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5 Signs to Look Out for to Detect Nursing Home Abuse

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The abuse of the elderly in this country is more prevalent than people would like to believe. While cases of abuse are typically associated with nursing homes and burnt out caregivers, abuses also occur in hospitals, assisted living settings, and private homes. Fortunately, most types of abuse leave unmistakable signs that can be noticed when friends, loved ones, and medical professionals are paying attention.


What to Do First

When abuse is suspected, the first courses of action are to keep the elder person safe and contact a personal injury firm. An experienced lawyer can assist with moving the loved one to a permanent setting, notifying the appropriate agencies about the suspicions, and begin to build a strong case. Determining what type of abuse has occurred and what restitution amount will be requested are also beginning steps in preparing for an abuse lawsuit.


Five Types of Abuse

A working definition of elder abuse is intentional or negligent acts knowingly committed against an elderly person. These acts fall into five basic categories:
  • 1. Physical abuse
  • 2. Emotional abuse
  • 3. Financial abuse
  • 4. Neglect
  • 5. Abandonment
In some cases, elderly people are victims of more than one type due to the overlapping nature of abuse. Someone who is subject to physical abuse, for example, will feel emotional and mental anguish as well as physical pain.


Detecting Abuse

Recognizing signs of abuse can be difficult depending on the level of interaction between the person receiving care and family members and friends. A daughter who lives out of state may not be able to visit often. A bruise or broken glasses can be explained away easily enough by staff during a visit. The daughter is not going to think twice about it because she cannot determine a pattern of bruises, burn marks, or other signs of physical abuse.

Signs of emotional abuse are commonly noticed by frequent visitors, volunteers, and other caregivers. Changes in behavior, depression, fatigue, and outbursts are typical signs. These can also be signs of dementia, confusion, or a brain tumor. Medical issues must be ruled out to move forward with an abuse case.

Financial abuse is a bit easier to find because family members get monthly financial reports and take an interest in how money is spent. Bills that are suddenly not paid, dwindling resources at a rapid rate and financial purchases or decisions that are far from the norm of the person getting care are definite signs of financial abuse.



Abandonment and Neglect

These abuses are often difficult to determine and prove because those in care have freedoms that are protected by law. Abandonment is defined as an elderly person being left in a public place by the person responsible for providing care. One freedom protected is practising the religion of the choice. Staff, private duty caregivers, and even relatives can claim that the person was left alone in a place of worship to exercise that freedom.

Neglect is indicated by bed sores, poor hygiene, weight loss, and thirst, among other signs. People have the right to refuse. If an elderly person refuses to get in the shower three days in a row, poor hygiene will be the result. In this particular case, it can be argued that alternatives should have been provided, such as washing up at the sink, a bed bath, or shampoo that requires no water.



Seniors Who Have Increased Vulnerability

There are factors that make senior citizens more vulnerable to abuse than others as identified by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). These include social isolation, lack of community involvement, and degree of dependence. Cognitive impairment, dementia, finances, and living situation also contribute to vulnerability. The fewer people who interact with the elder person decreases the number of those who would notice signs of abuse.

Do not assume that the care provided to elders is above reproach. Many facilities, setting, and caregivers in private homes take excellent care of those for whom they are responsible. The important aspect to consider is whether or not the elder person appears to be comfortable in the living space, at ease with the people around, and free from pain.

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