Many elderly adults are vulnerable to abuse in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities where trained staff are responsible for their care. When nursing home staff are overworked and pushed to the breaking point in terms of work load and burdensome staffing ratios, patience and tolerance are affected, frequently resulting in patient injury and even abuse.
The most common type of abuse endured by nursing home patients includes physical beatings, sexual assault, and forced ingestion of food or medication. Physical abuse can also result from neglect, which occurs when nursing home staff forget or refuse to feed or clothe a patient, fail to assist with personal hygiene, or fail to protect patients from health and safety hazards.
Nursing homes mentally abuse their elderly patients when they verbally or emotionally mistreat, humiliate, insult, or threaten them. Mental abuse also includes situations when nursing homes deny patients their right of personal choice such as when they want to get out of bed or eat. Mental abuse can also take the form of verbal intimidation or forced isolation.
Nursing home staff may also financially abuse patients when they take advantage of them by stealing or coercing patients to give them money or provide for them in their will. Some of the signs of nursing home financial abuse may include:
- Frequent withdrawals from bank accounts
- Loss of personal property
- New loans or mortgage contracts
- Recent visions to wills, deeds, or trusts
What Causes Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse results primarily from understaffed nursing homes, stressful working conditions, and inadequate staff training. Understaffing results in overworked employees who tend to burn out and lose empathy and patience with nursing home patients, leading to errors that can result in serious medical complications and death.
Research has found that the chance of nursing home abuse increases significantly in a facility with a high percentage of patients with dementia and corresponding low staff ratios, particularly when employees are being asked to work double shifts. Training can prepare staff to respond appropriately to difficult situations, such as dealing with physically combative residents, which have the potential to trigger abuse. Residents who rarely receive visitors may be more vulnerable to abuse, since there is no one from outside the facility to regularly check on their care.