The increase in the senior population in recent years has caused a corresponding increase in issues that impact the elderly, including nursing home abuse. Fortunately, there are nursing homes that provide competent, caring, and compassionate care to patients; however, you must remain vigilant and on alert for signs of abuse or neglect if you have a loved one in a nursing home. To help ensure that you know what to look for, lets discuss the signs of elder abuse and what to do if you spot them.
How Bad Is the Nursing Home Abuse Problem?
While there are many nursing homes that provide compassionate and competent care to the patients living at the facility, the threat of nursing home abuse and neglect is very real in the United States. Consider the following facts and figures relating to nursing home abuse:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reported as many as 14 go unreported
- More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse, and more than 90% report that they or another resident of the facility have been neglected
- Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients
- More than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with elderly residents of care facilities.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Victims of nursing home abuse frequently remain silent, sometimes because they cannot speak out while other times because they are ashamed or fear doing so. Either way, it is often up to loved ones to spot the signs of abuse. Those signs can vary greatly; however, there are some common signs to watch for that may indicate a loved one is the victim of abuse, such as:
- Excessive, unexplained, or frequent bruising
- Indications of restraints used on ankles and/or wrists
- Weight loss
- Anger or hostility
- Increased medical problems with no apparent explanation
- Depression or mood swings
- Urinary tract infection (sexual abuse of seniors does happen)
- Missing medication or not taking medication as prescribed
- Personal items missing
If you notice any of these signs, try and talk to your loved one if possible. Sit down with the facility administrator as well and share your concerns. Sometimes this is very productive and leads to an investigation while in other facilities the administration tries to sweep inquiries and/or complaints under the proverbial rug to avoid liability. Filing a report with the appropriate law enforcement agency may also be necessary given that elder abuse can be a criminal offense. It also creates a paper trail that can be useful in future litigation. Finally, consult with an experienced elder law attorney immediately. Nursing home abuse can form the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility for negligence. It may also be necessary for you to petition for guardianship over your loved one if the need to move him/her arises and he/she cannot consent to the move because of incapacity.