can experience a similar lack of control or dangerous behavior as the result of problems with their medications. This can make them a danger to themselves and others through no fault of their own.
Around 90 percent of nursing homes are chronically short-staffed. Official guidelines suggest that facilities should have staff-to-patient ratios of between 1-to-3 and 1-to-6. It is not uncommon, though, for facilities to run with one trained staffer per 20 or so patients.
This low ratio directly leads to neglect. There simply aren’t enough staffers to adequately care for residents’ basic needs. It also drives up rates of patient-on-patient abuse, as no staffers are available to intervene to stop or prevent such abuse.
Insufficient staffing of nursing homes also contributes to:
- Lack of training among staffers.
- Burnout among workers and reduced care quality.
- Preventable injuries and hospitalizations among residents.
- Fear, isolation, and other emotional trauma among residents.
Lack of staffing almost always results from nursing home owners or operators trying to save money by cutting corners and costs where they should not.
The first step in getting help and pursuing a nursing abuse case in South Carolina is recognizing that abuse is occurring. For many seniors and their families, this means keeping in mind that 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to abusing patients when surveyed.
Furthermore, all estimates and indicators suggest that abuse has dramatically increased in the last few years. As the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) put increased pressure on nursing homes and their staff, incidents of abuse have skyrocketed.
Thus, families need to understand that if they suspect abuse is occurring:
- It almost certainly is.
- They are not alone.
- It is not the victim’s fault in any way.
- It is not the family’s fault for choosing a facility in which abuse is occurring.
- By speaking up and taking action they will protect dozens of other vulnerable seniors as well as their own family member.
The second step for families is familiarizing themselves with common signs of abuse.
Indicators of physical abuse include:
- Frequent or unexplained injuries such as bruises, broken bones, restraint marks, or infections
- Poor hygiene
- Unattended bed sores
- Failure to get medication properly
- Caregivers that refuse to leave patients and family members alone together
Mental and emotional signs of abuse include:
- Patients expressing fear related to staffers or other patients
- Anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders in patients
- Erratic or troubling behavior in patients not linked to known medical disorders or conditions
Other signs of potential abuse include:
- Unexplained changes to patients’ finances
- Witnessing abusive or violent behavior
- Inability to find and secure help from staff when needed or desired
- Visible untidiness, chaos, neglect, or unsafe situations within a facility
When family members suspect or identify abuse, they should seek out the best nursing home abuse attorney available right away.
An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer in SC can help families:
- Document neglect and abuse.
- Understand their options and the process of filing a claim.
- Secure safer conditions for their loved ones right away.
- Determine which parties are most likely liable for the abuse.
- Identify how much nursing home abuse compensation they might qualify for.
- Chart a path forward.
Attorneys can also help families take action in ways that protect them from counter-suits such as slander or libel. If you suspect abuse, don’t wait to search “nursing home abuse lawyers near me” and start seeking the help that you need.
While it is possible to bring a suit on your own, winning a suit without legal help is unlikely at best. Nursing homes always have attorneys and resources and they will not hesitate to bring them to bear to defend themselves. You and your family will need an attorney on your side to see justice done.
Schedule a Free Case Review with a South Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Attorney.
Discovering that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse can be a terrifying and emotional time. Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with the grief and confusion alone.
Schedule a free consultation today with us at Burriss and Ridgeway and let our experienced attorneys help you find a way forward.