When we place an elderly loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, we trust that they will be properly cared for and remain safe. This is the reason why facilities like this exist, after all—to protect our elderly loved ones when we are unable to do so ourselves.
Unfortunately, due to the dangerous combination of budgetary concerns and negligence, residents are sometimes improperly cared for, wrongfully injured, or abused in long-term care facilities. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), a study of 2,000 nursing home residents concluded that 44 percent of nursing home residents had been abused and 95 percent had been neglected or had witnessed neglect. One in three nursing homes is cited for violations every year.
In the legal world, we refer to situations like this as elder abuse, elder neglect, or nursing home abuse or neglect. When a family member is harmed, neglected, or abused in a facility, you have a right to hire a Milwaukee nursing home abuse lawyer to keep your loved one safe.
If you’re in this unfortunate situation, hiring an attorney may let you file a lawsuit against the facility. Doing so may grant your family compensation that can aid in your loved one’s recovery process, as well as guarantee their safety by placing them in a better home or facility. Filing a lawsuit against the facility also sends an important message—a message which states that the health and safety of our elderly population must be prioritized at all times. There is never an exception.
To begin to understand your situation and what your options are, we’re here to provide you with information on the common forms of nursing home abuse and how to identify the signs, how to recognize an elder abuser, and what your rights are as a citizen of Wisconsin and the United States.
Nursing Home Abuse in Wisconsin: Facts and Stats
- Over 3 million Americans reside in nursing homes, and more 900,000 live in assisted living settings. Over those individuals, two out of three are female. The majority are 65 years of age or older.
- According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), a nursing home is a facility that provides 24-hour nursing services and room and board to five or more unrelated individuals.
- On average, nursing homes charge anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 per year, per resident.
- In just Wisconsin, 3,500 suspected cases of nursing home abuse or neglect are reported every year.
- Nationally, for every case of elder neglect, exploitation, and abuse that is reported, five go unreported.
- The majority of nursing homes in the country are understaffed.
- 46 percent of nursing home nurses claim to have missed changes in a resident’s condition because of excessive workload and fatigue.
- The NCEA estimate that by 2050, the number of individuals in the oldest age group, 65 and older, will double to approximately 18 million.
Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse
Below you’ll find a breakdown of the most common forms of elder abuse in nursing home settings.
Physical abuse is the most common type of abuse in long-term care facilities, accounting for 29 percent of all reported cases. This type of abuse happens when a caregiver intentionally harms a resident. A staff member may hit residents, shove them, or otherwise forcefully handle them. Withholding medication or overmedicating is also considered physical abuse.
This is often the easiest form of abuse to prove in court because of the visible proof on the resident’s body or in their bloodwork. Photographic evidence is often the most beneficial when trying to support your case.
Psychological or emotional abuse can come in many forms and is more difficult to prove; but it’s one of the most devastating and permanent ways a resident can be abused. Approximately 21 percent of reported elder abuse cases in nursing homes are related to psychological abuse.
Staff members may humiliate or ridicule residents, scare them, or even forcefully ignore or isolate them to the point of causing emotional distress.
Resident to Resident Abuse
While there is very little research on resident to resident nursing home abuse, it does account for 22 percent of reported nursing home abuse cases. Residents may act out on each other if they suffer from mental illnesses that lead to increased anger or hallucinations.
It can be difficult deciding who is at fault for nursing home abuse in instances like this; however, the nursing home staff should be present and aware of what is going on around them at all times.
When a nursing home resident is neglected, they are denied their basic needs. These needs include food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. As a result, residents can suffer physically and mentally.
Nursing home neglect accounts for 14 percent of the reported cases.
In a nursing home setting, financial exploitation accounts for 7 percent of all reported abuse cases. Nursing home staff may try to take advantage of a resident’s poor eyesight or wavering mental state to steal bank account information or personal property.
Sexual abuse can be a difficult topic to discuss; but that doesn’t impact how often it occurs. While sexual abuse accounts for 7 percent of nursing home abuse reports, it’s likely that the majority of incidents go unreported.
Recognizing Elder Abuse in a Nursing Home
If you have a loved one in a Wisconsin nursing home or long-term care facility, it can be difficult to know if they are always safe since you obviously cannot be there for them on a constant basis. There are a few things you should always watch for every time you visit them. Here are some of the most common signs of elder abuse broken down by the type of abuse.
Physical Abuse. The physical signs of trauma are typically easily identifiable. You may notice unexplained broken bones or sprains, bruising, scarring or welts, broken glasses, or signs of restraints on wrists or ankles.
Psychological Abuse. Signs of emotional trauma include sudden mood changes, noticeable signs of fear, emotional outbursts, or a tendency to be withdrawn and quiet when certain staff members are present. They may also exhibit unusual behavior like mumbling, rocking, or thumb-sucking.
Financial Abuse. If you notice significant, unexplained changes in your loved one’s bank accounts, life insurance policies, or will, they may be a victim of financial exploitation.
