5 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

For many families, nursing homes are the only option when a family member can no longer live alone. Families depend on the staff of nursing homes to be competent and to treat their loved one with respect, attentiveness and compassion.

Unfortunately, many nursing home staffs fail to live up to these expectations. Nursing home abuse and neglect is vastly underreported in the United States. Research about elder abuse is reportedly two decades behind domestic violence and child abuse, but what we do know is alarming.

Nursing Home Abuse is All-Too-Common

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that hundreds of thousands of elderly Americans experience neglect, abuse or exploitation every year. This abuse comes in many different forms, including physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse. In nursing homes, abuse can be done by staff or other nursing home residents.

Stopping abuse among older adults is something we should take very seriously. The number of elderly Americans is rapidly increasing. In 1994, there were 33 million Americans age 65 and over. By 2030, there will be more than 70 million. In other words, improving elderly care will become even more important as the elderly population swells in the United States.

The fact that so many elderly people might be abused during their golden years is a major concern for all of us. It also begs the question - how can we know if our loved ones are being abused by their caretakers? Knowing the warning signs of nursing home abuse might help stop a negligent nursing home staff and potentially spare your loved ones and future residents from abuse and neglect.

Five Signs of Elderly Abuse in Nursing Homes

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or marks - Physical abuse will often be manifested in bruises, cuts or marks. These types of injuries might also indicate neglect. For example, if a resident is not getting the assistance they need, they might attempt to do tasks on their own, which could result in a fall or a bump into an object.

  • Unsanitary living conditions - A nursing home should be kept clean by staff. This includes common areas and resident rooms. If you notice that your loved one's room is constantly dirty or that other areas of the nursing are not being attended to by the staff, it could be a sign that the nursing home employees are not doing their job.

  • Poor personal hygiene – Staff members are also responsible for keeping residents clean. If you notice that your loved one is not being given the attention they deserve, it is a sign of neglect. Long fingernails, poor dental hygiene, and unkempt or dirty hair might be a sign that the resident is being inadequate care.

  • Changes in behavior and personality - When a resident suffers abuse, their personality and behavior might change significantly. They might seem like they are afraid to talk about their experience in the nursing home. They might also be more prone to depression, anxiety or exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. If residents seem extremely lethargic or unresponsive, it could indicate that they are being given improper medication, like antipsychotic medications.

  • Weight loss or other changes related to nutrition - One of the most important responsibilities of nursing home staff is to give resident proper food, water and medication. Weight loss, excessive hunger and dehydration might indicate that a resident's nutritional demands aren't being met.

These are just a few of the ways that nursing home residents might suffer from abuse and neglect, but it by no means represents all the forms of abuse that occurs in nursing homes. Other types of verbal, physical and sexual assault might also happen to residents, so family members should always remain vigilant about identifying and stopping this abuse and neglect.

Our efforts to stop elder abuse starts with our loved ones. If you have a loved one in the nursing home, make sure you regularly communicate with them and be vigilant about spotting signs of mistreatment by staff and other patients. Don't be afraid to ask questions of your staff members and other residents about the care your loved one is receiving.

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