What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse refers to intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm, regardless of whether harm is intended, to an elderly person by a caregiver.[i]  Abuse includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy an elder’s basic needs—neglect—such as ensuring adequate food intake (malnutrition) or fluid intake (dehydration).

Types of abuse and neglect include:

  • Physical abuse means causing an older adult physical pain or injury.
  • Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
  • Emotional / psychological abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation, or causing an older person to feel fear or intimidation.
  • Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons.  There are very rarely good medical reasons for physical restraint or isolation.
  • Neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.  Neglect can be unintentional or willful.  It can also include neglecting hygiene leading to injuries like urinary tract infections (UTIs) or bedsores (pressure ulcers).
  • Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.
  • Violation of rights means violating on older person’s right to personal liberty, personal property, privacy, voting, or speech.  Many states, including Ohio, have nursing home resident rights laws outlining these rights.

What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

The signs and symptoms of elder abuse or neglect depends on the type of abuse or neglect, from unexplained bruising for physical abuse to sunken eyes for severe dehydration.  With psychological abuse, you may see a person become more withdrawn, fearful, unwilling to talk in an abuser’s presence, or even overcompensating with cheerfulness to avoid revealing the abuse.

Be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms of abuse:

  • Physical abuse or mistreatment: Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns, and other physical injuries.  Look for suspicious bruising (finger marks on arms or legs) or hair loss caused by an injury to the scalp (“traumatic alopecia”), welts, bite marks, or burns.  Some nursing home abusers will try to explain these away as simply part of ageing, such as bruising more easily, or more delicate skin.
  • Emotional abuse: Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression; strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult.
  • Financial abuse: Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Verbal or emotional abuse: Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals.
  • Neglect: unexplained weight loss, decline, bedsores, repeated UTIs, poor hygiene, being left in wet or soiled garments or linins.

Every situation is different.  Don’t be embarrassed about investigating possible abuse—asking tough questions, insisting on seeing your family member in private to talk, insisting on being there to inspect skin—or if you missed abuse until it is too late.  If your loved one has been injured by abuse, contact state authorities (here is a list of Ohio resources) and a nursing home abuse attorney like us in your state.

Identifying Physical Abuse or Sexual Abuse

In situations of physical abuse, your loved one may be unable or unwilling to volunteer what is happening to them.  This could be because they have been intimidated to remain silent, are embarrassed, or fear retaliation such as being discharged form a facility. That’s normal.

If you suspect abuse, you can try asking simple, direct questions, in private, to verify your suspicions.  Some of the questions you can ask include:

  • Do you feel safe here?
  • Are you yelled at?
  • Have you ever had your glasses or hearing aid taken from you?
  • Has anyone ever scolded or threatened you?
  • Are you afraid of anyone here?
  • Have you gone without food or medicine?
  • Has anyone ever hurt you? Slapped, punched or kicked you?
  • Has anyone ever touched you without your permission?
  • Has anyone ever made you do things you did not want to do?
  • Has anyone taken things away from you without asking?
  • Are you made to stay in your room?

There can be fear, shame, or other factors going on that make talking about abuse difficult.  When you discuss things privately, and help your loved one feel safe, they will be more likely to open up if there is abuse going on.

If you suspect abuse, speak to the nursing home administrator, director of nursing, and / or state authorities.  If you’ve confirmed abuse, at minimum the individuals responsible should be investigated and be kept apart from the victim—and ideally any nursing home residents.

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Identifying Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Identifying underlying emotional or psychological abuse can be challenging.  Be observant for evidence of withdrawal, unexplained change in mood, or the refusal by the caregiver to leave the elder person alone—wanting to be sure they cannot ask for help.

Signs of emotional or psychological abuse include:

  • Withdrawal: emotional withdrawal from family, activities, etc.
  • Unexplained change in mood
  • Refusal of caregiver to leave the resident alone with friends or family

If you suspect psychological abuse of a loved one in a nursing home, observe the times, dates, and people involved.  Report to the director of nursing and administrator.  Insist on personnel changes if there are particular threatening people.  If they’ve been injured, consider calling a local nursing home abuse attorney, like us, to investigate.  You should also alert state authorities charged with investigating nursing homes.

