Every elder living in a nursing home or assisted living facility deserves a happy, comfortable, and safe place to call home. The harrowing truth is that this is not always the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 10% of all elders in homes will experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation each year. This amount could be higher when factoring in injuries and incidents that are never reported or discovered.
If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, or if your elderly loved one will move into one soon, then it can be frightening to realize just how common abuse and neglect are in these settings. To stop it from happening or to prevent it before it gets even worse, it might be up to you to notice the signs of nursing home abuse and take action. Indeed, many elders are too afraid to speak up or can’t because of memory loss or a mental health complication, so it really could be up to you as their family member to see if something is wrong.
Three common forms of nursing home abuse and their warning signs are:
- Physical abuse: You may notice that your loved one has bruises or cuts from falls or physical trauma, or even injuries that they cannot explain. You may also notice that they are losing weight because they are not properly nourished. In other cases, you may recognize bedsores, which only form if they have been left to lie unattended for many hours or days.
- Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse resulting in a change in behavior, worsening depression, and prevalent fear. When an elderly resident is subject to emotional abuse, they may stop eating enough to trigger rapid weight loss. You may also notice that they avoid talking about a certain staff member for fear of retaliation. They might also be more prone to “zoning out” and losing track of their surroundings.
- Financial abuse: The first thing you want to look for if you suspect your elderly loved one has been more or less robbed is the potential of items missing from their room or area. Cash, checks, and credit cards are popular targets among thieving caretakers. If you notice strange spending habits or you no longer have access to your loved one’s bank accounts, this could be a major problem. If your loved one has declining mental health, they may be a victim of exploitation in which a nursing home staff member tries to convince them to make the staff member a power of attorney, so they have access to their financials.
General Warning Signs of Elder Abuse
Depending on the type of abuse your loved one has endured, the warning signs might not be easy to identify or clear. It could be that they have experienced a variety of harm and neglect, which has caused them to change in subtler ways.
Pay attention to your elderly loved one to see if they show these warning signs of abuse:
- Fear: When you notice that your elderly loved one is fearful of someone in the nursing home, it could mean that they’ve been mentally abused by someone in the facility.
- Lack of eye contact: You may recognize that your loved one is failing to make eye contact, potentially looking away from people and into the distance. They may seem like they’re not focused, and it can be difficult to converse.
- Quiet demeanor: When you try to talk to your loved one, but they’re not responding as they normally would, it could mean they’ve experienced a mentally traumatic experience.
- Mood swings: Your loved one might begin to have uncharacteristic mood swings, such as sudden outbursts of anger or unexplained sobbing.
How to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
To prevent nursing home abuse and neglect, the best strategy is to avoid unsafe, understaffed, and underfunded nursing home centers in the first place. When you are choosing a nursing home for your loved one, you should not cut any corners. Take time to research each nursing home option and see if you can schedule a tour of the property, too.
Six important aspects of a nursing home when making a selection are:
- Resident rooms: Be sure to check the areas where your loved one will be living. The resident rooms should be free of any potential hazards, provide enough privacy, and give your loved one a sense of comfort.
- Staff and resident interactions: How the staff interacts with patients is a big deal. It shows the comfort level between the residents and the staff tasked with caring for them. You may also be on the lookout for any apprehension from the residents to specific staff members, which could be a red flag.
- Recreation areas: Check to see some of the activities offered to residents. See what’s important to your elderly loved one and if they would be comfortable with the activities offered.
- Medical attention: If your loved one requires constant medical attention or needs to have a doctor visit from a medical facility, make sure this is something that is allowed and that the nursing home offers these services. Assisted living facilities typically do not.
- Dining: You should ensure that your loved one will be properly nourished with healthy meals and regular dining schedules. You don’t want your loved one going hungry or without certain parts of dietary restrictions.
- Past reports: Before you have your loved one stay in a nursing home, make sure you check the past history of the nursing home and any reports of abuse. While it’s not a sign that nursing home abuse still exists, it could be a red flag that you would want to ask about.
What to Do After Abuse
If you have identified that your elderly loved one has been abused or dangerously neglected in their nursing home, then it is time to take action. Call the authorities if you believe they could be in imminent danger or if the neglect constitutes a criminal violation. You can begin researching other nursing homes to arrange to move your loved one as soon as possible.
You should also call a local nursing home abuse attorney who can help you prepare a legal claim against the nursing home. You and your loved one could be owed considerable compensation for the pain and hardships caused by the abuse or neglect.
The Gatti Law Firm is committed to your rights and the rights of your elderly loved one. Trust us to stand in your corner when you need it the most. Our top priority is pursuing the compensation and justice that you need and deserve.
To speak with our firm in a free consultation, contact us today.