Sexual Abuse. When a nursing home resident has suffered from sexual abuse, they may have an unexplained sexually transmitted disease, bruising, or torn undergarments. They are also likely to be withdrawn.
Individuals who have suffered any type of abuse or neglect may appear withdrawn and have little interest in the activities they previously enjoyed. You may notice changes in eating habits, as well as weight loss. They may be vague about how they’re treated and shy away from certain caregivers.
In addition to the signs listed above, a victim of nursing home abuse may be suffering from the following:
- Unclean conditions
- Poor health
Recognizing an Elder Abuser
If you notice any of the signs above and feel as though your loved one might be a victim of elder abuse or neglect, there are also signs to look for with the nursing home staff.
Your loved one is likely to come in contact with a variety of nursing home employees including administration, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), custodians, dieticians, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), maintenance employees, physical therapists (PTs), and registered nurses (RNs).
According to the NCEA, 50 percent of nursing home staff admit to abusing or neglecting their older patients. Of the CNAs polled, 51 percent admitted to yelling at a resident, 23 percent insulted or swore at a resident, and 17 percent admitted to pushing, grabbing, or shoving a resident.
Elder abusers often target residents that have insignificant social support, lower income, or dementia. If you notice your loved one shies away from certain staff members there may be an issue. Abuse may also be occurring if a caregiver seems reluctant to leave you alone with your loved one, or if they exhibit any threatening behavior.
In order to make sure our loved ones’ needs are met, our long-term care institutions must do better and employ skilled, reliable caretakers.
Wisconsin Nursing Home Laws and Regulations
Nursing home laws are established at the federal and state level. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services establishes the federal regulations. Chapter DHS 132 of the Wisconsin State Legislature established the laws and requirements for nursing homes.
Based on those laws, all nursing home residents have the right to the following:
The right to dignity and respect. Residents should not be harassed, humiliated, or threatened by any staff member or caregiver. All residents have the right to not be subject to abuse of any kind.
The right to privacy. Residents have the right to privacy to make phone calls, as well as during their visitations. Staff members are required to do what is necessary to make sure each resident has a certain level of privacy in their individual rooms.
The right to self-determination. Nursing home residents have the right to make their own schedules and decide their treatment options. This includes having the right to refuse medical attention. Caregivers are required to inform residents of all of their options, so they can make an informed decision.
The right to access. Residents have the right to be fully informed about their conditions in both oral and written form. They also have the right to be notified of any changes in the facilities’ regulations during their stay.
The right to voice grievances. In the event a resident feels as though they have been treated poorly, they have the right to voice their complaints or concerns. If their needs are still not met, they have the right to request a transfer to a new facility.
Reporting Nursing Home Abuse
If you notice your loved one seems to be acting out of characters and you are concerned for their wellbeing, you should speak to a facility staff member and ask to speak to your loved one’s doctor as quickly as possible. You know your loved one better than anyone else. If something doesn’t seem right, there’s a good chance that something suspect may be happening.
In addition, ensure you always keep an eye on your loved one’s bank accounts and personal finances. Any suspicious activity should be investigated immediately.
If your concerns are not addressed properly, you have the right as a Wisconsin citizen to file a complaint to the Division of Quality Assurance (DQA). They are responsible for assuring the health, safety, and welfare of individuals in health or residential care facilities.
After you file your report, whether online or by phone, your claim will be investigated, and steps should be taken. If your complaint is not handled in a way you see fit, you have the right to seek legal guidance.
Holding Negligent Nursing Homes Accountable
If you choose to seek legal representation for your loved one’s abuse, here are some of the conditions that may be eligible for financial compensation:
- Bed sores, i.e. pressure ulcers, resulting from neglect.
- Fall-related injuries resulting from improper assistance.
- Medication errors including prescribing the wrong drug, administering an overdose, failing to check for dangerous drug interactions, or failing to start patients on medications the doctor ordered.
- Failing to monitor, diagnose, and treat.
- Failing to watch over a resident who is prone to elopement (wandering off).
Getting Help from a Milwaukee, WI Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
The Milwaukee elder abuse team at Urban & Taylor, S.C. is committed to making a difference in the quality of long-term care. All Wisconsin nursing home residents have rights which much be respected when they are staying in a facility. When these rights are violated, family members can take action by holding the home accountable.
By holding a nursing home accountable to pay damages for your loved one’s injuries or abuse, we hope to convince these facilities to change their practices so other families are spared the same tragedy.
At Urban & Taylor, S.C., our Wisconsin elder abuse attorneys are passionate about making our long-term care facilities safer for our state’s elderly population. Many Wisconsin facilities are severely understaffed, but understaffing is never an acceptable excuse for abuse or negligence.
Our lawyers have notable success in nursing home litigation. We serve the entire state of Wisconsin and have prosecuted claims throughout the state. If your elderly parent or family member has suffered injuries or died because of substandard care or nursing home abuse, contact our office today to be paired with an expert Milwaukee nursing home abuse lawyer who can help. We offer a free case evaluation and work on contingency fees.