6 Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Elder abuse can take many forms and it is often difficult to recognize. According to the Department of Justice, only one in every 20 cases of physical elder abuse are ever reported. Understanding the main warning signs will help you spot physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse or neglect. Early detection of elder abuse protects your loved one and other patients from these insidious acts.
Unfortunately, cases of nursing home abuse and neglect are fairly common. When you trust a caregiver to look after your aging loved one and they violate this trust by inflicting harm on the elderly person, it is gut wrenching for the patient and their families. Understanding the main warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect will help you advocate for your loved one’s welfare. Early detection can save your loved one’s life and put an end to this egregious mistreatment once and for all.
What Is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
The Administration for Community Living defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” Each year, elderly patients are exposed to abusive and negligent behavior at the hands of their family, friends, caregivers, or nursing home employees. Many of these victims are vulnerable and suffer from cognitive impairments and physical fragility, which makes it hard for them to communicate their distress to those who could help.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can take on many forms, so it is important to understand each type of abuse an elderly person may experience and the warning signs that should alarm you. Whether your loved one receives in-home care or lives in a nursing home, they may be subject to the following types of elder abuse:
Elder Abuse Warning Signs
Our elderly loved ones are in a vulnerable position, often needing caregivers to provide essentials like food, shelter, clothing, medication, and grooming. These key warning signs will clue you in to the health and wellbeing of your aging family member and alert you to possible mistreatment at the hands of caregivers, other family members, or nursing home staff:
- Check for injuries such as bruises, cuts, or broken bones.
- Malnourishment, dehydration, or weight loss could indicate neglect.
- Poor hygiene could indicate that your loved one is not getting the proper care they deserve.
- Symptoms of anxiety, depression, or confusion, particularly if these issues are new or worsening, could indicate that your family member is experiencing abuse.
- Unexplained transactions or loss of money may be a tell-tale sign of financial mistreatment.
- Withdrawal from family or friends is a key indicator that something is wrong.
If you notice any of these warning signs, speak up and check in with your loved one immediately. If you observe changes in a senior patient’s behavior, appearance, or personality, you should investigate what prompted these shifts. It is important to advocate for your aging loved one, so they do not have to suffer the abuse in silence.
Warning Signs of Elder Abuse by Type
The warning signs listed above are a few of the main indicators of elderly abuse, but there are many other ways to tell if your loved one is being mistreated. Let’s discuss warning signs related to each type of abuse:
Elderly patients are at an increased risk of serious complications from injury due to their vulnerable physical state. If your loved one is experiencing physical abuse, this could be life threatening. The intentional infliction of illness, injury, or harm against an elderly individual is considered nursing home physical abuse. Acts of physical abuse may include but are not limited to:
- Verbal threats of physical violence
If your loved one confides in you that they are being heavily medicated, held against their will, or hit, you must take these allegations seriously. If your loved one is cognitively impaired or nonverbal, there are several signs of physical abuse that can clue you in to what is happening. Keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Cuts, Scars, Bruises, Bed Sores, Blood
- Newly Missing Teeth
- Pressure Marks
- Sprains and Dislocations
Even if you do not initially find physical evidence of the abuse, a shift in your loved one’s behavior could indicate that they are experiencing physical mistreatment. If an elderly patient is the victim of violence or threats of violence they may experience sudden changes in mood, become withdrawn or frightened, perform self-soothing behaviors, battle insomnia, appear depressed or confused, or become tense.
The scars left behind from emotional abuse may not be visible, but they deeply impact your elderly loved one’s quality of life and mental state. Psychological maltreatment is, perhaps, the hardest form of nursing home abuse to detect because it often does not leave physical evidence. On many occasions, incidences of elderly emotional abuse are ongoing and occur at an organizational level.
Examples of emotional abuse include:
- Threats of physical violence
- Verbal assaults, like cursing or swearing
- Forced isolation
It is believed that nearly 2.5 million elderly Americans experience some form of abuse each year. Approximately 430,000 of these cases involved an element of emotional abuse. If your loved one is the victim of emotional abuse, they may exhibit the following behaviors:
- Sudden shifts in mood
- Withdrawal from family and social activities
- Appear depressed
- Avoid eye contact
- Increased fear or anxiety
- The patient may appear more jumpy than usual
- Reluctance to speak out and talk to family
- Lash out or behave aggressively
- Hugging, sucking, rocking, or other forms of self-soothing and protective behaviors
Unfortunately, it can be hard to distinguish these behaviors from those that normally occur in patients with dementia or anxiety and depression. However, if an elderly patient displays new or worsening symptoms, it is important to be proactive and investigate the root cause of these changes.
