Nursing home abuse is a prevalent social issue across the United States. You might have watched a Netflix movie, “I care a lot,” that truly depicts the picture of elders living in nursing homes.
It unveils the brutal nexus among nursing homes, doctors, and caregivers. How do elders receive treatment in nursing homes? How do they get exploited through emotional turmoil? What are the potential financial pitfalls? It is no longer a secret you can deny because you expected to receive the utmost care for your elders in nursing homes.
According to WHO, in 2021, around 1 in 6 elders (60 and above age) have experienced some form of abuse in nursing homes, old homes, and long-term care facilities. What is more alarming? 2 out of 3 caregivers have admitted to inflicting abuse on old-age residents in the past year.
What can you do to make the stay of your loved ones at nursing homes safe and secure? You need to know and understand the warning signs that can lead to detrimental consequences for your loved one.
Here are the warning signs to look out for every time you visit a nursing home.
It is easy to detect the signs of physical abuse that deprive elders of basic rights of food, shelter, and a clean environment. Physical abuse is the leading cause whenever a resident is subjected to pain, injuries, or impairment triggered by mistreatment and neglect. In such situations, physical torture may prove fatal for the resident. You must consider suing a nursing home for wrongful death if your loved one could not survive while facing the abuse in the resident facility. While this may not bring your deceased loved one back, it will bring them justice and prevent others from suffering the same fate.
Pay attention to the signs of physical abuse given below:
- Signs of punching, kicking, hitting, slapping on the body
- Bruises or bandages
- