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5 Signs of Abuse and Neglect of Elders

Many Americans are living longer lives and this has led to a dramatic increase in the number of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When someone is in managed care, there is always the potential for abuse and neglect. Beyond blatant acts of abuse, nursing home and elder abuse can come in many forms. Here are five signs of nursing home abuse and neglect families members should watch for when visiting a facility. 

Signs of Physical Abuse at Nursing Homes

Physical abuse in nursing homes is the most blatant form of elder abuse and can have immediate negative effects on the patient. Broken and fractured bones may be a sign that a patient has been dropped, restrained or physically battered. It’s common for older adults to break and fracture bones from accidental falls. However, experienced healthcare professionals can tell the difference between fractures that are from accidents and ones that result from assault or neglect. Similarly, bruises from forceful grabbing or restraining residents can be indicators of problems at a facility. 

Besides bruises and broken bones, physical abuse at a nursing home can scar patients emotionally. When faced with physical abuse at a nursing home, residents will often isolate themselves and become withdrawn. Since people adjust to moving to a nursing home in different ways, families should watch for sudden changes in their family member’s behaviors once they’ve become settled. If someone who was enjoying the nursing home community suddenly withdraws from social settings, it could indicate they fear physical abuse.

Signs of Neglect at a Nursing Home

While other forms of nursing home abuse are the result of malice, neglect is something that can happen at a facility without intent and with less obvious signs. A nursing home that is understaffed or poorly managed can inadvertently create neglectful situations for residents. But nursing home neglect has harmful effects on the physical and emotional health of residents. 

A well-run nursing home requires a lot of specific duties to be performed very often. This means family members have a lot to keep in mind when talking to and visiting relatives in nursing homes. When visiting a relative in person, a poor appearance and general uncleanliness is a sign they aren’t getting the care they should. Bed sores and unexplained weight loss are other possible signs of neglect that can be seen. 

Other signs of neglect can be noticed when speaking to relatives. If they complain of chronic dehydration or of being left alone in soiled diapers and garments, these are causes for concern. Family members should also take note if their relatives say they are frequently infected or falling ill, especially if it’s not being immediately reported to the physician and family. The staff of a nursing home should be on top of all issues related to a patient’s care. It’s not a good sign when the family has to prompt the staff to provide care for injuries or to give the correct dosage of medication after changes have been made. 

Signs of Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Due to the nature of their work, the staff of a nursing home has access to much of the personal information of their residents. They also establish strong bonds of trust with their residents. This creates the potential for financial abuse, and it’s something that family members must be on guard against. 

Financial abuse is often subtle, but there are warning signs for the attentive family member. In obvious cases, residents may report that their checkbook, credit cards or personal documents have gone missing in the facility. Family members should also watch for expenditures that cannot be explained. 

It’s also important to be on guard for scams that target the elderly. Many of these scams have names that sound legitimate, so ask probing questions and do research if necessary. For example, if a relative is making charitable donations to unknown or unregistered causes, this could be a sign they’ve been scammed. Additionally, check their billing statements for programs that require recurring monthly payments, which is a common tactic used by fake tech support scams. Family members should be wary when presented with bills for unforeseen expenses, such as additional medical or care costs.

Signs of Emotional Abuse at Nursing Homes

Since you can’t always tell how a person feels, emotional abuse can be hard to detect. However, emotional abuse produces effects that family members can use as warning signs of possible trouble. 

Like residents who have been physically abused, a common coping mechanism for emotional abuse is withdrawing from social activity. When people are suffering from anxiety and a loss of self-confidence, they start avoiding social situations. 

On the other end of the spectrum, emotional abuse may cause certain residents to become fearful of being left alone because they’re worried about the potential for self-harm. If a relative seems fearful of a member of the staff, but there are no signs of physical abuse, it could be a sign that the resident is being verbally or emotionally abused by a particular caretaker.

Behavioral Changes that May Be Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

There are behavioral signs to watch for that can indicate that there may be forms of abuse at a nursing home. It’s understandable that seniors can react in different ways to the changes that come with being in a nursing home. However, certain unrelated behavior changes may be signs of abuse. 

A common indicator of emotional abuse is when the resident begins to perform repetitive actions, such as rocking back and forth, sucking or mumbling to oneself, when they hadn’t done so in the past. If a relative begins to refuse to take their medication, it could indicate an emotional or psychological response to abuse. If a relative has been taken in by a financial scam, they may suddenly display behaviors of hoarding papers and becoming secretive. 

As this discussion shows, nursing home and elder abuse can take many forms. While some forms of nursing home abuse are easy to prove, it can take considerable effort to find the evidence needed to prove when nursing home abuse or neglect has occurred. If you have questions about nursing home abuse and neglect, contact Steve Watrel, P.A., an expert on the subject. Steve Watrel, P.A. has been fighting against elder abuse and neglect in North Florida for over 25 years.