Under the law, nursing home residents have the right to be free from physical abuse. This right, however, is often violated by nursing home staff members. Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that may result in bodily injury or pain. The injuries that a nursing home resident may suffer as a result of physical abuse can be very serious because most older people are fragile. For example, many older people have brittle bones that can break easily. An elderly person’s skin is also more susceptible to bruises, cuts, and tears because aging causes the skin to lose elasticity.
The following are examples of the types of physical abuse that can be inflicted by nursing home staff members on elderly nursing home residents :
- Striking or beating the resident with an object or with a hand
- Pushing or shoving the resident
- Shaking, slapping, kicking, or pinching the resident burning the resident
- Force feeding the resident
- Using chemical or physical restraints that are unnecessary
- Mishandling the resident during ambulation (for example, throwing the resident into bed, or pushing the resident in an attempt to get him or her to hurry up)
- Pulling the resident’s hair
Physical abuse in nursing homes occurs for a variety of reasons. When physical abuse occurs for any of the following reasons, the nursing home may be liable for negligence :
- Failure of the nursing home to conduct background investigations on employees who have a history of physical abuse
- Failure of the nursing home to properly supervise staff members
- Failure of the nursing home to hire a sufficient amount of supervisory staff
- Failure of the nursing home to properly train employees on how to spot physical abuse
- Failure to provide the proper ratio of staff to patients. Too many patients for too few employees can cause an inordinate amount of stress. Some caregivers snap under the pressure and take their stress out on the patients.