Nursing Home Justice Blog

The Impact of Abuse & Neglect on Resident Mortality

Written By:

Attorney Mac Hester

Date Posted:

November 20, 2023

It isn’t unusual for long-term residents of nursing homes and care facilities to be victims of abuse and neglect. This poor treatment can be intentional, such as a staff member hitting a patient. It can also be unintentional when overworked and improperly trained workers simply fail to properly care for residents.

In either case, abuse and neglect can lead to serious injuries, emotional distress, and an increased risk of mortality, according to studies. Family members who believe their loved ones are being abused or neglected can take steps to stop it before it is too late. They can also seek redress if abuse and neglect contributes to death. A Colorado nursing home lawyer can advise you about your options in these regards.

How Does Physical Abuse Impact Resident Mortality?

Physical violence and the resulting injuries such as broken bones, hip fractures, brain injuries, and other trauma can, of course, directly cause death. But more moderate abuse over time can also shorten the lives of nursing home residents.

Types of Physical Abuse

Types of abuse in nursing homes can include:

  • Violent acts like hitting, kicking, punching, pushing, and shoving
  • Sexual abuse
  • Restraining patients to beds or chairs
  • Overmedicating
  • Denying food and drink
  • Not recognizing, or ignoring, symptoms of possible serious illness or injuries
  • Leaving residents who cannot get up on their own in their beds or wheelchairs for extended time periods
  • Failing to regularly turn immobile people in their beds

Quite common in nursing home residents who are bedbound are pressure sores, or bedsores. These sores develop over time in people who are unable to frequently change positions. If improperly treated, these sores can eventually cause a blood infection called sepsis. Sepsis is a medical emergency that can be fatal. This is just one example of how less obvious abuse can lead to death.

Signs of Abuse

Signs of possible abuse can be plain to see, such as bumps, bruises, and broken bones. Or they can be more subtle. These are signs to look out for that could mean a nursing home resident is not being adequately cared for or is being intentionally abused:

  • Poor hygiene of the person
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Frequent bedsores
  • Unwashed bedding
  • Unchanged diapers
  • Dirty bathrooms
  • Cluttered and unclean bedrooms

If you see or learn of any of these signs when you visit your loved one, speak to nursing home staff. You can also file a complaint with the ombudsman and consider speaking to an attorney if issues are not corrected.

Death Caused by Old Age or Abuse?

While it may appear as if a nursing home resident has died of old age, by digging a little deeper abuse and neglect may be discovered that led or contributed to the person dying. Recent statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that abuse of elderly people in nursing homes and residential care facilities is high. It is reported that two in three staff members say that they have committed abuse. One in six people ages 60 and older have experienced abuse.

How Does Emotional Neglect Increase Resident Mortality?

Emotional abuse and neglect can be as damaging or even more so than some types of physical abuse. It may also be more common in long-term care facilities because it doesn’t leave obvious marks or scars. Inside, however, victims of emotional neglect feel the abuse deeply. They can become increasingly withdrawn, isolated, angry, sad, disinterested, anxious, nervous, or experience changes in sleep habits, among other things.

They may also respond by becoming severely depressed and trying to harm themselves, which is another impact of abuse and neglect on resident mortality. Depression in nursing home residents is known to increase the risk of suicide. According to a National Library of Medicine publication,  depression increased the likelihood of death by 59% in individuals in care facilities the first year after diagnosis.

Recognizing Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can involve nursing home staffers doing the following to residents:

  • Yelling at them
  • Belittling, shaming, or embarrassing them in front of others
  • Calling names or mocking them
  • Making threats or trying to physically intimidate them
  • Ignoring them when they ask for help going to the bathroom or elsewhere
  • Hiding things from them or moving items out of reach
  • Speaking to them in a childlike manner
  • Limiting interactions with other residents

These are some of the signs to look out for when visiting your family in a nursing home. Pay attention to the way the staff treats them to discover whether mental abuse could be an issue.

What Happens if Residents Have No Close Relatives?

Abuse and neglect can continue undetected when people in nursing homes don’t have close relatives or friends visiting them and advocating for their welfare. And continuing abuse and neglect can lead to a higher risk of death.

This is not really surprising. Vulnerable elders, disabled individuals, and others who require long-term care may be physically or mentally incapable of speaking up. Others may be afraid to say anything because, with no one on their side to look out for them, they fear complaining will only lead to more abuse.

Take the First Step to Getting Justice for Your Loved One

If you believe abuse or neglect contributed to your loved one’s death, you may be able to get compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. While money will not bring your family member back, it will serve to hold the facility accountable and potentially discourage abuse of other vulnerable residents.

Take the first step toward justice. Call Nursing Home Justice today at (303) 775-8128 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney in Denver.

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