The breach of trust caused by sexual abuse can be earth-shattering. When you place an elderly loved one in a nursing facility or with a caretaker, the last thing you should have to worry about is the protection of their dignity and autonomy. However, nursing home patients may experience sexual abuse at the hands of a fellow patient, a caretaker, or a family member. Therefore, it is important to know the warning signs and risk factors associated with this malevolent form of abuse so you can protect your loved ones and other patients while holding abusers accountable.
Signs of elder sexual abuse include:
- Genital bleeding or bruising
- Spontaneous STDs
- Bruises near chest, thighs, or wrists
- Unexplained mood swings
- New onset of depression or anxiety
- Clothing with unexplained stains or rips
- Becoming withdrawn or nervous around certain staff or patients
Risk Factors for Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Patients who are non-verbal, battle mental illness, have dementia or physical disabilities, are among the most likely to become victims of elderly sexual abuse. Residents who are isolated from their families or staff or those who face neglect are also more likely to experience this form of abuse, particularly if they are older females. If your loved one is in one or more of these high-risk categories, it is vitally important you pay attention to the warning signs of sexual abuse so you can protect the patient from further harm.
Only individuals who have access to the elderly individual’s accounts may be able to uncover incidents of financial abuse. Therefore, it is very important to check in with your loved one, monitor their accounts for suspicious activity, and watch out for the main warning signs of financial abuse. If someone seeks to profit off your elderly loved one’s vulnerable state, please be aware this could result in a serious felony if the damages amount to more than $1,000. Examples of elder financial abuse include:
- Diverted income
- Identity theft
- Credit card fraud
- Forcing the patient to sell property or open lines of credit
- Unauthorized use of the elderly person’s property
- Stealing the patient’s valuables
At first, it may be hard to decipher signs of nursing home abuse related to financial misdeeds. However, if you observe any of the following tell-tale signs, it is time to sound the alarm:
- Suspicious withdraws from accounts
- Past due notices
- New lines of credit
- Sudden increase in debit or credit card spending
- Missing property or valuables
- Selling property without making loved ones aware
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is another common form of elder abuse. If your loved one is being deprived of the care and attention they deserve, this can have negative impacts on their physical and mental state. No person should be deprived of their dignity and basic human rights. These warning signs can cue you in to whether your loved one is experiencing nursing home neglect:
- Withholding food or water
- Failure to provide hygiene and grooming services or products
- Withholding clothing or shoes
- Refusing the patient access to shelter or care
If an elderly person experiences this form of abuse, they may battle malnourishment, confusion, anxiety, homelessness, or other serious issues related to their wellbeing. Signs of nursing home neglect may include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Bed sores
- Untreated injuries
- Poor hygiene
- Unsafe living conditions
If you suspect your elderly loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect, you must not ignore the warning signs. This form of mistreatment can lead to serious physical injuries and complications, so you need to act swiftly and, if your suspicions are confirmed, advocate for your loved one to receive better treatment in a safer, more caring environment.
Punishment for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
In the state of California, elder abuse and neglect are serious offenses which carry steep legal repercussions. Section 368 of California’s Penal Code states that it is illegal to deny an elderly or dependent person their rights. This law applies to both those who directly abuse the victim and those who do not report these incidents and fail to prevent further harm.
Stop Nursing Abuse and Neglect
If you suspect your loved one is suffering and observe the warning signs of nursing home abuse, it is imperative you seek legal counsel immediately. If your aging loved one has suffered abuse, neglect, or death at the hands of a caregiver or nursing home facility, skilled legal counsel can advocate for the justice they deserve.
At Berberian Ain LLP, our experienced and compassionate nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are committed to upholding the rights of the most vulnerable. We will not stop until your elderly loved one gets the justice they deserve. Do not let your aging family member suffer in silence. If you see something, say something. You do not have to stand up to the abuse alone. The dedicated legal team at Berberianain stands ready to hold abusers accountable to the full extent of the law and fight for the justice your family deserves.
Put an end to the abuse and find out how you can fight for your loved one. Call our Glendale, California, office today at 818-808-0048.