Identifying Nursing Home Neglect

Neglect can be difficult to identify.  Neglect of food, water, support, medication, turning, and the other day-to-day needs of nursing home residents might only occur occasionally (with certain staff), or might lead to a decline that looks like natural ageing.  This is especially with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive deficits that make it hard for a person to understand or communicate that their needs are being ignored.

Identifying nursing home neglect requires understanding a person’s conditions and needs, and recognizing when they change.  This means paying attention to a loved one’s weight, lab results, skin integrity, and other factors.  How much are they eating and drinking?  What it their urine output?   Most families I’ve worked for realize too late that if they don’t watch these things, it is easy for caregivers to ignore them, too.

Here are signs of nursing home neglect to watch for:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • sudden, unexplained decline in health
  • bedsores
  • repeated urinary tract infections
  • poor hygiene
  • being left in wet or soiled garments or linens

These issues should be reported, not just to a nurse but the director of nursing and administrator.  Given the chronic understaffing and profiteering in many nursing homes, the squeaky wheel is more likely to get the grease.

Identifying Financial Abuse or Financial Exploitation

Elders are frequent financial scam targets, from telephone scams to door to door salespeople to reverse mortgages.  Even worse is when someone in a position of trust, such as a caregiver, exploits an older person to steal from them.

Anyone who is unaware of his income or financial matters is at risk of financial exploitation.  When someone is missing important identification or financial documents or credit cards, suddenly not paying bills, is spending money on things other than their needs, or suddenly creates a new will benefiting a non-familial caregiver (or family caregiver to the other family members’ expense), there could be elder financial abuse at play.

Some of the signs of elder financial abuse include:

  • Older adult unaware of income or financial matters
  • Important papers and credit cards missing
  • Bills not paid
  • Funds not spent on older adult’s needs
  • Unusual banking activity
  • Adding caregiver’s name to account
  • Older adult signing on caregiver’s loan
  • Checks made to “cash” frequently
  • Signature not that of older adult
  • Activity older adult doesn’t understand or know about
  • Frequent expensive gifts from older adult to caregiver
  • New will (particularly if they lack the capacity to make a will)

How do I Hire You to be my Nursing Home Elder Abuse Lawyer?

The first thing to do is complete the contact form at the bottom of this page. That way, you can put in details that we can review before we schedule a phone call.

You can also call us at 216-777-8856 if you prefer.

You will likely not speak to us immediately, but will schedule a phone or in-person meeting. Why? Because we’re busy working on the important cases other families have entrusted to us. Just like we would not constantly take phone calls when we’re entrusted to work on your case.

You should also gather all the records and papers you have from the medical providers, go back and look for dates, names, and events that happened, and otherwise prepare to discuss the case. We’ll have a meeting and, if it seems like a case we’d be a good fit for, we’ll move into an investigation phase.

Once we’ve investigated, we’ll candidly tell you what we think about what happened, whether the medical provider is to blame, and what we think about the strength of the case.

Fair warning: we only take on clients whose cases we believe have very strong merits. We’re not lazy—the cases are still very complex, difficult, and expensive—but the risk to your family of being drawn into a difficult process with little chance of a positive outcome is not something we do.

Which means when we do take on a case, our reputation tells the other side this is a serious case we believe in.

If for whatever reason we do not take on the case, and we think there is some merit to the case, we’ll try and help you find a lawyer who might take it on.

What Do I Do If I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse?

Abuse is preventable. Especially in a place designed to provide care for people who depend on it. But sadly, this is not always the case. No one ever wants to find that their friend, parent, or grandparent was the victim of nursing home abuse. If you suspect abuse, reach out.

First and foremost, make sure your loved one is safe and will not be harmed any further. Notify the nursing home’s administration as well as find out what the protocol is when abuse is reported. This way you can follow up and make sure that they are following through.

Call the police. Remember, this is a crime and your loved one is a victim.

You may also report the nursing home to the agency that monitors, regulates, and fines nursing homes.

Ultimately, if you want to hold the nursing home accountable, it will be important to contact a knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorney.


Nursing Home Abuse Frequently Asked Question

1. What is considered nursing home neglect?

It can be difficult to comprehend nursing home abuse and neglect if you have never been exposed to it. Neglect and abuse are similar yet different.

There is the law. Ohio Revised Code 2903.33 states that neglect is recklessly failing to provide a person with any treatment, care, goods, or service that is necessary to maintain the health and safety of the person when the failures result in physical harm or serious physical harm to the person.

The Ohio Revised Code also outlines abuse, gross neglect, and the inappropriate use of a physical or chemical restraint, medication, or isolation.

Nursing home abuse is a form of substandard care that causes harm to the resident. It is more about a breach of duty. But, similar to abuse, neglect affects victims on emotional and physical levels. For example, a resident may not be properly bathed or care for in regards to hygiene. In some cases, this leads to infections and sores. Another example is a nursing home failing to adhere to  a resident’s diet restrictions or providing them with proper medication.

2. Are there any legal consequences for acts of abuse or neglect in a nursing home facility?

The simple answer is yes. There can be criminal and civil legal consequences for acts of abuse or neglect in a nursing home. They can often times occur simultaneously.

3. If I suspect that my loved one is being abused or neglected in an Ohio nursing home, what should I do?

There are specific steps that you should take if you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home.

First, it is important to make sure that your loved one is safe. If you feel that there is something criminal going on, contact your local law enforcement.

Next, it is important to obtain documentation. What is making you suspect abuse or neglect? Take photographs, obtain statements, make sure to document specifics like dates and times.

It is also important to report the abuse or neglect suspicions to administrators. Find out what the policy is for investigating such claims. Check in to make sure that they are following protocol.

Ask to be kept informed as to what is happening. Document, document, document.

4. Who regulates Ohio nursing homes?

The Ohio Department of Health licenses nursing homes, transitional care facilities, and rehab facilities. The division of Quality Assurance conducts on-site surveys to verify that facilities meet state and federal rules.

The Ohio Department of Health has recently launched their Abuse, Neglect, Misappropriation, and exploitation (ANME) Program. For more information, visit their website here.  

Abuse Resources

There are resources available to help combat elder abuse.  As lawyers who help hold abusers accountable, we welcome your call.  But there are also resources at the state and national level to ensure you are fully educated about the risks and best practices to prevent elder abuse in a nursing home.  Some include:

National Center on Elder Abuse – The NCEA, funded y the U.S. Administration on Aging, is a gateway to resources on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation – http://www.elderabusecenter.org

Elder Abuse Awareness Kit http://www.elderabusecenter.org/pdf/basics/speakers.pdf

National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse – information and materials on abuse and neglect – http://www.preventelderabuse.org/index.html

Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America (2002) Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) – http://www.nap.edu/openbook/0309084342/html/

Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions – pamphlet published by the American Psychological Association – http://apa.org/pi/aging/eldabuse.html

U.S. Administration on Aging  Elder Abuse Resource Pagehttp://www.aoa.gov/eldfam/Elder_Rights/Elder_Abuse/Elder_Abuse.asp

[i] Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America (2003). National Research Council.

Nursing Home Elder Abuse Articles

Road sign with no elder abuse zone written on it

Nursing Homes Fined for Abuse Incidents

Road sign with no elder abuse zone written on itThe Newhaven Register in Connecticut reports that three nursing homes are facing fines by the state Public Health Department for several abuse incidents. The incidents range from pressure ulcers, to a failure to give medications, resident on resident violence, and sexual assault. Masonicare Health Center is one of the facilities that is accused of abuse and neglect. The victim suffered from a stage two pressure ulcer. According to the article:
The resident was admitted to a hospital on Oct. 14, 2017, the day after being discharged from the facility, with a stage 3 pressure ulcer that measured 13 centimeters by 5 centimeters, according to DPH. When the resident was admitted to the facility on Sept. 18, 2017, “moisture-associated skin damage” was noted, according to the citation, but the injury progressed to a stage 2 pressure ulcer by Oct. 9. An investigation found records were incomplete and failed to show the resident was properly medicated for the wound, DPH said.
One frequent cause of bedsores is when a resident is left in one position for an extended period of time, allowing pressure over a specific area of skin to damage the skin.  Called a “deep tissue injury,” these types of wounds can develop from the inside out.  These types of wounds can develop whether a resident is sitting or lying down. Pressure to the skin can interrupt blood flow, which over time causes skin to become starved of nutrients and oxygen. Skin that does not receive enough blood flow will begin to break down.  Pressure injuries form either when the skin is under a lot of pressure for a short period of time, or when it is under a moderate amount of pressure for a long time. These are known as bedsores, pressure ulcers (when open), pressure injuries, and decubitous ulcers ...
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Man cries for help from nursing home bed before dying alone

Nursing Home Charged with Neglect In WII Veteran’s Death

In February warrants were issued for three nurses who are being charges in a World War II Veteran's death at the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center. A hidden camera captured the whole disturbing incident. According to an article in the Washington Post, the video shows the following sequence of events:

It showed a staffer at the nursing home check on him, then leave. Later, it showed workers discovering that he was unconscious. Even later, it showed them calling 911 for help. The video also showed a moment someone laughed as nurses struggled to get Dempsey's oxygen machine to work.

Elder abuse is real and it is more common than one might think. It is difficult to think about but it is a reality that as a society, we must be aware of and prevent such senseless crimes from occurring.

James Dempsey, an 89 years old World War II Veteran, had to stay at the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center for the night over four years ago. According to the article he was anxious about staying there so his family decided to take action. The article states that:

Dempsey's family had placed the hidden camera in his room because he had been anxious about staying in a nursing home, his son reported. The son said Dempsey knew it was there but the nurses didn't — and it would become instrumental in building a case against the home and the workers after the veteran's death.

Another article from Atlanta WSB-TV 2, reports that the morning that Mr. Dempsey died, he can be seen on six occasions pressing the "call/help" button. This would be an extremely legitimate reason for concern. It is the care facilities duty and obligation to respond when these calls are made.

The hidden video, which you ...
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Drug Maker Pushes Dangerous Drug Nuedexta on Nursing Home Residents

Drug Maker Pushes Dangerous Drug Nuedexta on Nursing Home Residents

Do most nursing home residents who are prescribed the drug Nuedexta need it? It turns out, probably not. But many elderly nursing home residents are being given the drug, with potentially deadly consequences. Nuedexta is a little red pill that is approved for a rare condition that causes sudden, uncontrollable, and inappropriate laughing and crying. It's called pseudobulbar affect, or PBA. You may have seen Danny Glover in the commercials for the drug. But few people have this condition. In fact, fewer than 1% of the population has this condition. And almost all people who do have pseudobulbar affect have neurological conditions called ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) or multiple sclerosis. According to a recent report conducted by CNN, "[t]here has to be a diagnosis for every drug prescribed, and that diagnosis has to be real ... it cannot be simply made up by a doctor," said Kathryn Locatell, a geriatric physician who helps the California Department of Justice investigate cases of elder abuse in nursing homes. "There is little to no medical literature to support the drug's use in nursing home residents (with dementia) -- the population apparently being targeted." Last year, regulators found that more than 25% of nursing home residents in a In Los Angeles nursing home were being prescribed Nuedesta. Not surprisingly, this jump in prescribing occurred after the nursing home's psychiatrist had attended a talk from the drug manufacturer's reps. At another Southern California nursing home, an employee admitted to regulators that a diagnosis of PBA was given to a nursing home resident because they had to "somehow justify the use" of Nuedexta, even though its intended purpose was to control the resident's "mood disturbances" and yelling out. Mood disturbances and yelling out, however, are not appropriate uses of the drug. A high pressure marketing campaign driven ...
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A nursing home aide commits elder abuse by screaming at a resident.

Is Your Loved One a Victim of Elder Abuse and Neglect? Know the Signs!

