One of the hardest decisions families have to make is when it’s time to put an elderly loved one into a full-time care facility. Having to trust others to care for family members is hard enough, so fears of abuse and neglect make the situation that much more stressful. Learning more about these kinds of abuses and how to identify when it’s occurring to your elder loved one can help you and your family feel a little more secure and prepare you to respond in the uncommon likelihood that it’s happening to your loved one.
Sadly, as nursing home residents age, the likelihood that they will be abused or neglected rises. Nursing Home Abuse Center reveals that abuse is most common among female patients who are aged 65 or older, indicating that older patients are abused more often. The abuse can continue for extended periods of time and may escalate, as the situation endures unimpeded.
Abuse and neglect often continue because caregivers aren’t always trained to recognize the signs of abuse. While both abuse and neglect can produce physical signs, such as bruises, these situations often produce emotional and behavioral symptoms which can go unnoticed. Additionally, the abused patient is unlikely to speak up about the situation, making it that much more difficult to identify a problem.
How common are instances of elder abuse? Speaking primarily of physical and emotional abuse, about 1 in 10 nursing home residents became victims of abuse last year. That means up to 10% of elderly residents were victimized, excluding instances of financial abuse. Most of these cases go unreported, even though every state has established departments of Adult Protective Services.
If your loved one has suffered due to elder abuse, contact our attorneys for a free case evaluation, we are available 24/7, call (800) 753-5203
Types of Elder Abuse and How to Identify Them
There are several types of elder abuse that can be inflicted upon the elderly and each type has its own signs and symptoms. The main types of abuse are physical, sexual, emotional, and financial.
The physical abuse of an elder involves physical violence or the threat of violence perpetrated against an older individual. While this can be committed by anyone, when the individual is a nursing home resident, the abuse is usually committed by a staff member employed by the care facility. Signs of abuse include:
- Dislocated or broken bones
- Unexplained strains or sprains
- Cigarette burns and other types of burns
- Bruising and abrasions around the limbs or torso, as though the individual had been tied up
- Internal injuries
- A loss of hair, as if pulled out
- Tooth loss
- Delays in treatment of injuries
Sexual abuse of elders in nursing homes is also something to look for in a resident. There’s no common pattern for who commits this type of abuse and the perpetrator can be a staff member or a fellow resident. It involves any type of non-consensual sexual contact and either gender can be sexually victimized, though female residents are most commonly abused.
Signs of sexual abuse of elder residents include:
- Bruising of the inner thighs or genitals
- Bleeding, inflammation, or pain surrounding the genitals or the anal area
- Torn or bloody undergarments
- Difficulty sitting still or walking
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Inappropriate relationships
- Aggressive or abnormal behavior
Emotional abuse involves intimidation or humiliation of the elder patient and, again, it may be committed by a nursing home staff member, another resident, or a family member. It involves using verbal abuse, intimidating actions, and other forms of humiliation. Symptoms that this is occurring to your elder loved one include:
- Heightened stress and high blood pressure
- Unexplained weight changes
- Social isolation
- Sleep disorders
- Depression and anxiety
- Withdrawn or a non-responsive demeanor
- Fear of the suspected perpetrator
- Behavior that isn’t age-appropriate, which may include nail biting, rocking motions, or sucking on the thumb
Neglect can be a separate problem that may affect a nursing home resident and involves the resident not receiving proper care. For instance, they may not be receiving all of their meals, getting enough water to drink, or have faulty climate control units in their living quarters. Next Avenue shares the most common signs of neglect, which include:
- Poor hygiene habits
- Bed sores or skin rashes
- Mental or physical conditions that are untreated
- Missing or broken items, such as eyeglasses, walkers, dentures, etc.
- Cognitive degeneration
- A worsened condition that contradicts the resident’s care plan
- The resident is isolated from others
What Can You Do?
The best thing you can do for your elder loved one is to pay close attention to him or her so you can recognize early warning signs. Similarly, you should pay attention to how the elder interacts with the staff and how facility staff members respond to the residents. As soon as you witness troubling behavior, you should report your suspicions.
Elder residents should be encouraged to communicate openly as well. By including them in decisions about their care, they’ll be more likely to speak up about problems. Communicating regularly with your elder loved one will help them trust you more and this will engender greater communication, so they’ll feel that they can talk to you about incidents of abuse or neglect.
Either you or your elder loved one can file a complaint against an abusive or neglectful caregiver and request records concerning that individual’s medical conditions and care in the facility. If you feel your complaints have not been appropriately addressed by the facility’s management, you may opt to contact your state’s adult protective services for assistance.
Another option for your family to consider may be to hire an attorney who specializes in elder care and abuse. An experienced lawyer can ensure your family is involved in all care decisions that concern your loved ones and can help make sure that the elder is getting the care for which the family is paying. Legal action can also help to remove the elder from an abusive or neglectful situation. Finally, damages may be sought to help cover the costs for medical treatments and therapy that may be necessary for the elderly individual’s recovery. By consulting an attorney, you can be better prepared to help your elder loved one seek relief from a bad situation.
Our attorneys are there for you if your loved one has suffered due to nursing home abuse or neglect call now for a free, no obligation case evaluation, we are available 24/7.