Types of Nursing Home Abuse that Can Lead to Wrongful Death

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- Pamela Jean Bourassa

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Key Points:

  • Seniors who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death than those who have not been mistreated.
  • Medication errors, physical and emotional abuse, malnutrition, dehydration, and exploitation are all mistreatments that can lead to death for the vulnerable elderly.
  • If you believe a loved one was injured or killed due to a nursing home’s negligence, a personal injury lawyer can help you investigate the situation and discover evidence that can hold the facility accountable.
nursing home bed empty

When we place our aging loved ones in nursing facilities, we expect that with the proper attention and care, that their quality of life will be better and their lives extended.

Unfortunately, the growing instances of nursing home abuse and neglect prove the opposite is often true. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), two in three elderly care staff members admitted that they committed abuse in the past year.

To make matters worse, the National Council on Aging reports that elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death compared to those who have not been mistreated.

If you’ve recently lost an elderly loved one or believe your family member is suffering due to a nursing home’s mistreatment, then here’s what you need to know.


Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes Can Lead to Early Death

Whether due to poor staffing standards or intentional acts, elderly abuse and neglect come in many forms.

The following are common types of neglect and abuse issues that can lead to dangerous and even deadly outcomes for elderly victims:


Medication Errors

When nursing homes try to save money, staffing numbers often decline or remain too low for the number of residents in the facility. Understaffing means there is not enough care to go around, and overworked employees may neglect the careful attention to detail required when caring for elderly patients. This presents an especially dangerous problem when hundreds of medications are dispensed daily.

Missed doses, incorrect dosage, or even providing the wrong medication are mistakes that are not unusual in these circumstances. Medication issues can be extremely hazardous, leading to severe reactions and even death for elderly victims.

Malnutrition and Dehydration

One critical part of a nursing facility’s job is to ensure the residents get adequate nutrition and hydration to keep their bodies functioning properly. However, when the staff-to-patient ratio is inadequate, as is often the case, ensuring everyone is properly attended to can be challenging – and, unfortunately, the patients suffer.

Malnutrition and dehydration can be caused by any of the following conditions:

  • Insufficient basic nutrition
  • Skimpy or inadequate serving sizes
  • Fluids not constantly available
  • Not encouraging fluid consumption
  • Poorly planned meals with low nutritional quality
  • Missed meals – often a result of staff-time restraints
  • Poor supervision of dietary restrictions

When senior citizens do not get an adequate amount of food and water, their bodies and physical health can deteriorate rapidly.

Physical Abuse

Staff members require an abundance of patience, discipline, empathy, and time to do their jobs well. Unfortunately, without a rigorous selection process in place, people who do not possess these skills are often hired to care for aging residents.

 Inadequately-trained, poorly-screened, or otherwise unsuitable employees often work for less money, making them attractive hires for unscrupulous nursing home administrators whose main goal is profit.

Without careful screening during the hiring process, important background checks for previous employment problems or criminal history can essentially invite bullies into the care facility.

Physical abuse, including punching, hitting, shoving, pinching, and countless other assaults, is far too common upon vulnerable residents in nursing homes. Excessive restraint or leaving residents alone and unsupervised for long periods are also abuses that can lead to injury-causing falls.

Physical abuse can not only lead to broken bones or bruises but also physical complications, crippling anxiety, and even death.

Mental or Psychological Abuse

Sometimes cases of psychological or mental abuse can be just as deadly as physical abuse. Bullying behaviors, like shouting, threatening, name-calling, and general intimidation, can take an immense toll on defenseless seniors. They can become withdrawn, depressed, and hopeless – all of which can be dangerous given a patient’s will to live is an important part of maintaining a good quality of life.

 Scientists today are aware that stress directly impacts the body in devastating ways. According to the American Psychological Association, the physical impacts on the body’s organs can cause cardiovascular, digestive, and endocrine and immune system failures. In the already at-risk elderly, such impacts can be deadly.

Financial Exploitation

Today, the practice of financial exploitation by nursing home staff is becoming increasingly common in care facilities. This type of abuse may include staff members who coerce residents into writing checks or giving them cash. They may also be forced to sign contracts, wills, or other documents that can lead to the resident’s loss of financial security.

While financial exploitation may not immediately seem deadly, the extreme anxiety caused by the stress or implications of this abuse can be severe. As an elderly patient’s stress levels increase, their physical decline can soon follow.

What to Do If You Suspect Neglect or Abuse

    If you suspect or see signs of nursing home neglect or abuse, you have an opportunity to stop it before it takes an even greater toll on your loved one’s health.

Your first course of action should be to report your concerns to supervisory staff as soon as possible.

Taking the following steps can also help ensure those at-fault are held accountable and prevent further abuses from becoming a wrongful death case before it’s too late:

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Hold Nursing Homes Accountable

Investigating nursing home abuse can be difficult. If a nursing home administrator is cutting corners or ignoring abuse, they will be extremely unlikely to cooperate with you.

A personal injury lawyer can help you examine and investigate a wrongful death case and discover evidence that can be especially challenging to gather on your own.

 The lawyers at The Millar Law Firm have decades of experience dealing with reluctant litigants.  

We offer free consultations to family members who are burdened with the experience of having a loved one abused or neglected in a nursing home that was supposed to care for them.

Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation at 770-400-0000.

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