Latest News 2017 January 17 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse You Need to Act On

17 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse You Need to Act On

Our elders are some of our most precious loved ones. Their contribution to our lives, from providing us with shelter and food to giving us a sense of identity, cannot be understated. Unfortunately, declining health and higher lifespans mean our elderly family members require nursing homes or caretakers to continue living safe, productive lives.

Unfortunately, nursing homes are some of the worst sources of rampant abuse in America today. The latest statistics indicate that 1 in 9 people will experience abuse as a senior—and for every case that's reported, there may be over 5 that occur unreported. Every kind of abuse, from physical to financial, affects an elderly person's emotional and physical health. The National Council on Aging reports that the death rate is 300 times higher for seniors who have been abused.

If your loved one is in a nursing home or is receiving assistance from a caretaker or a family member, then it is your job to be vigilant and knowledgeable on their behalf. Abuse victims, regardless of age, are threatened and bullied into keeping silent. You have to be a voice for victims nursing home abuse in order to stop it from happening.

Here are some of the clearest signs of abuse, organized by abuse type.

The Symptoms of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is when a caretaker or family member takes advantage of a vulnerable senior in order to coerce their financial assets away from them. It's thinly veiled armed robbery, often committed by people the victims know and trust. It's the third most common form of elder abuse.

#1: Out-of-Character Credit Card Charges

Loved ones who suddenly accrue debt late in life, especially ones who have thus far been financially responsible, may have fallen victim to financial abuse or fraud. Elders who have memory difficulties or have lost touch with family members are the most vulnerable to confidence schemes. Keep an eye on family members appearing for "support" who have a history of gambling or debt problems.

#2: Sudden Changes in Financial Security

Long-term assets like savings accounts, trusts, hedge funds, and home equity all provide crucial security for seniors who no longer make an income. The sudden depletion of these financial safety nets could indicate coercion from a caretaker or family member who doesn't have your loved one's interests at heart.

#3: Sudden Drop in Standard of Living

If you visit a loved one and notice that their clothes are worn and dirty, their furniture or appliances have been sold, or their home is in far worse shape than they normally keep it, then they may be lacking the funds to take care of themselves. When something seems "off," trust your gut—these signs are reasons to immediately investigate your loved one's accounts.

#4: Sudden Changes to Wills or Living Trusts

A common tactic for abusers is to coerce vulnerable seniors into adding them to wills or trusts as sole beneficiaries. Often, these abusers will coerce with kindness (promising companionship or threatening to leave due to financial hardship) or with outright threats—physical or verbal. Any change to your loved one's will ought to be closely investigated, especially if it was unexpected or unwarranted.

#5: Unexplained Loss of Assets

One of the worst forms of financial abuse is when an abuser sells a person's home against his or her will. Using coercion, abusers may "represent" elderly clients in real estate exchanges, getting their "approval" in writing using all of the methods mentioned above. The abuser then pockets the profits from the sale of the home, leaving the senior to spend the rest of their life living in substandard housing.

The Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic and harmful forms of abuse anyone can suffer. Unfortunately, sexual abuse of the elderly is a widespread and recorded problem. The Nursing Home Abuse Guide notes that 81% of elder sex abuse cases are committed by the caretaker—a statistic that should give all nursing home executives pause.

#6: Bruising in or Near the Groin

If you see bruising along the buttocks, inner thighs, or groin, then you need to remove your loved one from that facility immediately. Bruising is never normal for an elderly person, but bruising around the groin indicates forceful sexual contact.

#7: Fear of Being Touched

When someone has been sexually abused, their default state becomes deeply defensive. Once happy and welcoming people recoil from your touch and seem deeply uncomfortable with hugging, hand-holding, or any common forms of affection. If this is out of character for your loved one, sexual abuse may be the cause.

