Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

There are many reasons that elderly residents in facilities suffer nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. Nursing home workers are too often low-paid, overworked, and poorly trained. Sometimes the problem occurs when a nursing home owner tries to cut corners by skimping on staff or training. But, sometimes the worst cases of nursing home abuse and neglect happen at facilities that on the outside seem clean, professional, and well run. Often, management is aware that a problem exists.

The other problem is that some elderly people are either unable or in some cases unwilling to complain. This was the generation that was raised during the Great Depression and came of age during the Second World War; they were often taught to "suck it up" and deal with it. This doesn't mean that they have to or should.

There are certain visible signs that your elderly parent or relative is a victim of nursing home abuse, but such abuse and neglect is not always physical. It can take the form of verbal intimidation or forced isolation, and that is equally unacceptable.

Woman with Bruised and Bloody ArmSigns of Elder Abuse and Neglect

Physical abuse can be as extreme as assault and battery or rape – or may consist of forced restraint, either by mechanical or chemical means (such as administration of psycho-pharmaceutical drugs not authorized by a doctor).

Emotional abuse may include insults, humiliation, threats, and attempts to frighten the resident; it can also be a crime of omission, as when the resident is ignored, disregarded, and/or isolated against his or her will.

Neglect can consist of withholding food, water, and/or medication as well as failure to change bedding or take care of hygiene needs.

Obvious signs to look for include:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • open wounds, bed sores or cuts
  • burns and abrasions
  • sudden and unexplained change in weight
  • soiling, poor hygiene, smell of urine or feces
  • infections
  • loss of hair
  • torn, stained, or bloody clothing or bedding

Less obvious signs may consist of:

  • listlessness or unresponsiveness
  • infantile or other strange behaviors
  • physical or emotional withdrawal
  • disappearance of personal items
  • sudden and unusual financial transactions

If you note any of these signs you may have questions on what to do. First you should begin by notifying the facility management. Please remember that just because your loved one is displaying possible signs of abuse doesn't mean someone directly abused them. It could be one of many signs of nursing home neglect.

More Red Flags

If you arrive at a facility to visit a resident during regular visiting hours and the staff refuses or delays access – or a staff member refuses to leave the room during your visit – these may be signs that they are hiding something. Again, it is important to begin by registering your concerns with the management, but if you are not satisfied, you have the legal rights to file a complaint to the appropriate agency. And of course you can always, and are urged to, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer.

References:

Hofer, Molly. "Elder Abuse and Neglect." University of Illinois Extension, 2010. http://urbanext.illinois.edu/elderabuse/signs.html (accessed January 15, 2010).

Segal, Jeanne et. al. "Elder Abuse and Neglect." HelpGuide, Feb. 2008. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/elder_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm (accessed January 15, 2010).