What are Some Indications of Nursing Home Abuse?

A. Families need to be on the lookout for both unexplained physical injuries and sudden and sharp changes in their loved one’s emotional state.

Part of what makes nursing home residents so vulnerable to abuse is the fact that they are not able to communicate both to the person committing the abuse as well to tell others what happened to them. Most nursing home residents have some form of dementia and many of them have limited ability to be cognitively aware of what is occurring. Then, even if they are able to articulate what has happened to them, many residents are either not able to speak effectively or are simply not believed and disregarded.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon families and loved ones to remain vigilant in checking for any sign that their family member has been abused at a nursing home. Oftentimes, nursing home abuse is reported only because a family members was perceptive and noticed that something was amiss. Many times, it is noticing signs of abuse that compel a more robust investigation that uncovers the actual abuse.

Families may spot the effects of the abuse before they notice the actual abuse itself. Many times, senior will have symptoms of emotional distress even if they cannot speak. In addition, there can also be physical symptoms of abuse as well. Here is what you be on the lookout for as possible signs of nursing home abuse:

Hostile Staff Members

Of course, not every nursing home staff member who is brusque or rude is an abuser. Nursing home staff are often overworked because facilities cut back on staff in the name of profits, and the pressure may get to them and cause them to be rude. However, if you witness a staff member who is overly aggressive with the residents either verbally or physically, it may be a sign that something else is amiss. You should be particularly aware of any signs that your loved one is visibly afraid in the presence of a certain staff member. If they show signs of distress when a certain nurse is present, it may be an indication that the nurse is doing or has done something to them.

Change in Eating or Sleep Habits

Residents who are under some form of duress may stop eating or reduce the amount of food that they are consuming. It may not even be intentional, but it is just a sign of physical stress. If you notice a sudden weight loss in your loved one, you should inquire further. At the very minimum, the nursing home is obligated to track and maintain a senior’s weight, but make sure to ask questions if there is a sudden change in your family member’s condition. The same goes for when they suddenly stop sleeping.

Check for Bruising or Unexplained Injuries

If you notice any injury for which staff does not have an explanation, make sure to report it and ask for an investigation. Unexplained injuries are often put in the same bucket as nursing home abuse when it comes to a nursing home’s reporting requirements. If you spot any type of bruising or skin tear, always ask staff for a full explanation and be prepared to investigate further if you do not receive a satisfactory answer. If you notice any bleeding or bruising in sensitive area, it may also be a sign of sexual abuse.

Changes in Mood or Depression

If you observe any changes in your loved one’s disposition and mood, you should also ask further. Seniors may become catatonic or grow depressed if they are the victims of abuse. They may become more easily agitated. Conversely, they could grow downcast or withdrawn. If the change is sudden instead of gradual, you should be concerned, especially if your loved one is not able to communicate. Also, if your loved one has become withdrawn or overly aggressive, these may also be indicators that they may be abused.

Other Signs of Neglect

When you notice things such as malnutrition or pressure ulcers impacting your loved one, not only are these forms of abuse in themselves, but they may also be a sign that there are other problems with your loved one’s care that could include abuse. Neglect and abuse are often coextensive, and neglect itself is a form of abuse. At the very minimum, signs of neglect show that the nursing home’s level of supervision is subpar and staff may not be adequately trained.

Nursing home abuse is legally actionable, meaning that you and your family can file a lawsuit if this has happened to your loved one at a nursing home. The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center have years of experience in helping families hold nursing homes accountable for this despicable and inexcusable act.

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