Our loved ones are sometimes confined to assisted living facilities, when their care becomes too troublesome and they need greater attention than we can provide. What happens when the staff of these facilities violate their duty of care for our loved ones? Before we can take action, we have to identify the specific problem. Are they suffering from neglect or abuse? Or both? Knowing the difference is vital to proving any case involving the assisted living facility’s suspected negligence.
The Many Types of Abuse
When it comes to elder abuse, there are as many different types as there are in the abuse of any other demographic. While in assisted living situations, elderly individuals may be subjected to any one of the following kinds of abuse:
Physical abuse involves using force to cause pain to the elderly patient. The individual may be physically restrained with straps or may be given drugs to chemically restrain him or her, as one form of abuse. Signs of elder abuse may include injuries, bruises, and cuts that are frequent and/or unexplained. Typically, the elderly individual will refuse treatment for the injuries and may seem reluctant to talk about the injuries.
Emotional or psychological abuse also seeks to cause pain or humiliation to the patient, but typically through a menacing tone or spiteful words. The staff member may use threats or intimidation to cause the patient to feel emotionally distressed. When an elder is emotionally abused, he or she may seem more withdrawn than usual and exhibit sudden behavioral changes. The patient may also get easily agitated, rocking back and forth, sucking on a finger, or mumbling to himself. The patient may also get frequently depressed or confused and experience trouble sleeping.
Sexual abuse also occurs in assisted living facilities and is similar to the sexual abuses suffered by children or women in society. Any non-consensual sexual activity constitutes abuse. Indications that sexual abuse is occurring includes torn or bloody underwear and other garments and bleeding from the vagina or anus. There may also be bruises around the breasts and genitals. Another strong indication that sexual abuse has occurred is if the patient is receiving treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Financial abuse can involve fraud or outright theft, depriving the patient of his or her property or money. While there won’t be physical signs associated with this type of abuse, concerned loved ones can look for behavioral changes. For instance, withdrawals that the elder can’t or won’t explain, sometimes in relation to a new friend. The elder may also be missing financial statements and legal documents, or unpaid bills may begin to pile up.
What is Neglect?
Essentially, neglect involves a failure to provide care to the elderly individual. Even with neglect, there are a couple different ways this can occur, each with its own symptoms.
- Healthcare fraud
- Caregiver abandonment
Healthcare fraud involves facility staff, such as doctors, nurses, orderlies, or other employees, charging for care, but not servicing the patient. In other words, the individual is billed for care that was not administered. Overcharging for services and prescribing unnecessary tests and treatments are other ways healthcare fraud might occur. Signs that this is happening may be hard to spot. Keep an eye out for broken dentures, eyeglasses, and other medical equipment. This may indicate that the elder isn’t receiving regular treatment.
Caregiver abandonment is more commonly known. It involves the caregivers neglecting to care for the patient, though this can be done on purpose or unintentionally. Either way, the patient isn’t receiving the necessary care and can be identified by signs that the patient hasn’t received visits from the staff. If the individual is unclean or disheveled, this may indicate strong neglect on the part of the staff. Unwashed or messy hair, dirty clothes, and skin rashes can all indicate a lack of care. Unexplained weight loss and a poor appetite are also symptoms of neglect. For bedridden patients, bedsores can indicate that staff haven’t been caring for the patient.
If you suspect your loved one is being subjected to abuse or neglect by the assisted living facility’s staff, be sure to document as much evidence as possible. In Florida, you have the right to request the patient’s files, if you’re responsible for the individual, so that should be a priority. Also take photos of the patient’s condition (injuries, bruises, broken glasses, etc) and the individual’s living quarters, if there are signs of abandonment, such as a leaking roof, broken windows, etc. Any evidence you gather can help an attorney prove your case. This can result in compensation for damages and a better living situation for your loved one.
Call Fenster & Cohen, P.A. today (954) 473-1500