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What Is the Difference Between Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes?

| June 16, 2020

One of the most pressing issues facing the elder population today is the abuse and mistreatment that they can, unfortunately, suffer inside nursing homes. However, not all mistreatment necessarily qualifies as “abuse.” While nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect involve many of the same behaviors and are capable of causing similar harm to seniors, they are distinct problems.

Below, we’ll take a look at the main differences between nursing home abuse and neglect and identify a few red flags that a nursing home resident might be suffering from neglect.

Abuse vs. Neglect

Abuse” involves intentional behavior. As such, nursing home abuse occurs when a caretaker in a nursing home intentionally causes physical or emotional pain to a nursing home patient. Nursing home abuse can take several forms, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation. A few examples of nursing home abuse are:

  • Hitting, pinching, biting, or slapping
  • Over- or under-medicating
  • Excessive or unnecessary use of restraints
  • Sexual assault
  • Physically isolating the patient from his or her family or friends

By contrast, “neglect” does not involve intentional behavior, but, rather, a pattern of disregard or inattention to the needs of the patient. Unfortunately, many instances of nursing home neglect occur due to the prevalence of underfunded and understaffed nursing facilities. The specific types of behaviors involved with nursing home neglect are more difficult to identify with specificity than with those for abuse, as they are defined primarily by what caretakers fail to do rather than what they actually do. Generally, nursing home neglect occurs when a caretaker fails to properly attend to the needs of a patient, which can include ignoring their requests for assistance, failing to feed them adequately, allowing them to fall or otherwise injure themselves, or forgetting to give them their medication, among others.

Common Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Hard evidence of nursing home neglect is often difficult to procure, but a few of the most common signs that it is occurring include:

  • Pressure sores: Pressure sores occur in bedridden patients who require assistance with changing their body position. These types of injuries may indicate that nursing home staff have not been diligent in turning the patient in their bed.
  • Wandering: Nursing home patients, especially those suffering from dementia, should be closely monitored at all times to ensure that they do not wander too far from their zone of safety. Nursing home patients who get lost, or frequently turn up where they are not supposed to be, indicate that they may not be monitored closely enough.
  • Poor personal hygiene: Most nursing home residents need assistance with personal hygiene, including bathing. If they are neglected by staff, their personal hygiene may begin to suffer, which can lead to infections, rashes, and a number of other illnesses.  
  • Unclean living conditions: Most nursing home residents also require assistance in keeping their living areas sanitary. Signs that a patient’s’ living conditions are being ignored are dirty sheets, dirty bathroom areas, and dirty kitchens.
  • Weight loss: Sudden or unexplained weight loss can be an indication that a patient’s dietary needs are not being adequately addressed. Lack of adequate nutrition can cause dehydration, loss of muscular tissue, and fatigue.

Contact a Waldorf Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer

Do you have concerns that a family member or someone you care about may be suffering from neglect in a nursing home or other assisted living facility? If so, you should enlist the assistance of a skilled nursing home negligence lawyer to look into your case. To get started, contact the Waldorf nursing home negligence lawyers at the Law Office of Thomas E. Pyles by calling 301-705-5006.