Elder abuse is an epidemic in the United States. If you suspect that a senior is at risk from a neglectful or overwhelmed caregiver, you must speak up. Learn about the risk factors for and signs of elder abuse. Over 3.2 million people reside in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care facilities in the United States. As many as 40 percent of all adults will enter a nursing home at some point their life. As the U.S. population ages, the number of long-term care residents will expand. Many of these seniors are well-cared for, but countless others are the victims of abuse. Elder abuse and neglect, especially when it involves a person in a nursing home or assisted living facility, can be difficult to discover. For each reported instance of abuse, at least 5 instances of abuse go unreported. Nursing home abuse is a major concern. Seniors who have been abused have a 300% higher chance of death in the 3 years following the abuse than those who have not been abused. Approximately 1 in 6 nursing home citizens is the subject of abuse or neglect each year. Though many nursing home patients receive appropriate care, abuse and neglect continue to be more prevalent than many people think. Over 75% of all instances of elder abuse are carried out by caretakers. A congressional report examined nursing home documents over a 2-year period. The report showed that nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes were cited for violations that had the potential to cause serious harm to residents. 10% of all nursing homes have been cited for causing actual harm, serious injury, or placed residents at a major risk of a fatality. A study of nursing home residents showed that  44 % reported that they had actually been abused. Nearly all of ...
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An elderly person lays helpless because of negligence, abuse, and neglect caused by over-medication in a nursing home.

Is The Nursing Home Over-Medicating My Family Member?

Across the country elderly patients are being dangerously overmedicated for no good reason. There is a serious problem with the elderly being overmedicated with antipsychotic and similar medications in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living facilities. Overmedication and chemical restraints are common signs of elder abuse and neglect. Antipsychotics drugs are approved mainly to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But many nursing homes prescribe these drugs to elderly patients simply to calm anxiety or agitation that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A report published by National Public Radio (NPR) found that almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving anti-psychotic medications. The study also found that reason these medications are being prescribed is to sedate patient with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Doctors who specialize in treating elderly patients (called gerontologists) say that anti-psychotic drugs are unnecessary in the vast majority of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Family members are often never provided with a complete explanation about why these medications are being prescribed to their loved one.  The evidence proves that nursing home residents are ordered to take antipsychotic drugs for the convenience of the staff by sedating elderly residents. This is especially true in nursing homes that do not have enough staff to properly care for each resident because of understaffing. Federal law prohibits the use of antipsychotics for “discipline” or “convenience” of staff, which is considered a “chemical restraint.”  A chemical restraint can only be used as a last resort to prevent an agitated patient from harming himself or others.  Ohio law also prevents the use of chemical restraints except in extreme circumstances.  Ohio’s Nursing Home Bill of Rights states that nursing home residents have the following rights: "The right to be free from … chemical restraints … except to the minimum extent ...
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Nursing homes are regulated by federal and state regulations that most personal injury lawyers know nothing about.

If you're looking to take on a nursing home, you need a lawyer who knows those rules.

We exclusively handle medical claims, with a focus on nursing home abuse and neglect. We've tried these cases and obtained millions in damages at trial. 100% our cases involve the failure to provide appropriate hospital, medical, and nursing care to members of the community.

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By taking on all the risk, you can be sure we’re only going to take on cases we believe in fully.

What Can We Do to Improve Nursing Home Conduct?

Nursing Homes are corporations: they speak the language of money.  Corporations, even non-profit corporations, are not real people; they do not have hearts, minds, or souls.

In our experience, holding a medical corporation responsible and accountable for carelessly injuring patients through a money verdict at trial, or a settlement motivated by their fear of trial, is the best way to make sure there is change.

A well-fought lawsuit can help prevent other people from being injured in the same way.

What Damages are Available?

Money damages available in a nursing home lawsuit can involve economic costs (medical bills, etc.), emotional harms like pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, and, if the injuries cause death, the mental anguish and loss of family members for wrongful death.

Many states allow for punitive damages when a medical corporation consciously disregards a patient’s rights and safety with a great probability of causing substantial harm. They are awarded in exceptional cases.

We’ve proven punitive damages at trial, including a $3,000,000 verdict for punitive damages against one of the largest medical companies in America.

Punitive damages are intended to punish, deter the defendant from doing the same thing in the future, and reform the nursing home industry.

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