Elder abuse is an unfortunate truth throughout the United States. Vulnerable elderly patients face abuse from their families, caregivers, and nursing home staff. While it isn’t guaranteed to happen, it is entirely too likely.
That’s why certain advocacy organizations are taking a stand to defend our elders and reduce, if not eliminate, instances of abuse. You can help protect your loved one from abuse and fight for them if they become victims. Let’s find out how.
As your loved ones age, they may begin to lose independence. Bodies can weaken over time, and debilitating health conditions can make it harder for people to take care for themselves. You can hire home assistance for healthier seniors, but others may need to be moved into full-care facilities, aka nursing homes.
First and foremost, you should sit down with your loved one and any immediate family members to discuss important matters like medical wishes, will and testament, and power of attorney. Find out what your loved one wants and what is practical. Determine who will be in charge of their finances and documents so that abusers cannot take advantage of their declining state to gain more control and power over them. You should also have a talk about the risk of abuse and encourage your loved one to seek help from trusted family members if any staff members cause concern or harm to them in any way.
Next, help your loved one research potential caregivers or facilities. You can perform background checks, investigate any news articles or legal cases involving their names, and go for a tour. You want to ensure potential care facilities aren’t facing abuse allegations and keep their property safe and clean. Some top issues leading to abuse involve understaffed and overworked care teams and a lack of proper training or education.You can get a feel for their practices and conditions by touring and interviewing management. Some abuse is easy to hide, so don’t feel guilty if you don’t notice signs, but abuse happens.
Another way to protect your loved one is to stay involved in their life and care. Check in with your loved one and the people who care for them to stay up to date on their health and experiences. You can also befriend the staff and see how the facility treats them. Some nursing home staff may feel powerless to address systemic issues, but you and your family have more authority as clients of the home to raise issues to management and expect results— just don’t name your informants, or they may face retaliation.
Additionally, you can familiarize yourself with signs of abuse, including:
- Sudden or unexplained weight change
- Changes in behavior, including anxiety, depression, or fear
- Bed sores
- Poor hygiene
- Sepsis or septic shock
- Bruises or broken bones
Get to know your loved one’s doctors and nurses, and let them know of any concerns you have. They can help determine if a condition or injury was truly an accident or potentially the result of abuse or neglect.
Your first priority is your loved one’s care. Get them somewhere safe and find treatment for physical and mental wounds. You may need to schedule doctor appointments, specialist appointments, and therapy appointments. You may also want to schedule a rotation with friends and family to ensure your loved one has someone looking after them until matters are solved.
You have the option to approach the nursing home management first. If the issue is a single staff member or a procedure, they can take steps to solve the issue and work closely with you to alleviate any concerns. If they don’t, or if the harm to your loved one is severe, it’s time to approach the authorities.
When it comes to reporting abuse, you have multiple options:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Adult Protective Services
- The Police
- Your State Department of Aging
Any and all of these organizations can help you and perform criminal investigations into the nursing home or caregiver. However, these organizations strictly handle criminal matters. If you need compensation to help your loved one’s recovery, or worse, pay for their funeral, you will need to seek legal assistance.
The US is home to many highly experienced and qualified nursing home abuse lawyers. These lawyers know the legal system inside and out and can help you find justice for your loved one. The first step is to find and retain a lawyer. Most nursing home abuse lawyers offer free consultations so you can get a feel for the attorney you would be working with and how their office performs. You can schedule multiple consultations before coming to a decision to ensure you get along with the legal team; nursing home abuse cases can be long and time-consuming, meaning you need to have a good professional relationship with the firm.
Once you officially retain a lawyer, they will take over. They will let you know of any forms you need to fill out, as well as any documentation or contact information you can provide them to help solidify your case. Other than their requests, the lawyer will handle everything else.
Do not talk to anyone about the case, including reporters, insurance adjusters, or the defending party. Never sign any forms without your lawyer’s approval. Instead, direct all contact to your lawyer’s firm. Some defense lawyers and insurance adjusters have practiced turning anything you say against your case or lowballing settlement offers. Your lawyer will be trained against these practices and protect you from unintentionally waiving rights or compensation.
Your lawyer and their team will be your strongest ally and your guide in navigating the legal system. Follow their directions to a T, knowing you can trust them to fight for your loved one’s rights and seek fair compensation for their pain.