What Can I do about Emotional Harm Resulting from Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse?

If you have a loved one who resides in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, you have undoubtedly heard and worried about some of the sobering statistics concerning elder abuse and nursing home neglect. As the numbers of elderly citizens has increased, a rising number of studies and investigations have revealed a host of abuse and neglect issues. Moreover, one elder abuse study concluded that for each act of elder abuse that is reported, approximately five incidences of abuse aren’t. While we are all appreciative of the many wonderful facilities and caregivers who provide our elderly with appropriate care and respect, it’s essential to remain vigilant to ensure that a loved one does not become one of the unfortunate statistics.

The Number of Elderly Citizens Needing Long Term Care Continues to Increase

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the United States population of persons 65 years of age or older numbered 46.2 million in 2014 and represented 14.5 percent of the population. Those numbers continue to increase, creating a larger and larger population of elderly persons who need specialized long term living and care.

Types of Abuse or Neglect

Abuse and neglect comes in many forms, including (but not limited) to the following:

  • Physical assault
  • Improper restraint
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial exploitation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Improper or inadequate hygiene
  • Failure to protect a resident
  • Verbal abuse
  • Inadequate medical care

How to Prevent or Limit Abuse and Neglect

Benjamin Franklin’s proverb that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true in protecting the health and safety of an elderly loved one. Carefully investigate the history and reputation of any facility you would consider as a new home for an elderly person. If you’re considering a residential care facility, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility, the Oregon Office of Licensing and Regulatory Oversight maintains a searchable database of complaint reports, which can be part of any due diligence investigation. You can find licensing information and the searchable database here.

Finally, once your loved one has chosen a facility in which to reside, communicate with and visit them regularly. Learn to listen and watch for important signs which may suggest that abuse or neglect exists. In a future blog posting, we’ll go into detail on signs and symptoms to watch for which might suggest elder abuse or neglect.

Can a Resident Recover for Emotional Harm Resulting from Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

Nursing homes and their employees, just like others in society, are held responsible when they negligently or intentionally violate the law and cause harm to an individual. If a person receives physical injury resulting from the acts of the nursing home, or by its failure to act, such as in cases of neglect, the victim is entitled to recover all resulting economic and non-economic damages. This includes emotional harm, which can be referred to by a variety of names, including “pain and suffering.” It’s an important element of damages long recognized by the law.

It is more complicated to pursue a claim for emotional damages when there is no physical injury. However, a recovery may be possible in some circumstances, including when a perpetrator has intentionally acted outrageously and caused emotional harm. As always, if you think emotional abuse has occurred, it is wise to seek an evaluation from an experienced nursing home liability attorney.

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we are familiar with elder abuse and nursing home liability. We can help evaluate a case, perform the appropriate investigation, and make sure that those who wrongfully do harm to our elderly population are held responsible for their actions. Please call us for a free consultation or with any questions.


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