What You Should Know About Home Health Care Abuse
As the population ages, more people are turning to home health care as a way to maintain some level of independence. Patients receive care in their homes instead of moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility. While most home health workers are kind and provide proper care to their patients, some workers take advantage of their patients, engaging in various forms of abuse.
If this has happened to your elderly loved one, you should strongly consider contacting the elder abuse lawyers at PKSD.
What Is Home Health Care?
Elderly individuals and their families who want to prevent institutionalization may turn to home health care. This type of care involves assistance that is generally less expensive and more convenient than institutionalized care.
Home health care workers help treat a patient’s illness or personal injuries while allowing the patient to maintain some independence. Home health care may involve medical services such as:
- Wound care to treat surgical wounds or bed sores
- Monitoring physical condition and vital signs for serious illnesses and unstable health conditions
- Injections and intravenous treatment
- Administration of medication
- Nutrition therapy
- Patient and caregiver education
Generally, a patient’s doctor must refer him or her to home health care. A home health agency is contacted and will schedule an appointment to meet with the patient. The home health agency representative discusses the patient’s needs and health history and may also contact the patient’s doctor to talk about medical care.
Common Types of Abuse in Home Health Care
It is important to understand the types of abuse that may occur in the home health care setting so that you can protect yourself or a loved one. Individuals receiving home health care may be vulnerable to abuse if they are isolated from other family and become dependent on the care provider. Additionally, elderly individuals may fear that if they report the abuse loved ones will think they need to be put in a nursing home.
Some common types of abuse in a home health care setting include:
Physical abuse involves the striking, pushing or hitting of the patient. It also includes using restraints in an inappropriate manner and keeping necessary items like glasses or a cane away from the patient. Common signs of this type of elder abuse include:
- Physical injuries – Unexplained bruises and physical injuries, frequent trips to the hospital, poor hygiene, or malnutrition may indicate physical abuse.
- Behavioral issues – The patient may become withdrawn, agitated or fearful around the care provider. Victims of physical abuse may also have mood swings.
- Environmental damage – The home may become dirty and uncared for and the patient may have inadequate resources like lack of heating or cooling.
Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse like calling the patient bad names, screaming at the patient, using vulgar language, and humiliating him or her. Patients who are suffering emotional abuse may become depressed, have increased anxiety or revert to childlike behavior like sobbing or rocking back and forth. Emotional abusers may keep the victim isolated and speak on behalf of him or her.
Financial abuse involves taking the property of the patient, mismanaging his or her financial accounts, changing the titles or deeds of property belonging to the victim, or having the patient make changes to his or her estate plan to the benefit of the care provider. Signs of financial abuse include:
- Checks written out to the care provider
- A change in financial behavior, such as frequent ATM withdrawals when only checks were used in the past
- Large value transactions or many small transactions
- A change to a financial account like an added name on the account
- A change in the estate plan
- Defaults or late payments when money was not previously a concern
Sexual abuse involves sexual assault, rape or inappropriate touching of a patient who does not want it or who does not have the mental capacity to consent to it. Victims of sexual abuse may show signs like bleeding, soiled undergarments, fearfulness or sexually transmitted diseases.
What to Do if You Suspect Abuse
It is important that loved ones advocate for the elderly because they may not be able to do it themselves. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused, report your suspicions to the home health care agency and file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).
You may also want to pursue a civil claim against the abuser to recover damages that your loved one has suffered, such as medical expenses or physical or emotional pain and suffering.
Contact an Experienced Elder Abuse Lawyer for Help
For assistance with your home health care abuse claim, contact our firm. We can review your claim during a free initial consultation to determine your legal options.
Our elder abuse lawyers are prepared to manage your case through every step of the legal process. We can investigate and collect evidence as we try to hold the abuser liable for the damages your loved one suffered.
At PKSD, we take cases on contingency, so there is no fee unless you receive compensation.