What warning signs to look for in your elderly loved one to identify nursing home abuse
With aging comes change — many changes, in fact. Sometimes, illnesses and certain medical conditions can make it impossible to care for a loved one at home. Seniors living with these time-intensive care requirements may be best cared for in a nursing home or permanent elderly care facility with 24/7 care, medical staff nearby, and easy access to doctors.
In a perfect world, we would never need to fret over the care and attention that our aging loved ones receive at nursing home facilities. Unfortunately, the senior population is an easy target for abuse, and those living in nursing homes are the common victims.
One way you can look after your elderly loved one is by being watchful when you go to visit them and carefully look for any of the following common symptoms of nursing home abuse. If you do spot any of these signs, take steps to protect your loved one by moving them to a safe place and report the incident to local authorities. Next, contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer near you to learn about your legal rights.
1. Behavioral changes or decreased desire for socialization
When visiting your loved ones in a nursing home, it can be difficult to determine if personality changes are due to abuse or caused by a change in their mental status. Residents with conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s will often have changes in their mood and desired levels of socialization. This should be considered when evaluating their behavior.
That said, a sudden behavioral change, such as self-isolation or agitation, may be indicative of abuse. Patients experiencing poor care or physical abuse will often withdraw into themselves and become depressed, anxious or angry. Some abused residents may become aggressive, while others become more timid. These exaggerated behaviors should be examined closely in case they are indications of elder abuse.
2. Unexplained or frequent bruises, cuts or fractures
Though it’s an undeniable fact that seniors are more likely to fall, these risks should be minimal in a nursing home facility with attentive staff. Neglecting a patient’s safety is absolutely a form of abuse, so the staff working with patients who have frequently reported falls or injuries should be scrutinized carefully. If you suspect that your loved one has too many unexplained injuries, alert management and begin the investigation process.
Neglect may not be the only cause of bruises, fractures and wounds. Physical abuse occurs when nursing staff become aggressive with residents. This can result in physical trauma, as well as psychological damage since residents rely on nursing staff as caregivers. Some signs of abuse include bruising, red marks or swelling around the wrists.
3. Bedsores, dirty bed sheets and soiled clothing
Unkempt appearances may be a somewhat common site in a nursing home where many residents are bedridden, but these may also be signs that the resident is receiving substandard care (at best) or being neglected (at worst). Bedsores are painful and can result in deadly infections. These occur when bedridden patients are not rotated or flipped in bed frequently enough.
Soiled linens are another sign of neglect, as it means clothing and sheets are not being changed frequently by the staff. In the Florida heat, these dirty sheets can harbor billions of bacteria.
4. Fear of nursing home staff and increased anxiety
Perhaps the most obvious sign of abuse that is often overlooked is a developing fear of the nursing home staff. Anxiety and depression are not unheard of for many seniors in nursing homes, but it’s never a good sign if residents are fearful of nursing staff.
A general fear of nursing staff can indicate an overall lack of care or general neglect. If you witness this behavior in your loved one, it is important to pay close attention to other signs of neglect such as weight loss or dehydration. If you notice a specific nurse that your senior is fearful of, investigating the behavior of that nurse may be necessary to ensure that they have not been causing harm to your loved one.
5. Changes in financial plans, new credit cards or unexplained ATM withdrawals
By the time most seniors are put in nursing homes, their wills are typically predetermined and any financial obligations are already attended to. Seniors who are being financially abused by nursing staff may have sudden changes to their estate, new lines of credit being opened or ATM withdrawals of cash, despite being bedridden or with no need for money.
A nursing staff “bad actor” may try to get access to a resident’s money through either direct theft of credit cards, identity theft or credit card fraud through opening credit cards in the patient’s name — or through coercion or trickery to convince the patient to change the terms of their will. A resident with a condition that decreases their understanding, such as dementia, may be easily convinced to name an abusive staff member as their beneficiary.
Entrusting the care of your loved ones to nursing home staff should not be a terrifying idea, but the fact that nursing home abuse occurs cannot be overlooked. If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected, contact the office of Tragos, Sartes, & Tragos to talk to an experienced Florida nursing home abuse lawyer. Your first consultation is free.
Contact Tragos, Sartes and Tragos today for a free case consultation.