A Guide to Understanding Elder Abuse in Oregon

Placing a loved one in an assisted living home is often a difficult decision. When people do place their loved ones in nursing homes, the common expectation is that such homes will provide better care than family members could. Sometimes, however, this isn’t the case, and the caregivers tend to abuse this responsibility. 

Unfortunately, long term care facilities aren’t always the most well-maintained and sadly, it’s still possible for your loved one to get hurt in a nursing home. There might not be enough staff members to care for all the residents. Certain staff members could also intentionally ignore or neglect your loved one. 

Family members want to make the most informed decisions and find a nursing home in Oregon where their loved one will be most comfortable. However, as more cases of neglect and nursing home abuse have become apparent, it’s important to be careful before signing loved ones into residential homes. 

In this article, we’re sharing what elder abuse and neglect is in Oregon — what it looks like, its effects, and how to get help if you believe your loved one is experiencing it. As Oregon nursing home abuse attorneys, our law firm is passionate about protecting elders from all types of abuse and neglect at the hands of long-term care facility staff. If some of the contents of this article feel familiar to you and your loved one’s situation, contact us right away. Your loved one deserves swift action to protect them from further pain and prevent a serious injury or even a wrongful death. 

Startling Facts About Elder Abuse in Oregon and America

Every year, Oregon has more than 1,000 incidents of elder abuse in long term care settings — and that’s only the incidents that make it into the official records.

The NCEA reports that between 1999 and 2001, nearly 33% of nursing homes in the United States were cited for some sort of violations that could harm or had harmed a resident in their care. The same study found that 10% of nursing homes had violations that had harmed their residents, caused them serious injury or placed them at risk of death.

While many people in Oregon do acknowledge that elder abuse does happen, what most do not realize are just how extreme of a problem it is. Contrary to what some may think, elder abuse is not a problem exclusive to public care facilities. It can also happen at home by a person’s own family member or trusted caretaker. Because the elderly are already vulnerable and often not able to effectively communicate their needs, elder abuse often goes unnoticed until it is too late. 

A study that was conducted on nearly 37,000 emergency room claims across the nation where 35,000 Medicare recipients had been treated for various reasons. A follow-up report showed that a shocking 31,000 Medicare claims had shown some type of abuse that was actively supported by medical records. This startling statistic demonstrates just how serious elder abuse is in both home and public health care settings in the United States.

The Definition of “Nursing Home Abuse”

Nursing home abuse is when residents of long-term care centers suffer physical, emotional, mental, or financial harm because of the negligent or willful acts of their hired caregivers. Nursing home abuse can include more than behavior that is deemed as harmful to the resident. The concept of elder neglect is also encapsulated under the umbrella of abuse.

Nursing Home Neglect

Aside from physical and emotional abuse of elderly patients, neglect has been cited as one of the most common practices of abuse in nursing homes. This implies that these actions are more a breach of duty than they are aimed at harming the patient.

Nursing home neglect in Oregon is defined as a form of elder abuse that involves substandard care and a failure to perform job duties that puts the resident in danger.

This neglect can lead to injuries, additional sicknesses and even death of the resident in question. Neglect in a nursing home can also take multiple forms, including medical neglect, neglect of a resident’s basic needs, failure to aid in personal hygiene, and social or emotional neglect. Elder neglect may also include ignoring residents, leaving them alone and unattended or continuously belittling them. Failing to give residents proper baths or the right medical treatment would also count as neglect.

 While these variations of neglect can be blamed on improper staffing, negligent staffing or inadequate training, the nursing home is still responsible for the neglect of its residents.

Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

Physical abuse in nursing homes can be perpetrated by caregivers, visitors, or other residents, and it’s sadly a very common occurrence. NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org reports that 95% of long-term care residents report that they have seen other residents abused. However, it is the duty of the nursing home to ensure residents’ safety from not just their own caregivers but visitors and other residents, too.

