When you place your mother in a nursing home, you expect all of her basic needs to be met. You don’t expect her to be abused or neglected. Unfortunately, this is the case for many Americans. And sometimes it’s up to their adult children to become their advocates.
The Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
To say that nursing home abuse flies under the proverbial radar isn’t exactly true. It’s something that’s carefully and meticulously tracked by leading organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). However, despite everything we know about nursing home abuse, it’s not something that gets discussed much outside of very specific circles.
Consider, for a moment, that somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 complaints of nursing home abuse are filed each year. (And that’s just the ones that are filed. An estimated 5 million people are estimated to be affected by elder abuse every single year.)
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), this is the breakdown of nursing home abuse complaints:
- 27.4% – Physical abuse
- 22.1% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
- 19.4% – Psychological abuse
- 15.3% – Gross neglect
- 7.9% – Sexual abuse
- 7.9% – Financial exploitation
In other words, nursing home abuse isn’t some isolated problem that stems from a few bad seeds in the industry. It’s a sweeping issue that has the potential to impact any elderly individual in an assisted living or care facility.
And if your mother is in a nursing home, it’s imperative that you become aware of the troubling signs and symptoms of abuse. This includes:
Neglect is one of the most common forms of abuse. It occurs when staff doesn’t live up to their duties and ignores/refuses to provide the care a resident or patient requires. Symptoms include:
- Chronic dehydration
- Unexplained weight loss
- Poor appearance
- Being left alone in soiled garments
- Failure to provide timely care for injuries and ailments
- Frequent infections
- Physical Abuse
Physical abuse occurs when a care provider causes physical harm to your mother through pushing, hitting, shoving, kicking, etc. Typical signs and symptoms of physical abuse include:
- Broken and fractured bones
- Bruises and welts
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken possessions (like eyeglasses)
- Social withdrawal
- Being skittish or easily scared
- Verbal Abuse
Verbal abuse might not seem as serious as neglect or physical abuse, but it can produce emotional and psychological issues that cause long-term damage. Symptoms include:
- Emotionally upset
- Easily agitated
- Extremely withdrawn
- Being skittish or easily scared
- Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is probably the most difficult to detect. It involves the manipulation of an elderly individual’s finances by someone who has no right to the individual’s money or assets. Telltale signs and symptoms include:
- Strange bank activity
- Unexplained expenditures
- Signing up for recurring monthly programs
- Making charitable donations to strange/unknown causes
- Signing over assets to strange individuals
- Missing checkbooks, cards, or cash
- Secretive financial behaviors
What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
Do you suspect your mother is a victim of nursing home abuse? If so, there are some very specific steps you should take:
- Hire a nursing home abuse attorney. Don’t take nursing home abuse lightly. Hire a nursing home abuse attorney and let them investigate. These attorneys specialize in nursing home abuse and can quickly get to the bottom of a claim to figure out if there’s anything there. And if there is, they’ll put together a strong case that provides justice for your mother and family.
- Gather evidence. Begin gathering evidence as soon as you suspect there may be something going on. Whether it’s physical abuse or financial abuse, every piece of information will prove to be valuable. Once you hire an attorney, you can hand it over to them, and it’ll give them some concrete evidence.
- Stay vigilant. Just because you’ve gathered some evidence and called an attorney doesn’t necessarily mean your mother is safe. It’s important to remain vigilant and to keep the lines of communication open with your mother and her care facility. Abuse rarely happens in an isolated situation. It’s typically a pattern – meaning it must be continually watched.
As your mother ages, it becomes less likely that she’ll be able or willing to tell you about situations of abuse. Factors like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other health conditions make it increasingly unlikely that cases of abuse will be brought to you. That means you must remain vigilant and aware of what’s happening at all times. Be observant, ask questions, and pursue anything that doesn’t seem quite right.