Sunday, September 24, 2023

4 Signs Your Elderly Loved One May Be a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse

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Esperanza Squire
Esperanza Squire
Esperanza Squire is a Lifestyle journalist with nearly 20 years. While studying journalism at Boston, Esperanza found a passion for finding local stories. As a contributor to Business News Ledger, Esperanza mostly covers human interest pieces.

As your loved ones age, you may be responsible for decisions about their care and living arrangements. Resources such as nursing and retirement homes can become invaluable to your family’s plan. Your aging parents could also need in-home services to help with medical and everyday needs, including meal prep.

Entrusting others with your family members’ well-being isn’t an easy choice. You’ll likely have concerns about protecting those you care about as they live out the rest of their years. Elder and nursing home abuse aren’t pleasant topics, but signs of mistreatment are something to watch out for. Recognizing the warning signals can save seniors from abuse’s consequences, including wrongful death. Here are four clues you need to be aware of.

1. Physical Injuries

Physical injuries can be the most obvious signs of nursing home abuse. But it’s still possible to dismiss wounds and want to associate them with innocent causes. Marks on an elderly parent’s body, such as unexplained bruises or new scars, might not be loud enough alarm bells. With milder injuries, you could attribute them to something like an unexpected fall.

Yet physical abuse may appear minor and then escalate over time. What starts as a few bruises could turn into more serious signs, such as a broken arm. Even something as slight as broken glasses, damaged clothing, and unused medication can indicate physical abuse.

If you suspect something isn’t right, it’s time to take action. Talking with a nursing home abuse attorney about your concerns is often appropriate. You’ll learn what evidence you need to gather to file a claim against the facility and protect your loved one. More importantly, your actions will hopefully prevent others from future pain and suffering.

2. Changes in Behavior

Sometimes signs of elder abuse don’t show up on the body. Instead, the important senior in your life starts acting out of character. Someone who used to be happy-go-lucky is suddenly irritable and sad. They may not talk as much as they used to. Soothing and repetitive behaviors like rocking back and forth may appear.

Uncharacteristic mood and behavioral changes can be signs of emotional abuse from nursing home staff. Emotional abuse could include belittling comments, gaslighting, and other forms of psychological manipulation. The World Health Organization reports one in six individuals aged 60 and older experience abuse in community settings. Psychological abuse was more frequently reported in care facilities when compared to other types of mistreatment.

Signs of emotional abuse may also mimic other conditions, such as dementia. A loved one who is sharp as a tack might start acting confused and unsure of themselves. They could stop showing interest in their families and hobbies. It’s worth the time to investigate what’s behind these changes and not assume they’re part of the aging process. This way, you can stop any emotional abuse that may be causing them.

3. Declines in Appearance

A third form of nursing home abuse is neglect. Clues that neglect is taking place are weight changes and declines in physical appearance. For example, has your family member lost too much weight? They may not be getting the nutrition they need. Perhaps staff members aren’t feeding them enough or providing the right food.

Nursing home residents who rely on employees for basic hygiene might appear unkempt. They could have bedsores, dirty clothes, and/or messy hair. Appearing thirsty and dehydrated can be another sign of neglect, as is isolation. If your loved one is frequently left alone, it could signal a larger problem. The facility’s activity program may not exist as advertised, or the staff isn’t checking in on residents as they should.

Additional indications of neglect are preventable infections and inappropriate clothing. For instance, did your family member develop sepsis from a minor cut? Were they in summer clothes when the outside temperature was 30 degrees? While nursing home staff can make mistakes, repeated instances like these can suggest mistreatment.

4. Suspicious Spending Habits

Seniors are vulnerable to financial abuse, even in eldercare facilities. You might want to probe further if you notice unusual bank account transactions and an uptick in purchases. The same goes for missing cash and gift cards you might have given your loved one. While people misplace items and splurge occasionally, it doesn’t hurt to check. You may be the only advocate for your older family member, who might not be aware financial abuse is happening.

More serious signs of financial exploitation include suspicious changes to wills, power of attorney forms, and estate documents. Listing an unfamiliar person as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy is one example. Caregivers can sometimes manipulate seniors into making changes they don’t fully understand. Other times, it’s because those close enough to elders’ sensitive information use it to commit fraud.

Financial abuse of seniors in assisted living facilities can also involve not receiving the care they’ve paid for. An example is paying for nursing supervision and not getting it. Perhaps your loved one’s care plan includes transportation to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores. Money from their retirement plan continues to go to the home, but no one drives them anywhere. This could be a sign your family member’s funds are personally benefiting a staff member.

Recognizing the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Any abuse is unpleasant to think about, especially when it involves vulnerable members of society. Your emotional attachment to an aging family member may make it even more difficult to admit something’s wrong. But the mistreatment of elders in nursing homes is not as uncommon as people might think. Insufficient training, opportunity, and workplace stress can cause caregivers to commit abuse.

Being aware of the signs of ill-treatment can prevent it from escalating. Your loved one has a right to live in a safe and comfortable environment. Acting on your suspicions and blatant symptoms of abuse can ensure your family member gets the care they deserve.

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