This type of abuse is more likely to be spotted earlier by family members and loved ones as it often leaves behind physical signs like scratches or bruises. It may include active abuse such as pushing, kicking, slapping, or sexual abuse. It may also include the misuse of restraints that are often used for patients suffering from mental conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

Physical abuse can be extremely harmful and dangerous at any age, yet seniors carry a much higher risk of sustaining life-threatening injuries or even dying when victimized by abusers. This is why spotting the signs and getting help early is critical to your loved one’s wellbeing. Read the section below, “Evidence of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse,” to learn common signs that your loved one may be a victim of physical abuse in their long-term care facility.

Emotional and Mental Abuse in Nursing Homes

When a caregiver causes a nursing home resident to experience emotional pain or suffering, that is emotional or mental abuse. This type of abuse may be even more common than physical abuse and can be more difficult to spot. 

NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org represents two common forms of elder emotional abuse: verbal and nonverbal. Verbal abuse includes yelling, intimidation, embarrassment, and harrassment or emotional manipulation. Nonverbal abuse may include the “silent treatment” or ignoring, restricting access to food, water, or bathroom facilities, terrorizing, or hiding personal items. 

While emotional or mental abuse is less visible, it is just as harmful and wrong. To protect your elderly loved one from emotional or mental abuse, be on the lookout for signs it could be happening in their care facility. Read “Evidence of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse” below for examples of what to look for.

Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Finally, elder financial abuse is another form of abuse that can be the most difficult to detect if you do not have access to your loved one’s financial statements or records. While you are likely familiar with financial scams targeted toward the elderly via phone or email, nursing homes can be other sources of financial abuse for seniors. 

Financial abuse may include theft — such as stealing money out of an elderly person’s wallet — or it it may include financial manipulation and coercion. If nursing home caregivers steal money or manipulate a resident to give them money under false pretense, this is financial abuse. 

Protecting your elderly loved one from financial abuse is something that may differ from person to person, depending on the senior’s health and abilities. For example, someone suffering from advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s will likely need an involved financial advocate to help them manage and protect their finances, whereas a senior who maintains the mental capacity to manage their finances may need less support.

Signs of Elder Abuse or Neglect in a Nursing Home

Image of sad woman suffering from nursing home neglect

Because there are many types of nursing home neglect and abuse, the signs vary. Families visiting their loved ones should be vigilant in watching for signs of abuse. These signs of elder abuse may include bruises, social isolation, suspicious injuries, significantly worsening health with unexplained reasons, and more (as outlined below).

Here, we’ve included some of the most common signs, however, you know your loved one best. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and dig deeper to determine what’s happening when you aren’t around.

Common Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

  • Your loved one is left alone for long periods of time
  • Your loved one has unsafe living conditions, such as extreme temperatures, poorly maintained living quarters, fire hazards, or lack of running water
  • Unsuitable clothing for the temperature
  • Poor hygiene or being unbathed
  • Living with soiled bed clothing, dirty clothes, bugs or dirty conditions
  • Bedsores
  • Unusual loss of weight
  • Dehydration

Common Signs of Abuse

Physical Signs

  • Unexplained injuries and/or recurring injuries
  • Physical signs of restraint such as bruises and abrasions
  • Malnutrition, dehydration, and sudden weight loss
  • Having unexplained broken bones, dislocations or sprains
  • Bruising, scars or welts seen on the body
  • Failing to take medications properly
  • Signs of restraint, such as rope marks on a wrist
  • Broken eyeglasses

Emotional or Mental Signs

  • Confusion or fear
  • Unexplained anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low confidence
  • Nightmares
  • New physical or mental symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Insomnia
  • Social withdrawal

Changes in the Environment

  • The care staff won’t leave your loved one alone with family or visitors
  • Cash or credit cards re missing from your loved one’s room or personal items

What to Do if You Are Worried Elder Abuse is Happening

Front view of tensed active senior Caucasian woman with hand on face sitting on sofa in a nursing home

If your loved one can answer for themselves, ask them outright if abuse is happening. Do so away from nursing home staff, visitors, and other residents; they may feel intimidated or scared to respond honestly if their abuser is nearby.

