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Nursing Home Abuse
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Nursing Home Abuse Basics

When you or a loved one moves into a nursing home, you expect the staff at the home to treat all residents with compassion and respect. After all, nursing homes exist to care for people who cannot care for themselves due to physical or mental deterioration. Unfortunately, sometimes residents encounter abuse in nursing homes.

Nursing Home Residents' Rights

Both state and federal regulations govern residents' rights in nursing homes. There are some differences depending on which statutes apply and the level of care a facility offers, but in general, these are some of the basic rights you should expect:

  • The right to visitors, including family, your doctors, and government representatives
  • The right to have and use your own clothes and other possessions that do not pose a danger
  • The right to choose your own doctor, review your medical records, and refuse treatment
  • The right to not be abused, mentally or physically
  • The right not to be taken advantage of financially
  • The right to air grievances and have issues resolved in a timely manner

You also have the right to receive written notice of your rights when you are admitted to a nursing facility.

What Constitutes Abuse in a Nursing Home?

Sometimes caregivers or administrators infringe on residents' rights, although not all instances will qualify as abuse. Here are the basic types of abuse that people unfortunately have encountered in nursing home settings:

  • Physical abuse: This involves any type of inappropriate physical force, such as hitting, slapping, or pushing. It also includes physical punishment and unjustified use of restraints or even drugs. You should be concerned if you are not allowed to visit a loved one alone.
  • Emotional abuse: This involves inflicting emotional pain or distress. Verbal insults or harassment qualify, and so do non-verbal acts such as isolating the resident from activities or other residents, or treating him or her like a child.
  • Sexual abuse: This is sexual contact of any kind with a person who has not given consent or is not able to give consent. Sexual abuse includes not just rape, but unwanted touching and coerced nudity.
  • Financial exploitation: This is the improper use of a resident's funds or property. It includes cashing a resident's checks without permission, forging his or her signature, or coercing a signature on a financial document.

Although abuse in nursing homes is not the norm, it does happen, so you need to be aware of it. If you are being abused or suspect abuse of a loved one, talk with an experienced elder law attorney about filing an abuse lawsuit. There is usually a time limit on filing, so be sure you take action right away.

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