What Is Elder Abuse in South Carolina?
Learn the signs of nursing home neglect and abuse to keep your loved one protected.
Nursing homes can be over-crowded and understaffed. Caregivers may be unqualified by not having the proper skills, knowledge or psychological disposition to provide proper care to residents. This results in a high-risk environment for abuse, intentional or unintentional, neglect and exploitation. Here are the key signs you need to know:
Physical Abuse at Nursing Homes
Under South Carolina law, physical abuse includes: slapping, hitting, kicking, biting, choking, pinching, burning, drugging a patient or confining a patient to control behavior. SEC. 43-35-10
A person does not have to inflict abuse to be held responsible for the physical abuse. One is culpable by allowing it to take place without doing anything to stop or prevent the abuse.
Signs of Abuse:
Nursing home residents suffering from physical abuse by their caregivers (home caregivers, family member caregivers) may show:
- bruises, welts, burns
- unexplained fractures or other physical injuries
- repeated accidents
- injuries left untreated
- references to caregiver’s temper or anger
- nervous or quiet around caregiver
- runs away from the home or tries to
- has marks or scars from restraints on wrists
- shows effects of chemical restraints such as incoherence, grogginess, excessive sleep
- sudden fear, restlessness, anxiety
- prevented from getting medical treatment or being alone with visitors
First, report the signs or events to Adult Protective Services. APS is responsible for investigating and restoring an environment of proper care. If your loved one has sustained mental or physical damage, contact an experienced attorney to investigate avenues of financial recovery and punitive damages. At Strom Law Firm, LLC., we offer a complimentary case evaluation. We’ll fight for you or your loved one, so you can focus on the recovery process.
Emotional Abuse at Nursing Homes
In South Carolina, emotional abuse is defined as deliberately threatening, harassing or engaging in any act of intimidating behavior that causes fear, humiliation, degradation, agitation, confusion, or other forms of serious emotional distress. SEC. 43-35-10
Signs of Abuse:
- unexplained changes in behavior
- fear, restlessness, anxiety
- unexplained weight gain or loss
- sudden loss of interest in life
- appearance of sudden demise of mental health
- signs of nervousness, distrust or fear toward caregiver, conflicted
- symptoms of extreme shock such as the development of tics: rocking, refusing to speak
In addition to reporting your concerns to Adult Protective Services, consider having your loved one examined by a trusted doctor who has some history with the individual or your family and will review medical records including medication and dosing. Finally, you may want to make immediate arrangements to move the resident, not waiting for APS to complete an investigation.
To pursue legal action against the facility in question, call the Strom Law Firm, LLC, to speak with one of our attorneys or schedule a no-fee consultation. During the consultation, we’ll help you evaluate your case.
Sexual Abuse at Nursing Homes
South Carolina law punishes for actual or attempted sexual battery, which can be summarized as: “any intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body, except when such intrusion is accomplished for medically recognized treatment or diagnostic purposes.” Section 16-3-651
Signs of Abuse:
- unexplained bruising around genitals or breasts
- unexplained anal or vaginal bleeding
- symptoms of veneral disease
- unexplained fear, restlessness, anxiety
- appearance of sudden demise of mental health
- symptoms of shock
- unexplained change of staff policy that isolates the resident or prevents you from being alone with the resident
Though every first step begins with Adult Protect Services, South Carolina also has hotlines set up so you can immediately speak with a person within the Department of Social Services who will be or has access to those trained in emergency care.
- Private or foster homes: 803-898-7318
- Richland county long-term care facilities: 803-734-9900
- Long-term care facilities outside Richland County: 800-868-9095
Nursing Home Neglect
“Neglect,” as per South Carolina code, means “the failure of a caregiver to provide the care, goods, or services necessary to maintain the health or safety of a vulnerable adult.” This failure to provide includes inadequate nutrition, clothing, housing, supervision (if needed), medical services and medicine in accordance with treatment plan.
S.C. code also recognizes that neglect may consist of repeated conduct or a single incident that has resulted in serious physical or psychological harm, or substantial risk of death. SEC. 43-35-10
Signs of Neglect:
1. Bed sores & Unexplained Rashes
Bedsores, also known as decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores can usually be prevented by frequently turning the patient and using a higher quality mattresses with overlays. If these simple steps are not taking, Decubitus ulcers will typically develop at the heels, the backs of knees, the buttocks, and other boney parts of the body.
Bedsores begin as a red sore on the skin. If left untreated, the sore breaks the skin. Over time, if proper steps are not taken, the wound increases in size and in depth.
Eventually, the wound becomes so deep that it may reach down to the bone and become infected.
When this happens and antibiotics do not work, amputation may be the only means of saving the patient’s life at this point. If sepsis (blood poisoning) develops and reaches an advanced stage, however, even amputation may not help and the patient dies.
2. Unexplained Falls
Falls are another common problem encountered by the elderly in nursing homes. In some cases, patients may not be properly secured into wheelchairs and fall or slip out. Patients are also left in their beds without rails to protect them. When left unattended by the staff, these patients fall, often receiving lacerations, abrasions, bone fractures, disfigurement and even head injuries.
3. Malnutrition and dehydration
Malnutrition and dehydration slows down healing and can worsen existing health problems. Over time, malnutrition and dehydration lead to severe complications and may result in the death of the patient. In some cases, patients with special dietary requirements are deprived of the nutrition they need to survive. In other cases, patients who have lost the ability to feed themselves are left with food in front of them but no one to help them reach it.
4. Body odor, soiled sheets or clothing, unkempt
Neglect of proper care shows on the individual and their surroundings. Unannounced visits to the nursing home or being asked to wait before you can see your loved one may be a sign that you can’t see with your own eyes.
5. Injury from Elopement & Wandering
Neglected supervision of long-term care residents who can’t protect themselves and/or may be cognitively impaired can lead to the resident disappearing from (or eloping from) the nursing home. At this point, the resident is vulnerable to serious harm, especially when the disappearance goes unnoticed. Under neglected supervision, vulnerable adults may also wander into a dangerous environment within the nursing home and suffer injuries from neglect.
Do not hesitate to request an investigation from South Carolina’s Adult Protective Services board. If possible, stay involved with staff and nursing home management, especially after a one-time wandering incident. You’ll get better insight into the facility. Plus, the more involved you are, the less the risk to your loved one.
If you feel your loved one is not safe, or the resident has already suffered serious injury from neglect, reach out to our attorneys to learn options for recovering losses for your loved one. We’ll help you evaluate your case