Did you entrust your loved one’s care to a nursing home only to later learn that staff members mistreated them? If so, the time to take action is now. Aside from helping your family member take legal action against their abuser, you should also take reasonable steps to report elder abuse in West Virginia.
Reporting instances of elder abuse to the proper authorities will not only protect your loved ones, but may also prevent further harm to other victims who do not have a trusted family member to advocate on their behalf. Alerting authorities to acts of elder abuse also helps minimize the chances of future nursing home residents suffering at the hands of an abusive caretaker.
How To Report Elder Abuse in West Virginia
In West Virginia, you can report elder abuse to Adult Protective Services by calling the Central Intake for Abuse and Neglect at 1-800-352-6513. If you are a mandatory reporter, you are required to call and make a verbal report in 24 hours or less after suspicion or evidence of abuse is first raised.
Mandatory reporters are also required to fill out the Adult Protective Services Mandatory Reporting Form no more than 48 hours after making a verbal report via phone call. Mandatory reporters for elder abuse in West Virginia include:
- Medical, dental, and mental health professionals
- Social service workers
- Law-enforcement officials or peace officers
- Members of a religious clergy
- Nursing home and residential facility employees
You do not have to be a mandated reporter to make an elder abuse report. Any family member, friend, acquaintance, or concerned citizen may report their suspicions of elder abuse even though they are under no legal obligation to do so.
What if a Mandatory Reporter Fails To Report Elder Abuse?
Failure to report known or suspected elder abuse as a mandatory reporter carries a possible misdemeanor charge, $100 fine, and ten days in jail. Never ignore or try to explain away signs of elder abuse. Many older adults do not have advocates on their side who can stand up for them in their time of need, so it is always better to err on the side of caution and contact Adult Protective Services when there is any suspicion of abuse.
Signs of Elder Abuse
No two cases of elder abuse are the same, and we cannot expect victims to always exhibit the same symptoms or behave in the same way. One of the most telling signs that something is not right is if your loved one begins behaving unlike themselves for no discernible reason.
If your family member is in a nursing home or residential facility, watch for any sudden or gradual changes in their behavior or any of the following signs of nursing home abuse.
Physical abuse in a nursing home involves a caretaker causing physical pain or injury to a resident. Hitting, slapping, biting, kicking, scratching, and using unnecessary physical restraints are all forms of physical abuse. Signs that your loved one might be the victim of physical abuse include:
- Bruises, abrasions, and other signs of restraints
- Unexplained or recurring injuries
- Broken bones or sprains
- Dislocated joints
- A fear of sudden movements
Physical abuse can have lifelong consequences for older adults. Many nursing home residents are already suffering from at least one serious health condition, and repetitive physical injuries may exacerbate current illnesses or cause new ones to develop. Regularly monitoring your loved one’s physical wellbeing will help you identify signs of abuse early on.
Emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse in nursing homes. Also known as psychological or verbal abuse, emotional abuse covers a wide range of harmful actions, including:
- Insulting a resident’s intelligence or appearance
- Calling a resident names
- Swearing at residents
- Making threats
- Isolating residents from their friends and family
Financial exploitation of the elderly can be difficult to spot until it is too late. By the time family members realize what is going on, a victim’s life savings may have already been drained. Any unexpected changes to financial or estate documents or the sudden appearance of new best friends should be regarded with caution. You would be right to suspect financial abuse if you notice any of the following:
- Disappearing valuables from your loved one’s room
- Missing debit cards or checkbooks
- Unusual or large bank withdrawals
Elderly women are more likely than men to be the victims of sexual abuse in a nursing home facility, but anyone of any gender may be victimized by unwanted sexual contact. The physical and psychological damage of this kind of abuse may impact an elderly victim for the rest of their life. If your loved one is in a nursing home, remain vigilant for signs of possible sexual abuse:
- Torn or bloody undergarments
- Bruising in the groin area
- Acting withdrawn or fearful
How to Monitor Your Loved One for Elder Abuse
Monitoring your loved one for signs of elder abuse can be challenging, but putting in the effort to do so will always be worthwhile. One of the most effective ways to monitor for signs of elder abuse is to drop in at your family member’s nursing home unannounced. Get in the habit of visiting at different days and hours of the week so that nursing home staff cannot prepare for your visit or try to conceal injuries without your knowledge.
Representing Victims of Elder Abuse and Their Families
DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC knows how devastating it can be to learn that the facility you trusted to care for your loved one violated these expectations. If your family member was the victim of elder abuse, we can help secure compensation necessary for their recovery. Any compensation secured through a nursing home abuse case can also be used to make their final years as comfortable as possible.
Do not allow nursing home elder abuse to continue. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation so that you can discuss your loved one’s legal rights with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate nursing home abuse attorneys.