#8: Extreme Agitation & Withdrawal

Abuse victims often feel alone and isolated, which discourages them from reporting their suffering—this is often deliberate on the part of the abuser. If your loved one seems angry, fearful, and silent during your visits, sexual abuse is a potential cause. Trust your knowledge of your loved one and don't chalk up anything to "adjusting." Healthy people do not suddenly become angry hermits. It is not normal.

The Symptoms of Physical Abuse & Neglect

Neglect and physical abuse are the most common forms of abuse committed by caretakers, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Unlike other forms of abuse, neglect is rooted in a lack of action rather than actively abusive behavior. That does not make it any less harmful though.

#9: Dehydration

Dehydration is a classic sign of neglect. Your loved one's most vital and simple need is water—if they don't get enough water, it indicates that his or her nurses are understaffed or negligent.

#10: Infections or Bed Sores

Bedridden patients require frequent turning and shifting in order to maximize comfort and minimize bedsores. Bedsores indicate days or weeks without movement, which is unacceptable by any standard. Any bedsores need to reported immediately—if the wounds don't improve after a week, you may need to move your loved one and file a formal report.

#11: Unexpected Death to a Healthy Resident

We've read and heard the same story before—a formerly healthy patient's state will deteriorate quickly after arriving at a caretaking facility. These deaths come as a shock because the resident was such a vital person with no prior issues. If your loved one's death came from issues that sound strange or were never suffered by them before, you may need to take legal action.

#12: Frequent Wandering or Elopement

Caretakers are required, at minimum, to know where their patients are. If your loved one keeps "getting lost" or you hear reports about their constant wandering, it doesn't mean your loved one is an escape artist. It means that their nursing home isn't doing their job. This is especially a red flag if your loved one wasn't prone to episodes of sleepwalking or confusion before being admitted. "Wandering" is sometimes used as a cover explanation for negligence or physical abuse.

#13: Bruising or Broken Bones

No elderly person should suffer a fracture while under the care of a 24-hour facility. While accidents do occur, multiple fractures or bruising indicates negligence (at best) or malice (at worst). If your loved one has multiple and frequently-acquired bruises, take them out of the facility as soon as possible.

The General Symptoms of Abuse

Some symptoms apply to all forms of abuse. If these signs are exhibited by your loved one, it may be necessary to take immediate action. At the very least, you should consider consulting with a nursing home abuse attorney. Lawyers who specialize in identifying elder abuse may know more about the suspected nursing home than you do.

#14: Reluctance to Speak Around Staff Members

Victims of abuse "know better" than to report their abusers in their presence (or in the presence of their co-workers). They may even laud abusers in their presence out of fear of retaliation. The key is to not just listen to the words, but how they're said and why—abuse sufferers often have problems knowing who to trust, so they will withhold information from you out of fear.

#15: Isolation from Loved Ones

By and large, nursing home residents look forward to family visits and time with guests. If your loved one has ceased to respond to calls or suddenly never speaks to you during visits, abuse may have caused them to emotionally withdraw. It may seem mean or defensive, but it's vital that you not take such behavior personally—it's a common survival mechanism. Follow up on it immediately.

#16: Unexplained Moodiness or Silence

Emotional withdrawing also leads to another common symptom—moodiness or lack of mental presence. If your loved one seems to be elsewhere or zoning out for your entire visit, this is not a result of age or senility. Detachment, especially when it is sudden or unexplained, is a common response to abuse. Ask about their treatment as soon as possible—if you can, look for other symptoms on this list as well.

#17: Frequently Heavy Medication (for Dubious Reasons)

Healthy, vital elderly people have no reason to be sedated other than for the convenience of caretakers. Such treatment is not only cruel—it's completely inhumane and illegal. It treats people like zoo animals rather than human beings, and it's not acceptable. If your loved one had no history of violence, health problems, or chronic pain, always question their "need" for sedation.

If your loved one exhibits any number of these symptoms, remove them from the facility as soon as possible for their safety. If you're unsure of what to do afterward, consult a local nursing home abuse attorney as soon as you can—you may be able to fight for your loved one's care and dignity in court.

Categories: Elder Abuse