Most nursing home residents are well cared for by qualified, compassionate medical staff. But in some instances, elderly adults who live in long-term care facilities are abused or neglected. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, up to 10 percent of the 1.5 million American nursing home residents suffer abuse in a given year. Family members should be aware of these five signs that a vulnerable elderly parent or loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home setting.
Perhaps the most noticeable sign of abuse or neglect is the occurrence of frequent injuries, often explained away as falls or other accidents. Be alert for bruises or welts, especially when they appear in the same place on both sides of the body; broken bones or sprains; broken eyeglasses; and marks that could indicate restraint. Even if your loved one is not being actively abused, frequent injuries in a nursing home setting indicate neglectful care.
While some emotional changes, such as an increase in depression, are common among the elderly, these can also be warning signs of mistreatment. Seek help if your family member becomes withdrawn from normal activities or exhibits any other shift from his or her normal behavior.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
If an elderly patient is sexually abused in a nursing home setting, he or she may have bruises or swelling in the genital area. In some sexual abuse cases, the client contracts a sexually transmitted disease with no reasonable explanation (i.e., a consensual relationship with another resident).
Signs of Neglect
Any sign that your loved one is not adequately cared for is cause for concern. Be alert for unexplained weight loss, dehydration, injuries like bed sores that are left untreated, evidence that medication is not being administered correctly or at all, and signs that your loved one has not been bathed. He or she also might be inadequately dressed for the weather.
Staff Unwillingness to Provide Information
Family members should be treated as partners in planning and implementing care for the nursing home resident. If staff commonly deflects or avoids questions you ask about your family member’s care, it could be a sign that they have something to hide. Concerns about physical and emotional changes you notice should always be taken seriously and addressed with a treatment plan.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused in a nursing home, legal resource Nolo recommends calling 911 as well as making a report to Adult Protective Services in your state. You might also seek the assistance of a lawyer from a firm like Hardee and Hardee LLP to get compensation for your loved one.