As our loved ones age, it is natural for us to grow concerned about their health and safety. While some of us have the time and resources to care for them in our own homes, it is often not possible for many reasons. Families might not have space, the time, or the medical knowledge to provide for an older loved one, especially if they require specialized medical care or attention.
The decision to place a loved one in a long-term care facility is often a difficult one, but it is often necessary. We do so with the expectation that the facility will not only attend to their needs and make sure that they get the care and attention required to keep them healthy, but we also expect that they will be treated at all times with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Discovering that your loved one was mistreated in a nursing home or by an in-home care professional can be devastating. You have the right to be angry and to demand answers and a measure of justice. When the unthinkable happens, and your loved one is abused or neglected by those you trusted to care for them, the Halifax senior abuse lawyers of Valent Legal will be ready to help.
Call us, text us, or fill out a contact form to speak with a member of our team right away. We’ll help put a stop to this abuse once and for all and seek the maximum amount of compensation that your family deserves.
What Is Senior Abuse?
Senior abuse is physical, emotional, sexual, or financial harm perpetrated against older adults by the people who care for them. The abuse may be intentional, or it may be caused by neglect.
As adults age, their physical and mental capabilities often diminish, which can make them more vulnerable to abuse. They may be unable to defend themselves, or incapable of understanding that abuse is taking place.
Abusers can be anyone directly responsible for the care of the senior, such as an in-home care professional or a long-term care facility.
Senior abuse can take many forms, such as physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse or neglect.
Physical abuse is the intentional use of force against someone that causes injury, pain, or impairment. It could be:
- Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, burning, pushing, choking, pinching, tripping
- Restraining/confinement (often to a bed or chair)
- Medically irresponsible over/under medicating
Verbal/emotional abuse is when a caretaker threatens, coerces, or harasses using words. Verbal abuse may also be:
- Nonverbal acts like ignoring or shunning the senior
- Another form of verbal/emotional abuse could be preventing the senior from normal social contact, such as barring visitors or phone calls.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that occurs without the consent of the person in care. It could include:
- Physical sexual touching
- Making the older person undress when unnecessary
- Sexually explicit statements or comments said by a caretaker
Neglect is the failure to ensure a person’s welfare while they are in care. This can mean failing to provide essentials like:
- Clean bedding
- Access to medical services
Financial abuse is the misappropriation of money, property, or other assets of a senior.
Neglect can also be a failure to properly supervise an older person who is at risk of injuring themselves if left alone, such as seniors prone to falls or those with dementia.
Neglect can be intentional (active neglect), or unintentional (passive neglect). Passive neglect often happens if the caretaker is overwhelmed or under-resourced, such as at an understaffed long-term care facility.
What Are the Legal Rights of a Resident in Care in Nova Scotia?
All adults who are receiving care from a hospital or licensed care facility have the legally protected right to an investigation following a report of abuse. The Protection for Persons in Care Act (PPCA) “requires facility administrators and service providers, including staff and volunteers, to promptly report all allegations or instances of abuse.” Anyone can report abuse by calling 1-800-225-7335.
After a report is filed, it will be carefully reviewed to determine if an investigator needs to be formally assigned to the case. If so, the investigator may conduct interviews with all involved parties, review records and documents, consult experts, and take any other necessary investigative steps. The investigator will then make a report, and if it’s determined that abuse did happen, directives and sanctions may be issued to the care facility.
Is It Common for Someone in Care to Be Abused or Neglected?
Data shows that reported cases of senior in-care abuse are on the rise. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that senior abuse itself on the rise, but perhaps that reporting it is becoming more common.
Nova Scotia authorities investigated 143 reports of senior in care abuse between September 2017 to 2018 and confirmed 64 cases of abuse and neglect. Other nationwide studies have suggested that 8-10% of seniors in Canada (about 750,000 people) have been victims of abuse. Still, it is difficult to make an exact determination, as senior abuse is highly underreported.
