Understanding the Difference Between Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Nursing homes are entrusted with the care and support of elderly residents. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 1.2 million people live in more than 15,000 certified nursing homes across the United States.

In addition to providing shelter, nursing homes are supposed to safeguard patient well-being and safety. However, some residents experience abuse and neglect instead. Understanding the foundational differences between abuse and neglect, as well as their legal implications, is critical for identifying these issues.

Let’s explore the specifics of nursing home abuse and neglect, including how to recognize these problems and the necessary steps for taking action.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse refers to the intentional harm or mistreatment of residents within care facilities. This can manifest in several forms, including physical, emotional, and financial abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • Hitting
  • Restraining
  • Inappropriate use of medication

Emotional abuse may involve:

  • Verbal insults
  • Isolation
  • Intimidation
  • Causing emotional distress

Financial abuse includes:

  • Misuse of a resident’s funds or assets
  • Fraudulent signatures on financial documents

A report by the National Center on Elder Abuse found that around 5 million elderly individuals face abuse each year. One in 10 nursing home residents aged 60 and older experience some form of abuse.

What Constitutes Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect occurs when residents do not receive adequate care and attention to meet their needs. Negligence can be divided into two types:

Passive Neglect

Passive neglect occurs when caregivers unintentionally fail to meet residents’ needs due to understaffing or inadequate training. Examples include not assisting with hygiene, failing to provide proper nutrition, or not administering medication as prescribed.

Active Neglect

Active neglect involves intentional actions or omissions that harm residents. Examples include withholding food or water, ignoring residents’ requests for assistance, or engaging in verbal or emotional abuse.

Common Signs of Neglect include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Bruising
  • Cuts
  • Bedsores
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Dirty clothing
  • Unkempt hair
  • Body odor
  • Weight loss/malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Untreated medical conditions
  • Infections

In 2019, Alabama’s Department of Public Health reported that 8,789 adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation cases were opened and investigated. The top five counties with the highest case numbers were:

  • Jefferson
  • Mobile
  • Houston
  • Montgomery
  • Madison

The Difference Between Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Understanding the difference between neglect and abuse is crucial, especially in legal contexts. While both are forms of mistreatment, the specific actions or lack thereof.

Nursing home abuse requires intentional actions to cause harm, while neglect is essentially a lack of action to provide appropriate care.

Whether you suspect your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect, you should report your concerns to the appropriate authorities and contact an Alabama nursing home abuse lawyer.

Reporting and Addressing Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

If you suspect abuse or neglect in a nursing home, take action immediately. Document observed signs and report your concerns to the facility’s administration. Contact state resources such as the long-term care ombudsman, DHR office, adult protective services, or local law enforcement for assistance. These organizations investigate and implement a course of action on allegations.

In Alabama, you can contact:

  • Alabama Ombudsman (Long-Term Care): 334-242-5753
  • Adult Abuse Hotline: 1-800-458-7214

Nursing home neglect and abuse are serious issues that require prompt attention and intervention. By staying vigilant and advocating for your loved one’s rights, you can ensure they receive the proper care and respect they deserve in their golden years. However, if you do suspect abuse or neglect, contact the experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at Timberlake, League & Brooks. We can help.