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How to Identify Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Updated on November 7, 2016

With the population of our country aging, elder abuse and neglect are of growing concern. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately 1 in 10 Americans age sixty or above experience some form of elder abuse (either direct harm or neglect), yet only 1 in 14 cases of abuse is reported to the authorities. Sadly, such abuse and neglect can occur in nursing homes, the very institutions people trust to care for their loved ones. One study found over 9,000 instances of reported abuse in a 2-year period, affecting 30 percent of nursing homes in the U.S.

How to Identify Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect | Hodes Milman & Liebeck LLP
How to Identify Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect | Hodes Milman & Liebeck LLP | Source

Advancing age often goes hand in hand with increased physical and mental frailty. This makes the elderly prey for the unscrupulous and vulnerable to harm by the neglectful. However, abuse and neglect in a nursing home can be difficult to identify, as residents may be unable to advocate for themselves. Some warning signs are also similar to problems residents may experience as a result of natural illness or getting older, and can at first appear to be signs that the victim is developing dementia or experiencing medical problems associated with aging. However, should you notice any of the following, it could be a sign that your loved one is being victimized or is not properly cared for:

In the patient

  • Unexplained injuries, such as broken bones, bruises, or cuts
  • Frequent falls
  • Mood swings or changes in behavior
  • Aversion to a caregiver or caregivers, especially if this is a change from a previously friendly relationship
  • Withdrawal
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Bedsores
  • Poor personal hygiene

In the nursing home environment

  • Unsafe conditions such as poor lighting, slippery floors, or inadequate equipment
  • Dirty living conditions
  • Inadequate supervision or monitoring
  • Reluctance of caregiver(s) to leave the patient alone with family
  • Denial of or delay in access to see the patient

Suffering abuse can significantly increase the risk of death for the elderly, so it is important to seek help as quickly as possible should you suspect that your loved one is receiving inadequate care or is being abused. Visit the facility often to check on the level of care and address your concerns to a supervisor. Make detailed notes on your observations.

If your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, they may be entitled to compensation for the harm they’ve suffered. Contact an experienced attorney to help investigate your case and determine the best course of action.


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