A Guest Post by Alan Brady
Elder abuse is a serious topic that many don’t know about. Child or familial abuse – These topics we are warned about when we are too young to understand the implications. Elder abuse though – There is a wall of silence created by the fact that it does not affect the majority of American citizens. It’s not until you begin researching nursing homes that you even learn that abuse does occur. And when any form of abuse occurs—physical or verbal—there is anger, guilt, and the need to remedy the situation. And with that arises the question: why?
Does Asking Why Matter?
For your family, why the abuse occurred may not matter. After all, the damage has already occurred. Instead of dwelling on the abuse, you may feel the urge to hire a nursing home abuse attorney, sue the perpetrator, and find a different facility that will keep your relative safe. By all means do that, if that is what you need to do but while you are working on achieving justice for your family member, you should try to determine why the abuse occurred because doing so will help ensure the safety of all the seniors who live at the nursing home.
When it is your relative that was harmed, you don’t want to hear that the torn skin or fall was accidental. But the reality is that being a nursing home employee requires you to engage in back breaking work that must be accomplished delicately. Any wrong moves can easily result in a skin tears or bruises on the elderly who have fragile skin. Does the fact that the pain was accidental change anything?
I believe it does in this case. Incompetence can be fixed. Maliciousness cannot. If it is the first or second offence, the employee might need to be trained on properly performing processes and procedures. If, though, the “accident” is a continual pattern of incompetence that causes painful injuries, the employee should be fired. There is no place in the care of our senior citizens for employers that cannot assure the safety of their patients in nursing homes. Here are some tips to recognize accidental abuse:
- New employee.
- Awkward movements when attempting to complete basic tasks.
- Genuine guilt and remorse over the damage.
- The employee reports the damage.
- Backing from an honest staff member that does not have a history of keeping silent about abuse.
It’s an unfortunate reality that some employees choose to verbally or physically abuse the elderly. It is the responsibility of all the employees to watch out for abuse, especially if the elderly individual is incapable of speaking out about the abuse. Employees are mandated reporters and must report known or suspected abuse. An investigation must be done and the resident’s responsible party must be informed. If you discover that the individual was maliciously choosing to abuse your family member, I say go all out. Your family deserves justice, and the perpetrator deserves to pay for his or her decision to engage in abuse.
Here are some tips to recognize malicious abuse:
- Exhibits competence when he or she chooses.
- Constantly verbally abrasive to patients.
- Has been reported by a trustworthy staff member of abusive behavior before.
- Engages in multiple abusive behaviors: verbal, financial (including theft), and physical. One might be an accident, but all three is not.
Looking to the Nursing Home
Regardless of whether or not the abuse was accidental or malicious, you should attempt to discover if the nursing home fosters an environment that allows abuse. My mother worked in a nursing home for a few years, so I know better than most that some nursing homes do not discourage abusive behavior. Here are a few unofficial and official policies that could affect the amount of abuse that can occur:
- The lack of an official abuse policy that highlights the repercussions.
- Multiple abuse charges in the past that were unresolved.
- A constant stream of new employees could lead to more accidental abuse.
- Employee shenanigans may distract employees and leave an opening for abuse and neglect.
- An employee work place that discourages employees from speaking out about abuse.
- A “me” “me” “me” employee mindset may lead to a bending of the rules and procedures about the numbers of employees that should lift an individual. Improper processes and procedures in lifting and transferring residents can cause injuries for both the resident and the staff.
Abuse is an unfortunate reality. As the family of a nursing home resident, you can prevent abuse by ensuring that the nursing home you choose will not condone any form of abuse—whether it is accidental or consciously done.