If you feel certain abuse or neglect is happening, whether or not your elderly loved one is in a state of mind to confirm, do the following:

Report Abuse to Authorities

Families of elderly patients should encourage them to call 911 if they are in immediate danger, and they should encourage them to be forthright about their experiences if they are able to communicate. If your loved one has physical signs of abuse or is willing and able to share their experience of abuse, call the police right away to begin a criminal investigation.

Contact an Oregon Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Legal professionals have the experience to provide support while helping the victim to establish a case that supports their eligibility for compensation. 

A client who believes that their loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse may want to work with an elder abuse attorney who has helped families in similar situations. An attorney familiar with both state and federal standards of senior care may review the details of the claim in question, past complaints against the nursing home and the medical files of the resident who has suffered the alleged neglect. At that point, the attorney may work with their clients to bring the nursing home to justice while pursuing the financial restitution the client deserves.

If a person has proof that their loved one is being neglected or physically or emotionally abused by staff members at the nursing home, the family should ensure that these people are held accountable. This is because the laws regarding nursing home abuse and neglect vary from state to state. A person might have higher chances of winning the suit and protecting their loved one if they have a competent lawyer in their corner to take care of all the details.

Oregon Laws That Apply to Cases of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Every nursing home facility in Oregon is responsible for abiding by the applicable Oregon healthcare regulations and federal regulations to protect the wellbeing of their patients. Whenever neglect or abuse happens, they are in direct conflict with that responsibility and need to be held responsible — to bring justice to your loved one and other patients who may be experiencing this neglect or abuse, too.

Our state law dictates the requirements of filing a lawsuit against a nursing home within Oregon. Here are a few important things to keep in mind for cases regarding elder abuse in Oregon nursing homes.

What laws apply to this type of case?

While many laws or regulations may apply to specific cases, The Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act is a law that plays a vital role in all senior abuse cases in Oregon. It defines senior abuse in Oregon and prohibits the neglect, abuse, and exploitation of seniors in care facilities (like nursing homes or assisted living facilities).

In addition, The Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act provides the court with guidance for how to appropriately protect a senior who has endured abuse or neglect from further suffering. Examples of this include revoking a nursing home manager’s control of funds, giving a complete refund of costs paid to the nursing home organization, and ordering a criminal or civil investigation of the care facility staff member(s) implicated in the case.

What is the statute of limitations for filing a nursing home abuse claim in Oregon?

In Oregon, there is a statute of limitations for filing a claim for compensation. Because this type of case could include criminal prosecution (for instances of physical abuse), the amount of time you have to file a claim may change.

For most cases, claims must be filed within 2 years of the instance of abuse or neglect. If you are claiming a wrongful death, you have 3 years from the date the abuse was discovered to file a claim — not necessarily 3 years from the date of your loved one’s death.

These specifics regarding statute of limitations are a great example of why hiring a lawyer as soon as possible is so important. Our Oregon elder abuse attorneys know the law and will know when filing must be completed so you don’t have to try to interpret the law yourself.

Contact Our Oregon Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

Once a family has made the difficult decision to put their loved one in a nursing home, they assume that their loved one is going to receive high-quality care from health care professionals who have their patients’ best interest in mind. However, these professionals may be negligent or even abusive in their duty of care.

Nursing home neglect and abuse is never acceptable. You deserve answers when your loved one is hurt or suffers a wrongful death in a long-term care facility.

If your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, don’t hesitate to take action. If your loved one has been mistreated in a long term care facility and suffered serious injuries or died as a result, talk to an elder abuse attorney at Swanson, Lathen, and Prestwich, PC to talk about your legal options.

Find More Ways to Help

If you’re passionate about protecting seniors from the threat of elder abuse, the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman has sent out the call for volunteers. Certified volunteers serve a critical role in preventing nursing home neglect

Certified volunteers help police long term care facilities to spot signs of neglect and abuse as early as possible. Given that many long term care residents have little in the way of family (and some cannot even speak for themselves), the volunteers are an integral part of the system that’s designed to protect the aged.

Unfortunately, the state Ombudsman’s office only has 48% of the volunteers they need to be effective. If you’re interested in volunteering, you’re encouraged to submit an application. If approved, you’ll be given the training you need to advocate for someone who cannot advocate for themselves.