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How to Identify Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

signs of nursing home abuse, image of nursing hurting elderly patientAccording to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are almost two million residents of elder care facilities and nursing homes in the United States alone. When you place a loved one in a nursing home facility, you’re trusting that they will provide adequate care—but when you suspect a case of abuse, the sense of betrayal can be overwhelming. Learn the typical signs of nursing home abuse, how to document the discovery, and what to do if this happens to you or a loved one.

In This Article:

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), nearly 5 million elderly people are abused each year and there’s no telling how many more instances go unreported. Nursing home abuse can be defined as the intentional and willful infliction of injury, cruel punishment, intimidation, or unreasonable confinement that leads to physical harm, pain, or mental torment.

There are several types of nursing home abuse. Later in this article, we’ll discuss the warning signs of each type of elder abuse that occurs in nursing homes. The four types are:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect/abandonment

How Common is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is not uncommon — one in 10 elderly Americans above the age of 60 have experienced elder abuse. Approximately 66% of nursing home staff members admitted to committing some form of elder abuse in the past year.

The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) reported the following breakdown in nursing home abuse complaints:

  • 29% – Physical abuse
  • 22% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
  • 21% – Psychological abuse
  • 14% – Neglect
  • 7% – Sexual abuse
  • 7% – Financial abuse

Who’s Most at Risk?

Some nursing home residents are more at risk of being victims of nursing home abuse including those with mental impairment (i.e. dementia or Alzheimer’s disease). A whopping 50% of elders with dementia experienced nursing home neglect or abuse. Other risk factors include:

  • Gender. Statistically, women face a higher likelihood of experiencing abuse compared to men. According to the NCVC, 66% of elder abuse victims are women.
  • Previous Traumatic Experiences. People who have suffered abuse or traumatic incidents in the past have an increased vulnerability to becoming victims of abuse once more.
  • Economic Factors. Studies have uncovered a connection between elder abuse and lower socioeconomic status. For instance, elderly individuals depending on Medicaid for nursing home care may find themselves residing in facilities of lower quality

Common Signs of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

There are certain signs of abuse that are common regardless of the form of mistreatment suffered. These signs include:

  • Sudden, unexplained mood swings or personality shifts
  • Refusal to take medication or unexplained overdoses
  • The caregiver tries to interfere with you being alone with the elder

Signs of Physical Elder Abuse

Some signs of nursing home abuse are difficult to spot. However, physical elder abuse signs are much easier to discover as the victim usually has some visible evidence of the mistreatment.

The signs of physical abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries include bruises, cuts, scratches, sprains, and even broken bones.
  • Broken eyeglasses.
  • Restraint marks on wrists or ankles.
  • Unexplained pain or resistance to being touched.

Signs of Emotional Elder Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when the deliberate actions of another cause a person anguish, fear, anxiety, or undue stress. This can occur as a result of anything from off-color jokes to verbal insults, bullying, or intimidation. The signs of emotional abuse can be difficult to spot and include those common abuse signs listed above as well as the potential to witness a caregiver behaving inappropriately towards the elder.

  • a sudden change from normal behavior
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • isolation imposed by the caregiver, such as when the caregiver refuses to allow family or friends access to the resident, and
  • the presence of a caregiver who is verbally aggressive, uncaring, or demeaning.

Signs of Financial Elder Abuse

Some caregivers take their position as an opportunity to engage in fraud and monetary exploitation. This can occur through scamming, account theft, or healthcare fraud. These signs of nursing home abuse include:

  •  Changes to the elder’s will, life insurance, or power of attorney
  •  Disappearance of property or funds
  •  Unpaid expenses and bills
  •  Unexplained charges to bank accounts or credit cards.

Signs of Sexual Elder Abuse

Sexual elder abuse is a very damaging type of abuse that can occur in nursing homes both by staff and residents. It is very important to look out for signs of this type of abuse as it can impact both a person’s physical and mental health. Signs include:

  • Injuries or bleeding to the private areas of the elder
  • Unexplained pain
  • Unexplained diseases, especially STDs
  • Stained and torn clothing and bedding

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abandonment

Nursing home neglect and abandonment can show very different signs than nursing home abuse. Elder neglect and abandonment can be defined as intentional or unintentional failure or refusal of a caregiver to perform their duties or obligations to an older person. In a nursing home, this may include refusal to provide clothing, food, medication, supervision, medical care, or shelter to a resident. This can also include failure to protect a resident from a potentially dangerous situation causing harm.

Signs of nursing home neglect include:

  • Loss or lack of mobility, often leading to stage 4 bedsores.
  • Signs of poor nutrition such as weight loss or dehydration.
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Signs of poor hygiene such as ripped or soiled clothes.
  • Psychological distress.
  • Unexplained injuries that go unreported and untreated.

What to Do If You See Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

If you suspect your elder has been the victim of abuse, you should immediately document all of the signs you notice. This may look like taking pictures or keeping a journal of every incident of suspect abuse or neglect. If the situation is life-threatening, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, report the issue to a local Chicago or Illinois entity that can accept the report and secure the services of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.

At Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers, we are passionate about seeking justice for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Nursing home residents should feel safe, secure, and supported and should never feel the threat of abuse or neglect. Families should have peace of mind when they make the difficult choice to place their loved one’s care in the hands of another.

If you notice any of these signs of nursing home abuse, do not hesitate to reach out for legal support and to seek justice. Call us today for a FREE consultation at (312) 600-6000.

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