Taking care of the elderly can be an extremely challenging task, which is why many families throughout America entrust nursing homes to watch out for their aging relatives. However, the elderly do not always receive the care they deserve in these nursing homes. Over the years, cases of elder abuse at nursing homes have been on the rise throughout the country.
According to a longitudinal study by the National Library of Medicine, the yearly mortality rate of nursing home residents over a three year period was almost 32 percent, with a median survival rate just over two years. Such a high mortality rate and low survival rate could have easily been avoided with better care provided by the nursing homes. But what does elder abuse in nursing homes look like, and how can you protect your loved ones from experiencing that abuse?
Nursing Home Abuse is Rampant but Systematically Underreported
According to West Virginia nursing home laws, elders have specific rights that should be upheld and defended. Any action that infringes upon these rights should be reported as abuse. These rights include:
- Being treated with respect and dignity.
- Being informed in writing of the services and fees of the nursing home before moving in.
- Being free to manage their own money or set up a trust with someone else.
- Privacy and maintaining possession of personal belongings and properties.
- Being informed about medical conditions, medication, seeing their own physician, and the ability to refuse any medications or services.
- Choosing their own schedule.
- Living in an environment that is as much like home as possible.
In reality, according to the latest data from Nursing Home Abuse Justice, every year as many as five million elderly individuals are abused. An investigation revealed that over 24 percent of nursing homes residents suffered from abuse, with female patients being much more likely to be abused than male patients.
Although complaints are widespread, most elderly victims never report their abuse because they are often too afraid of what might happen to them if they report. In many cases, elders may not have the capability or agency to speak up for themselves in these abusive situations.
Over 25 percent of serious abuse cases are not reported to the proper authorities. Although federal law requires suspected abuse causing serious harm to be reported to police within two hours, this rarely happens.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse In West Virginia
Nursing home abuse takes on many forms, including financial, emotional, physical, and even sexual assault or rape.
Emotional abuse, such as social isolation, threats, intimidation, manipulation, refusal, taunting, yelling, or mocking is regularly uncovered. Emotional abuse is most troubling because it often goes unnoticed or reported, and is the most difficult to prove.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Since the year 2000, over 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported at assisted living facilities and nursing homes. An investigation uncovered that more than 220 nursing homes were cited for not protecting elders from sexual abuse from 2010 to 2015. Additionally, over 1000 nursing homes were reported for mishandling suspected sexual abuse.
Although some abuse is not always intentional, it often arises when there is widespread negligence by nursing home staff and managers. This may be in part to facilities across the state being understaffed. It is estimated that 90 percent of nursing homes do not have enough staff to sufficiently care for residents. Negligence occurs when staff fail to provide the elder with basic necessities, such as medicine, appropriate hygiene, food, or housing.
One investigation discovered over 37 percent of dementia patients were given the wrong type of medication. Delayed medical diagnoses and failed treatment are also a common form of negligence. In other situations, neglect causes bodily injuries that could have been prevented with proper care. Elderly residents falling and severely injuring themselves is one of the most common examples of negligence.
Horrible Documented Cases of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are full of unnoticed and overlooked abuses. Caregivers in nursing homes often work long hours for moderate pay and become fed-up with their jobs. Though not an excuse, this often explains why abuse is so rampant and underreported in nursing homes.
Some of the most appalling instances of nursing home abuse include:
- Workers taking humiliating photos and videos of their patients and posting them on social media. In one case, nursing home staff took photos of an elderly resident’s genitals and posted them on Facebook.
- Over several months, five elders were constantly abused and degraded by a group of nursing aids. The aids pinched a man’s nipples and penis while forcing him to eat his own feces. A 56-year-old with cerebral palsy was forced to walk around naked by the same aids. Although the abusers lost their certifications, none of them ever faced criminal charges.
- A resident of Kingstree Nursing Facility was assaulted by two staff members. She was discovered dead with bruises all over her body and a broken hip.
- At the Heartland Nursing Home in West Virginia, an 87-year-old patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease was found dead from malnutrition and dehydration. The incompetent staff did not provide her with water during her 19-day stay.
- In Texas, a resident was raped by a nurse. The perpetrator ejaculated in the elderly woman’s mouth. She spit it in her bra and kept it for over three weeks before being able to give it to investigators.
- In California, an 88-year-old woman woke up in a wet bed with her catheter detached. Weeks later, the woman was diagnosed with herpes and vaginal bleeding. It was discovered that she was raped.
- In Minnesota, over 15 elderly residents suffering from Alzheimer’s were sexually abused. Nursing aides prodded and rubbed the residents, even inserting their fingers into the elders’ rectums. The assailants were convicted of disorderly conduct and only served 42 days in jail.
- A certified nursing assistant admitted to having sexual intercourse with a woman suffering from dementia. The assistant claimed that the sex was consensual and the director believed him. When the woman spoke out against her nursing home, she was locked in a room. After she was examined over a week later, large vaginal tears were present, indicating that she had been raped.
Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in West Virginia
At Goddard Law PLLC, our West Virginia nursing home abuse attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of victims and their families. If you believe that your loved one was a victim of neglect or abuse at a nursing home, do not hesitate to contact us today.
At the first sign of abuse, it is vital that family members take immediate action to help their defenseless loved ones. We will promptly assist you in investigating and filing a nursing home abuse or negligence claim. We handle these and other personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. Therefore, you will not pay any legal fees unless we win your case.
In addition to recovering reasonable compensation for harm suffered, our objective is to put an end to nursing home abuse throughout the state of West Virginia. We work to safeguard your elderly family members from continued abusive actions by bringing allegations of nursing home abuse forward.
To set up a free, no-obligation consultation today, please contact our skilled nursing home abuse attorneys. If you have inquiries or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our law office for immediate legal guidance. Protect your elderly loved one’s dignity by contacting us online or by giving our office a call at (304) 933-1411.