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The Unthinkable: What Are the Common Indicators of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

The suspicion that your elderly loved one was victimized while under the care of nursing home staff is an awful sinking feeling. For many family members, there is already a sense of guilt associated with putting the elderly into a nursing home. But we try to do the right thing and find the best facility for their needs. When it turns out that the people entrusted with the care for our elders are neglecting or abusing them – or otherwise allowing the abuse to unfold under their watch, it can feel like a horrible betrayal.

Perhaps most sinister of all is not the evidence on the body but the creeping feeling that the nursing home staff will not allow visitors to be alone with a resident. This may indicate that there is either something they don’t want the resident to say or show you. Similarly, if the resident doesn’t want a nursing home staff member present, this may also indicate lost trust in the facility’s caregivers – perhaps for very good reason.

If you suspect that your loved one has been abused or neglected, you should speak to your elder about this matter. However, please note that many victims feel guilty and may be evasive about telling you exactly what happened. In either case, you must take steps to learn the truth and ensure the safety of your loved ones. Consider also speaking with an attorney well-versed in cases dealing with nursing home abuse.

Do you know what to look for?

What Are Signs of Physical Abuse?

  • Broken bones.
  • Broken eyeglasses.
  • Bruises and rope burns around the wrists or ankles.
  • Bruising around the genitals, breasts, or buttocks.
  • Cuts and deep lacerations.
  • Dental injuries.
  • Facial bruising.
  • Scars covering the skin which hadn’t been there before.
  • Unexplained bloody underwear or pajamas.
  • Unexplained bruising, dislocated limbs, and muscle sprains.
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding unrelated to any previously diagnosed medical condition.
  • Withdrawn behavior.

What Are Common Indicators of Psychological or Emotional Abuse?

  • Fear of being touched or spoken to.
  • Lost treasured possessions.
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss or weight gain.
  • Screaming.
  • The resident wants to remain isolated from others.
  • Unexplained sleep problems.
  • Unusual instances of mumbling, jumpiness, thumbsucking, unwillingness to speak,
  • Witnessing caregivers behave in a callous or threatening manner towards residents.

What Might Be a Sign of Financial Exploitation?

  • Adding names to the bank account or credit card owned by the resident.
  • Medical care does not reach the standards expected, considering the finances available.
  • Missing money or valuables from the resident’s room.
  • Sudden changes to the resident’s estate, including changes to their Last Will and Testament, their power of attorney, or their property titles.
  • Unexplained large withdrawals from the elderly resident’s bank account.
  • Unpaid monthly bills.

What to Look for When Concerned About Healthcare Fraud?

  • Double-dipping attempts as the nursing home hopes to bill twice for the same service.
  • Inadequate training.
  • Insufficient staff.
  • Residents may be under or overmedicated so that the nursing home can make a profit by defrauding a health insurance company.

What is Considered Elderly Neglect?

  • Abandoning the resident outside or in public.
  • Bedsores and other pressure ulcers.
  • Dehydration.
  • Filthy living conditions.
  • Forgetting to administer medications and necessary treatments.
  • Infections.
  • Insects in the resident’s room or on their clothing.
  • Lack of food.
  • Lice.
  • Malnutrition.
  • No electricity.
  • No heating or air conditioning.
  • No running water.
  • Rapid fluctuations in weight.
  • The resident is left unbathed.

What Are Additional Risk Factors for Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes?

While some caretakers may commit horrible misdeeds, others are dealing with their own demons and make mistakes. But it is important to remember that the character of the caregiver can play a significant role in the care they provide.

Some caregivers deal with alcohol or drug abuse, and this impacts their ability to perform their duties. Others are depressed or overly stressed. Many caregivers work for understaffed facilities with poor training programs. However, some caregivers have shown racist, sexist, homophobic, and other intolerant tendencies.

How Prevalent is Nursing Home Abuse in America?

The National Center for Victims of Crime has reasoned that those living in nursing homes are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect by staff, visitors, and other residents in the homes. In 2020, there were over 15,000 complaints about nursing home neglect and abuse across the USA. Of those reports, 29% complained of physical abuse, 22% reported resident-on-resident abuse, and 21% claimed they had witnessed or been victims of psychological abuse. 14% complained of gross neglect, 7% reported they’d been exploited financially, and another 7% reported instances of sexual abuse.

However, these numbers are probably too low. It is estimated that nearly 96% cases of elder abuse cases go unreported. Approximately 15% of all Americans over the age of 60 have suffered some form of elder abuse. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), approximately 5,000,000 elderly Americans are likely abused each and every year.

Our elderly are less capable of defending themselves and may not understand every situation they’re forced into. They deserve our sympathy and our protection. But too often, they are subjected to the ugly and the profane by their caretakers and their co-residents.

This has to change. And it starts by recognizing the signs.