Obvious and Subtle Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect

If you or your loved one is in a special seeds facility (SNF), it’s important to look out for signs of abuse and neglect. Some signs are obvious, while others are very subtle.

Unfortunately abuse and neglect can occur when SNFs try to cut corners to save money. This results in bad outcomes for the patients. SNFs become understaffed which leads to overworked employees who are frustrated with low pay and high stress, and some employees grow indifferent to the care of their patients. Additionally, by trying to save money, some SNFs will fail to purchase safety equipment like floor mats and bed alarms. All of these things equal a recipe for patient abuse and neglect.

There are laws in place to protect your loved ones from abuse and neglect, including the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA), Title 22 of California Code of Regulations, policies and procedures created by the SNF itself, and a patient’s bill of rights. However, proving abuse and neglect is a tough road.  You must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the facility is guilty of something more than negligence. You’ll also need to prove the facility has been guilty of recklessness, oppression, fraud or malice in the commission of the abuse, in order to receive punitive damages.

So how is physical abuse and neglect defined? And what are the signs a SNF may be committing such acts?

Physical Abuse

The EADACPA defines physical abuse as assault, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, unreasonable physical constraint, sexual assault, and physical or chemical restraint for any purpose not authorized by the physician and surgeon

The more obvious signs of physical abuse you should look for are bruising on a loved one or other patients, especially if the bruising is frequent. You should also watch out for bone fractures. Sometimes a patient will have a broken bone and the facility won’t notice due to neglect, so keep an eye out for signs of fractures.

The more frequent type of abuse is physical or chemical restraint.

An example of a physical restraint is the SNF keeps the side rails up on the patient’s bed to prevent the patient from falling off the bed at night. Unfortunately, patients will still try and get out of bed, which means they’ll climb over the rails and possibly fall to the floor. This has resulted in injury and even death. Rather than using the rails, the SNF should put floor mats on the side of the bed. However, it’s easier and cheaper for the facility to put rails up instead of purchasing a floor mat, which unfortunately increases the risk of injury to your loved one.

An example of a chemical restraint is when a patient has dementia but is still a functioning individual. However the SNF doesn’t want to deal with the patient, so the patient is sedated to the point of becoming an individual who merely sits and drools.

Pay attention, communicate, and don’t let an SNF take the easy way out in its treatment of your loved one.

Neglect

The EADACPA defines neglect as either of the following:  (1) The negligent failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise, or (2) The negligent failure of an elder or dependent adult to exercise that degree of self-care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.

The most common signs of neglect you should watch out for are pressures sores and bed sores

Forms of neglect include failure to assist your loved one with personal hygiene, failure to protect your loved one from health and safety hazards, and failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration. Another major form of neglect is lack of supervision. When an SNF fails to supervise your loved one, the following can happen: falling, wandering and getting lost and injured, sexual assaults by other patients, fights between patients, and neglect of signs and symptoms of serious diseases. Sometimes the SNF won’t provide a patient with a shower for weeks, which can result in infections. Unfortunately, the culmination of neglect can lead to a wrongful death. It’s crucial for the safety of your loved one to keep an eye out for any signs of these situations.

As mentioned earlier, winning a lawsuit against a SNF for elder abuse or neglect is a tough battle to win. The litigation periods are long, and these cases are aggressively defended by insurance carriers and counsel. However, protection of your loved one’s rights to safe treatment at a facility is paramount and facilities shouldn’t get away with any form of abuse or neglect.

If you believe your loved one is abused or neglected, contact an experienced attorney today.

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