Top 8 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
When a parent or other loved one is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, we should be able to believe and trust that they’re being cared for. Unfortunately, the sad truth is one out of five nursing home residents experience some form of neglect or abuse.
Nursing home abuse may be physical, verbal, or sexual. It’s not always obvious that a loved one is being abused, which is why watching out for warning signs is so important.
Here are eight signs that signal possible nursing home abuse.
1. Mysterious Bruises and Other Unexplained Physical Injuries
While it’s expected that elderly people may fall or hurt themselves, it shouldn’t happen too often in a nursing home. At an assisted living facility, the staff is supposed to monitor those that are susceptible to being injured. Nursing homes usually complete a fall risk assessment on all new incoming residents to ensure they’re properly monitored.
Worse, bruises, scratches, cuts, bite marks, and broken bones may be caused by nursing home employees. Bruises on the wrists can mean the resident was grabbed and forcefully moved.
If a loved one is constantly being admitted to a hospital with injuries, that can be an indication of neglect or physical abuse.
For residents confined to a bed or wheelchair, bedsores or pressure sores are a constant worry. They are preventable if staff moves the person and helps them shift position often so sores don’t have a chance to develop.
A person’s position must be adjusted every two hours to prevent pressure sores. They should also have access to pillows to cushion areas of the body. Bathing and keeping the skin clean and dry also help keep them away.
If a loved one has bedsores it means the staff is not attending to them as regularly as they should.
3. Changes in Mood
A loved one who used to be friendly and social but is now withdrawn emotionally and exhibiting behavior out of character may indicate something is taking place behind the scenes. A person being abused may also murmur to themselves and exhibit rocking behavior or thumb sucking.
They may yell out or resist being physically touched. They may also withdraw from participating in social activities at the home or refuse to be left alone with a particular staff member.
Any of these signs shouldn’t be ignored and should be addressed with nursing home staff.
4. Malnutrition and Dehydration
Having food and water withheld from them is another way nursing home residents can experience abuse. Often it is used to “discipline” an elderly individual. It can lead to rapid weight loss and dehydration.
Signs of dehydration can include dry mouth, difficulty walking, chapped lips, low blood pressure, dizziness, and an elevated heart rate. For bed-ridden residents, dehydration can be dangerous, leading to pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and even death.
Some medications can cause dehydration, which is why these symptoms may not always mean a nursing home resident is being neglected. They can also be caused by vomiting and diarrhea.
5. Sexual Abuse
Sadly, sexual assault takes place at nursing homes all across the country. A 1998 National Elder Abuse Incidence Study found that over 70% of the elder sexual abuse cases it studied occurred in nursing homes.
Often the victims cannot speak for themselves which makes it easier for perpetrators to commit their crimes and keep them hidden.
Signs of sexual abuse can include ripped or bloody undergarments, bruising near the genital area and breasts, and difficulty walking and sitting. The victim may also exhibit signs of PSTD and become agitated easily.
6. Poor Hygiene and Dirty Living Quarters
Many nursing home residents cannot adequately wash and groom themselves. They must instead rely on staff to take care of it for them.
If your loved one was previously being helped with bathing and grooming and now appears dirty, that can signal they’re being neglected. They may smell of bodily functions, have unclipped fingernails, dirty hair, bad breath, and unwashed clothing.
Unsanitary and dirty conditions in their living space or room is also a warning sign that something is wrong. Nursing homes are usually clean and sanitized to help prevent the spread of viruses and illnesses.
7. Financial Exploitation
It can be easy for a staff member to gain control over an elderly resident’s cash and finances. This is especially true if the resident finds money matters confusing.
This kind of abuse is tricky to detect, but signs include unpaid bills, not enough funds to pay them, and the inability to explain unknown personal transactions.
Cash and important paperwork that goes missing from a resident’s living area can mean someone with access to the area is stealing the money.
8. Absent or Unresponsive Staff
It’s a minor sign that is often overlooked, but a nursing home that is understaffed or experiences high turnover make residents more susceptible to abuse. Calls for assistance that go unanswered and phones that ring can mean the facility is strapped for employees.
A caregiver should also never prohibit relatives from seeing or visiting a loved one. If visitors are kept away, that’s a red flag.
If the nursing home is unwilling to address the problem, it may be time to look into making arrangements for a different assisted living facility.
Know the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Knowing the signs of nursing home abuse and speaking up for your loved one’s rights is the first step in combating this widespread problem. While not every sign above always means abuse is taking place, it’s important to address them with staff and be ready to take legal action if necessary.
If you suspect a nursing home resident is being neglected or abused, we can help advise you on their legal rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.