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How To Spot Nursing Home Abuse

Updated on September 4, 2014

Be Observant and Recognize the Signs of Abuse

Elder abuse is an unfortunate reality for many nursing home residents. It is important for friends, family, and other people close to the elder to be on the lookout for any signs of abuse in the nursing home setting.

Although family members are the most common abusers of the elderly, there are definite concerns about nursing home staff and others hired to care for an elderly person.

Even though physical violence against our elderly citizens is horrifying, it only represents a small portion of the overall problem. Some of the physical violence elderly patients may face at the hands of nursing home staff includes any number of the following:

  • Slapping.
  • Dragging.
  • Being pulled and scratched if they dare to make the decision to disobey instructions during the processes of bathing, dressing, or using the toilet.

Fortunately for our elderly, the increased awareness and training has helped decrease the numbers of crimes against residents in nursing homes.

Types of Abuse

The majority of abuse cases are either emotional or psychological. This includes a caregiver who yells, humiliates, threatens, or insults a patient. Neglect is also a form of abuse and includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Failure to feed or groom a patient.
  • Failure to assist a patient with his or her toilet needs.
  • Allowing the patient to live in an environment that is unsanitary.
  • Failure to follow the prescribed treatment plan.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s patients are more prone to abuse than other elderly patients. A recent study the British Medical Journal published indicated that 52 percent of those who care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease admitted to being guilty of some form of abuse. The most common forms of abuse to which the study subjects admitted included:

  • Screaming or yelling (26 percent).
  • Speaking harshly or swearing (18 percent).

The majority of caregivers who admitted to inflicting emotional abuse claimed these were rare instances and that they felt guilty or remorseful afterwards.

Personal Experience

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Causes of Abuse

Certainly, the stress caregivers suffer is a major risk factor when it comes to abuse, but it is not the most common one. While stress is a mitigating factor, individuals who are stressed are more likely to become abusive if they are depressed, lack support from others such as superiors and co-workers, or feel their job is overwhelming and burdensome. Other mitigating factors include:

  • The gender of the abuser (more men are abusers than women).
  • Self-esteem issues.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse.
  • The caregiver has suffered from abuse himself/herself.

Signs of Abuse

Physicians, close friends, and family members must have an open mind and be on the lookout for any signs of elder abuse, whether physical or emotional. Any time visitors notice bruises or fractures or if the patient complains of emotional abuse by the nursing staff, they should suspect abuse and take steps to report it. There may also be signs of neglect such as loss of weight, lack of proper grooming, and failure to take prescribed medication.

Do You Suspect Elder Abuse?

If you believe someone has been abused and is in danger of further abuse, call 911 immediately and report it. If the danger is not immediate but you do suspect abuse is happening, report it to the Adult Protective Services (APS) agency in the state where the victim resides.

If you know your loved one has been abused, it is strongly recommended that you take legal action to prevent further abuse to others. Call a nursing home abuse lawyer in your area and discuss your legal options. These type of cases are usually taken on contingency, meaning that you never pay anything unless you win a monetary settlement or verdict in the case.

Protect your loved one by seeking the justice that they deserve!

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