On April 29, two women working at a Mount Laurel residential facility that cares for developmentally disabled adults and children were charged with physically assaulting a disabled man.
According to the criminal complaint, Martha Ruiz and Kendall Crouch are accused of striking the man in the face, twisting his hands and wrists, forcefully restraining him to a bed and placing a urine-soaked towel on his face.
Unfortunately, what happened at the Mount Laurel facility is not an isolated incident. There are reports of thousands of cases of abuse toward the elderly and other vulnerable people in nursing homes each year, and many more go unreported.
The U.S. has an estimated 44,000 nursing home and long-term care facilities housing around 2.3 million residents, and studies show as many as 24.3 percent of residents experienced physical abuse at least once. Aside from physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and neglect also happen in these settings.
Know the warning signs
Many of us have parents or other loved ones living in residential facilities, and we always hope they’re getting the best care possible. But often when people in care facilities are victims of abuse, they won’t speak up out of fear of upsetting you or retaliation by staff members. So it’s important that you look for the warning signs of abuse when you visit your loved ones.
- Bruises, cuts, bedsores and other injuries: One obvious thing to watch for is bruising, cuts or fractures. This could indicate that your loved one is being physically abused, or, at the very least, isn’t being handled with the care they deserve. Bed sores are a sign of neglect. So is poor hygiene.
- Staff issues: Is the staff frantic? Is there a lot of turnover among the staff? Are staff members evasive when you ask them questions? Does your loved one not want a particular staff member to take care of them? These all point to potential issues.
- Emotional changes: If your loved one is experiencing abuse, you might notice emotional changes. Newly developed depression, anxiety, paranoia, nervousness or insomnia could all be signs of abuse. Pay attention to these changes in mental state.
If you believe your parent or loved one is the victim of abuse at a residential facility, act quickly. It’s important to get them out of that situation as soon as you can. You may wish to speak to a lawyer who can advise you on the path forward and make sure you get the justice you deserve.