Ohio Nursing Home Abuse and Assaults. Is the Nursing Home Liable?
Too often, the news reports sickening, heart-breaking nursing home abuse and assault stories here in Ohio. In March 2022, a former nursing assistant was arrested for alleged sexual abuse of elderly dementia residents at the Inn at University Village in Massillon, Ohio. In April 2022, a nurse’s aide at the Ohio Veteran’s Home in Sandusky was accused of sexually assaulting a resident and taking sexually explicit photos of others. It is hard to imagine how such horrible acts can happen to defenseless and vulnerable people, but they do. News articles like these are hard to read but it is crucial to be aware of the realities of life in a nursing home, stay vigilant, and take action when necessary.
When we choose a nursing home for a loved one, we never expect that they will be physically or sexually violated in their new homes by predators who live and work among them. Tragically, assault is not all that uncommon. In my practice, I have seen an increase of physical and sexual nursing home assaults, both from staff and other residents.
As an Ohio nursing home abuse lawyer, I work to hold nursing homes and assisted living facilities fully accountable for what takes place by their hands or under their watch. I fight on behalf of victims and families and demand answers and justice. After 30 years of representing nursing home assault and injury victims and the families who have lost a loved one due to nursing home abuse, neglect, and negligence, I know that the only way that nursing homes will change their practices is through the legal process and being made to pay for their wrongdoings.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
There are many types of conduct that can be classified as abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility and it is important to be able to recognize them.
5 Types of Elder Abuse
- Physical abuse and nursing home assault. Physical violence consists of hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, hitting with an object, or almost any type of conduct in which one person strikes another. Physical abuse can also consist of physical or chemical restraints.
- Sexual abuse. Residents suffer through unwanted sexual contact or are forced to witness a sexual act.
- Emotional or psychological abuse. Psychological assaults involve actions or conduct that makes residents fear some known or unknown trauma. For instance, a staff member may make a resident fear that they will be hit or not served food if they don’t behave a certain way. Further, caretakers may commit verbal or nonverbal abuse, leading to emotional distress, anguish, and humiliation.
- Neglect and abandonment. Caretakers desert or refuse basic care to residents.
- Exploitation. Caretakers or nursing home staff conceal or use a resident’s assets inappropriately. In addition, a new form of exploitation has emerged – exploitation through social media. In these instances, nursing home caretakers may take compromising images or video of residents and upload images and video online.
Nursing Home Elder Abuse Statistics in Long Term Care
Seniors and the disabled may be subjected to a wide array of tragic abuse in long term care. Per the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), nearly one in two older adults with cognitive impairment experiences abuse. The true number of nursing home assaults can never be known, as many victims are unable to communicate about the attack due to cognitive issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. So, statistics are just the tip of the iceberg, with the true number of assaults and abuse being much higher.
Chilling Nursing Home Abuse and Assault Statistics
- According to the 2020 National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) Data Brief, 19,201 (12.5%) out of the approximately 153,324 complaints reported to Ombudsman programs involved abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.
- A 2019 study in Aggression and Violent Behavior stated that, “for every incident of elder abuse reported to authorities, nearly 24 additional cases remain undetected.”
- Also per the 2020 NORS Data Brief, elder care abuse complaints by perpetrator type show 55% of complaints were against facility staff, with 23% against another resident.
- Per the World Health Organization in 2022, “rates of abuse of older people are high in institutions such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 staff reporting that they have committed abuse in the past year.” Further, “rates of abuse of older people have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Perhaps the most alarming data comes from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which states that “elders who experienced abuse, even modest abuse, had a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who had not been abused.”
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Assault
There are many signs that should alert you to nursing home abuse and assault, including:
- unexplained bruises, bleeding, or signs of physical assault,
- new wounds (particularly pressure sores or bedsores),
- slips and falls,
- malnutrition or dehydration,
- psychological changes that could indicate there is some type of abuse going on,
- unexpected listlessness,
- unusual behavior, such as infantile behavior
- emotional withdrawal, or
- unexplained outbursts of anger or crying.
Don’t just pay attention to your loved one, but to staff behavior as well. Look out for staff who stall you when you are trying to visit, hang around your loved one’s room when you are visiting, or refuse to answer routine questions. These could be signs of a problem that warrants your attention.
Who Commits Nursing Home Abuse and Assault?
