The decision to admit a loved one into a nursing home is never easy. However, for many families it is a necessary decision, especially if the family member needs around the clock care. When admitting someone into a nursing home, most people think that their loved one will be well cared for–nobody expects that their loved one will experience neglect or abuse at the hands of their caretakers.
However, the numbers tell a different story. Nursing home abuse is becoming an all too common phenomenon, which is troubling as our older population increases and more and more families are faced with the need to admit a loved one into a long-term care facility. In order to protect loved ones from nursing home abuse, it is important to be aware of the types of abuse and the signs that may be present. Nursing home abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Other forms of abuse include general neglect and financial fraud and exploitation.
Physical abuse in nursing homes can range from physical injury to the improper use of medication and restraints. Physical abuse is probably the easiest form of nursing home abuse to spot, because there are usually obvious signs of injury present like broken bones, bruising, and cuts.
Emotional abuse in a nursing home can be either in the form of verbal abuse or passive abuse. Verbal abuse includes speaking to an elderly person in a way that causes fear, anxiety, and distress. This can take the form of insults, taunting, or threats. A more passive form of emotional abuse includes caregivers who ignore the patient or subject the patient to long periods of isolation. Even though more difficult to detect, emotional abuse can be extremely damaging to the individual and may leave long lasting emotional scars.
General neglect is a major form of nursing home abuse and can take many forms. In some cases, staff may withhold food or water. In others, the nursing home fails to change bed linens or provide residents with clean clothing. Other nursing homes may fail to monitor patients for preventable illnesses and injuries such as bedsores and viruses. Yet others withhold medication from their patients or fail to administer medication at prescribed intervals.
Financial abuse ranges from slowly stealing small amounts over time to complex operations designed to take entire life savings. Many advocates argue that financial abuse is perhaps the most common form of elder abuse today, but in many cases it may be the most difficult to detect and rectify.
There are obvious and not-so-obvious signs to look for if you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse:
o Unusual bleeding
o Unusual bruising
o Wounds, cuts, or sores
o Hair loss
o Unusual weight loss
o Decline in personal hygiene
o Burns and abrasions
o Soiled, torn bedding
o Unresponsiveness, loss of interest
o Emotional or physical withdrawal
o Infantile or aggressive behavior towards friends and family
o Hurting another resident
o Loss of personal belongings
o Unusual financial transactions
o Bickering with staff
o Staff refuses access to patient during regular visiting hours
o Staff does not leave the room during visit
Friends and family members need to be vigilant for these and other warning signs of nursing home abuse. Understanding the types of abuse and their warning signs is important in putting an end to nursing home abuse and protecting seniors. If you suspect nursing home abuse, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney immediately to ensure the safety of your loved one.