There are many reasons why senior abuse often goes unreported. Victims may worry that they won’t be believed, or they may be entirely dependent on their caretakers and fear retaliation if they report their abuse. Some avoid reporting due to fears of social or cultural stigma. Other senior victims may be unable to report the abuse due to mobility or cognitive limitations.
What Are Common Senior Abuse or Neglect Injuries?
Examples of senior abuse/neglect injuries include:
- Bedrail injuries
- Broken bones
- Spinal injuries
- Emotional and psychological injuries
- Cuts and bruises
Some injuries in nursing homes are isolated incidents. However, the resident’s health could be in jeopardy if injury accidents repeatedly occur over time, or if they intentionally inflict harm on the senior.
What Are the Signs of Senior Abuse?
Although it can be difficult to distinguish signs of senior abuse from typical ailments experienced by aging adults, you should always pay attention to warning signs such as unusual injury or complaints of abuse.
Physical abuse warning signs may include:
- Unexplained injuries like bruises, welts, sprain, and broken bones (Pay particular attention to injuries that occur on the wrists, arms, and legs, as they may indicate that the person is inappropriately restrained to a bed or chair.)
- Leftover prescription medication, which could indicate a denial of medication
- A drug overdose
Verbal/emotional warning signs may include:
- Controlling, belittling, or manipulative behavior by the caretaker
Sexual abuse warning signs may include:
- Bruising or bleeding around breasts or genitals
- Torn, bloody, or lack of underwear
- Sexually transmitted disease
Financial abuse warning signs may include:
- Sudden and significant changes in the senior’s banking accounts, such as large withdrawals, transfers, or opening of new accounts or credit cards
- Changes in the senior’s will
- Cash or valuable objects missing from the senior’s home or room
Neglect warning signs may include:
- Malnutrition (unexplained weight loss/dehydration)
- Lack of hygiene, such as dirty bedding, clothing, and living conditions
- Lack of proper clothing, especially lack of warm clothing in cold weather conditions
- Unsuitable living conditions, such as lack of heating, water, electricity, or presence of bugs, animals, or fire hazards
Warning signs that could apply to any abuse include:
- If a caretaker is unable to explain an injury/complaint or their explanation doesn’t make sense to you
- If a caretaker refuses to let you be alone with the senior
What Steps Should I Take If a Person in Care Is Being Abused in Halifax?
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, you can contact Nova Scotia 211 for advice, support, and information on resources in your area. You simply dial 211 on your phone.
If the abuse is occurring in a licensed health facility, you can also report the abuse to the Department of Health’s Protection of Persons in Care office by calling 1-800-225-7225.
What Type of Compensation May Be Available to Senior Abuse Victims in Nova Scotia?
Senior abuse victims may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against their abuser and recover compensation for damages associated with the abuse. These damages can be a combination of “pecuniary” and “non-pecuniary” damages.
Pecuniary damages are those for which money is a direct substitute, such as medical bills and lost wages. Pecuniary damages could also potentially cover any money that was lost as a result of financial abuse.
Non-pecuniary damages are not directly monetarily quantifiable, such as emotional or physical suffering and diminished enjoyment of life. The amount of compensation will vary depending on the individual situation, although Canadian law caps non-pecuniary damages at $340,000.
Family members can also sue for both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages if their relative’s death was caused by senior abuse.
How Can a Halifax Senior Abuse Lawyer Help?
The senior abuse lawyers at Valent Legal believe that all seniors deserve to enjoy the twilight of their lives with the dignity they’ve earned. We will not stand idly by when caretakers abuse or neglect people who are unable to fight back or escape an abusive situation.
We are ready to help you take swift and decisive action if you believe that your loved one has been the victim of abuse, whether in a long-term care facility, by an in-home caretaker, or wherever the mistreatment has occurred.
You have every right to demand that the abuse stop immediately when you discover it. Contact our Halifax injury lawyers right away, and we’ll help make sure it happens. We can be reached by phone or text, and we’ll be ready to discuss your legal options.