Assaults Committed by Nursing Home Staff
Many nursing home assaults are committed by staff members. While the reasons for every assault may differ, the following are many of the factors that lead to assault:
- Inadequate hiring processes. Nursing home assaults are often attributable to poor decisions in the hiring process, such as failure to conduct proper background checks or hiring workers based on false employment documents. Even if a worker does not have a criminal history, they may have a suspicious employment background, such as switching jobs frequently.
- Poorly trained workers or staff. Working in a nursing can be challenging. It is critical that staff are properly trained regarding the different types of conditions that residents may have.
- Lack of proper oversight. In some nursing homes, there is insufficient staff oversight. In these situations, it may be easy for staff to shirk their duties by not properly caring for residents, or to assault residents or make residents fearful if they don’t do what they’re told.
- Failure to notice behavioral changes around a particular staff member. In addition to the physical signs of assault, there is often a markedly different reaction by the resident to the abusive staff member than before the assault. An assaulted resident may have a new generalized fear and anxiety around everyone, or may be fearful and anxious only in the presence of the abusive staff member. In either case, alert managers and care assistants should notice signs that something is not right and investigate.
Many nursing home residents have mobility issues and need significant help from staff as they are repositioned, bathed, or moved from a bed into a wheelchair. This may be cumbersome to staff members, who can easily lose their patience and lash out at residents.
Additionally, many residents also suffer from cognitive issues, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Because of these conditions, these residents may in turn lash out at staff, or otherwise be verbally abusive. Nursing home staff must be trained to understand that some residents cannot control their actions, and to have the temperament not to assault a resident who may be exhibiting such behaviors. It is important to note that it is never appropriate for a staff member to abuse a resident, regardless of their behavior.
Assaults Committed by Another Nursing Home Resident
Just as nursing homes must protect residents from staff, they must also protect residents from a sexual or physical assault perpetrated by another resident. Nursing home staff should recognize if a resident seems “over-sexualized” towards others in general or towards a specific resident. In these circumstances, staff should take adequate precautions to ensure that a sexual assault does not occur.
Is a Nursing Home Responsible for Assault or Abuse by Another Resident? Do You Have a Case?
In many cases, yes.
Nursing homes have a duty to keep all residents safe. With the cognitive issues noted above, some residents may have violent tendencies. One resident may believe that a particular other resident is “out to get them” based upon a delusion; if this is known, then the violent resident must not be allowed near the potential victim. Other residents may have general violent tendencies toward everyone, or may simply act out in a way that potentially is harmful for anyone around them.
In any case, staff must ensure that those who may be violent are closely watched and not placed into a situation in which they could assault another resident. When nursing homes fail to protect residents from a violent resident, resulting in injury or death, the facility may be found liable.
In my work suing Ohio nursing homes for abuse and assaults, my mission is to force the nursing homes to do better, hire better quality staff suited to work with the elderly, and train their staff to evaluate residents for aggressive behavior before it becomes an assault incident.
Nursing Home Demand is Increasing, so Vigilance and Accountability is More Important than Ever
The aging of the baby boom generation could result in a more than 50% increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and old requiring nursing care by 2030. Further driving elder care demand is “a steep rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could more than double by 2050 to 13.8 million, from 5.8 million [in 2019],” per the Population Reference Bureau. With this explosive increase in the need for nursing home and assisted living facilities, it will be more important than ever to stay vigilant and keep facilities accountable.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Assault in Ohio?
If you suspect that your loved one is not receiving the proper care, you must act quickly. First, contact an administrator and report the problem. Then, consider contacting an Ohio nursing home abuse and neglect attorney. Even if the facility management or administration agrees to follow up and get back to you, being in contact with an attorney can also be helpful to protect your loved one’s rights.
As an attorney for Ohio nursing home abuse, I can provide direction in terms of other action that should be promptly taken, which may include contacting the police, documenting your loved one’s injuries and the circumstances surrounding their harm, and filing a complaint with the Ohio Department of Health. There is no charge or obligation for contacting me.
Call Me for a Free Consultation if Your Loved One Has Been Assaulted
Nursing home abuse and assault is not only wrong, but it’s also a crime. I can help you understand your options – not only to report the assault, but also how to hold the nursing home liable on behalf of your loved one.
I will be happy to speak to you for no charge. I can be reached at 216.696.5700. If you choose to retain me, there is no fee for my services unless and until compensation is recovered, as I accept nursing home abuse and assault cases on a contingency fee basis.