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How To Identify Instances of Nursing Home Abuse

More than half of people between the ages of 57 and 61 will spend time in a nursing home during their lives. Unfortunately, those who stay in nursing homes face an increased risk for abuse. Family members and friends can learn the signs of nursing home abuse to protect their loved ones in nursing homes and similar caretaking environments.

Nursing home abuse includes acts of physical mistreatment, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse. Some warning signs are blatant, while others are more subtle. If you know how to identify the signs, you can take swift action in your loved one’s best interest.

Abuse, Accident, or Medical Condition?

Not all injuries or questionable behaviors indicate abuse. Accidents can happen in properly controlled health care settings. Mobile seniors may bruise more easily because of blood thinners or other medications. They can lose their balance and fall while unattended.

Certain medical conditions such as dementia can cause changes in a person’s mood, personality, and behaviors. If these signs align with a proven medical condition or reasonable explanation, they may not indicate abuse. A loved one may be experiencing abuse if an accident or medical condition cannot fully explain the signs or symptoms you notice.

Physical and Emotional Signs of Abuse

A patient’s physical and emotional state can indicate signs of abuse. Unusual cuts, bruises, abrasions, or infections may indicate physical or sexual abuse. Unreasonable medication or dosing levels also signal abuse.

Caretakers can create an abusive environment without ever laying a hand on a resident. Acts of neglect often lead to painful bedsores, sudden changes in weight, and poor hygiene. Caretakers may intimidate, threaten, and belittle residents causing psychological trauma. If your loved one’s behavior suddenly changes and he or she acts more sedated, withdrawn, childish, or emotional than normal, these changes may indicate emotional abuse.

When you visit a nursing home resident, pay attention to your loved one’s health, behaviors, and cleanliness. Anything that seems out of the ordinary calls for further scrutiny.

Nursing Home Conditions that Can Indicate Abuse

Sometimes, the state of the nursing home itself serves as an abuse indicator. Management practices, staff member behaviors, and the cleanliness of the facility can all raise concerns of abuse.

Abusers will often try to hide the evidence of their actions in some way. Question the motives of staff members who try to prevent you from seeing a resident without a valid reason, who want to chaperone your visits, or who act too friendly. Ask to speak to a manager if you feel uncertain of a staff member’s judgment call or behavior.

Unnecessary or unexplained nursing home charges may signal insurance fraud or financial exploitation. Ask for a line-by-line breakdown, if necessary. Above-board facilities will take steps to immediately remedy erroneous financial statements; and, they will not make the same mistakes in the future.

What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

If you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to staff members, other visitors, and the management team about your concerns. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer, you can report the facility to Arizona Adult Protective Services and discuss your case with a local nursing home abuse attorney.


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