Nursing Home Abuse and Dementia

Alzheimer Disease portrayed as tree leaves blowing off by the wind

Having dementia can significantly affect someone’s ability to care for themselves independently. Those with dementia are usually older, with most people developing dementia at around 83.7 years old. The families of people with dementia often place them in nursing homes where they expect trained staff to give special care and attention to their loved one.

Unfortunately, dementia patients in nursing homes are vulnerable to abuse and neglect from their caregivers due to their diminished cognitive functions. As a result, they can sustain serious injuries or death in a nursing home facility. These cases of neglect from a staff member are enough to warrant action with the legal help of a dementia abuse lawyer from Berberian Ain Law LLP.

What is Dementia?

Dementia refers to a significant loss in the ability to remember, reason, and think to the point where it interferes with daily activities. Patients with dementia sometimes experience emotional instability and changes in their personalities. The condition can range from mild to severe, with the most severe cases of dementia requiring daily assistance with basic tasks.

For example, if your loved one develops dementia, you may start to see a decline in their ability to remember dates or names. You will likely see more serious symptoms as their condition progresses, such as not bathing or getting lost when leaving their house.

What Causes Dementia?

There is no one known cause of dementia; however, it is thought that the condition occurs due to damage to a person’s brain cells. Symptoms of dementia develop when brain neurons cease functioning properly and die. Specific forms of dementia, such as vascular dementia and Lewy body disease, are associated with brain changes and protein buildup. Some people also suffer from rare genetic mutations that cause dementia. Generally, there is nothing that the affected person or their family members can do to prevent dementia.

What Are Symptoms of Dementia?

There is a wide range of symptoms associated with dementia, including:

  • Memory loss, lack of judgment, and bewilderment
  • Inability to speak, understand or express thoughts coherently, including asking repetitive questions
  • Irresponsible behavior, such as money management issues
  • Wandering around or elopement
  • Slow completion of tasks
  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  • Lack of balance and difficulty moving

When you notice these signs in a loved one, you may start planning to place them in a facility that can give them proper care.

What Are the Stages of Dementia?

Patients with dementia go through seven stages as the condition worsens. The symptoms in each stage may vary between patients, but typically you will see the following progression of symptoms in your loved one:

1. Normal Behavior

During this stage, your loved one may show no outward symptoms of dementia, but a diagnostic test reveals changes in their brain. These changes signal the possible development of dementia.

2. Early Symptoms of Dementia

Your loved one may start becoming disorganized and misplacing objects around their home. They can still retain an independent lifestyle, but their forgetfulness may cause problems for them in everyday life.

3. Mild Decline

At this stage, your loved one may experience memory and speaking issues. In addition, they may start asking repetitive questions and have problems making, remembering, or keeping plans.

4. Moderate Decline

Your loved one may need more assistance to help with their regular routines at this stage. They may suffer a greater memory loss, such as forgetting significant events. It becomes more difficult for them to manage money and important appointments.

5. Moderately Severe Decline

Memory loss becomes severe when your loved one can no longer remember family members’ names and personal information. They experience confusion, such as forgetting the dates of the week. They likely require help with daily tasks, such as taking a shower.

6. Severe Decline

At this stage of dementia, your loved one may need assistance with using the bathroom, showering, and dressing for the day. They will likely show significant personality changes that cause them to experience various emotions, from withdrawal to anger.

7. Very Severe Decline

In very severe decline, a loved one with dementia is likely unable to express their thoughts verbally. They can’t walk and may spend most of their time in bed. They require round-the-clock caregiver assistance for daily living and essential needs for feeding and dressing.

Dementia and Elder Abuse

Elderly patients with dementia often suffer neglect and abuse at the hands of nursing home staff members due to their inability to communicate about their mistreatment. As a result, these cases often go unreported to patients’ families and local authorities.

The Department of Health and Human Services reviewed 37,607 records representing 34,820 elder patients in a 2019 report. They found 7,831 possible cases of abuse or neglect from patients who visited an emergency room. The study also found that 6,608 elder abuse and neglect cases likely went unreported.

There are multiple reasons why elder abuse often occurs in nursing homes for patients with dementia:

Lack of training for staff members

Staff members may lack a clinical understanding of dementia. They are unsure how to provide care for combative or dementia patients adequately. The lack of training leads to staff members feeling ill-prepared and providing mediocre care to patients with dementia. As a result, patients with dementia are more likely to suffer abuse and neglect.

Insufficient staffing

Staffing shortages can result in poor oversight of dementia patients and abuse. A 2022 American Health Care Association report found that 87% of nursing homes face staffing shortages in the U.S.

When a worker is in charge of a large group of dementia patients, they may experience excessive stress daily as they care for their basic needs. Providing care for a person with dementia might become more challenging over time. When a staff member shows poor social behaviors or fails to value the patient as a human being, the patient is at risk for abuse.

Lack of policies for investigating elder abuse

There is a lack of adequate processes in nursing facilities for investigating elder abuse reports and preventing future harm. While some facilities may have protocols for abuse in place, there may be some inconsistent standards for their implementation. The confusion over these policies may leave staff members and patients unable to report the abuse and complete the paperwork.

The National Council on Aging estimates that up to 5 million elderly Americans suffer abuse each year. Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, and sexual, resulting in physical and mental injuries. Financial abuse of elderly patients has resulted in a loss of $36.5 billion for victims annually. A caregiver may neglect to provide adequate care for a patient’s needs for food, clothing, shelter, and other essentials. In some cases, elder abuse can even result in death.

Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Family members with loved ones in nursing homes with dementia care must watch for signs of neglect and abuse. If you suspect a loved one with dementia has experienced elder abuse at the hands of a nursing home facility staff member, contact a dementia abuse lawyer at Berberian Ain Law LLP. We are committed to standing up for your loved one’s rights to a safe environment and quality care in a nursing home.

Get in touch today to schedule a free initial consultation with a nursing home abuse lawyer and let us help you achieve justice for your loved one.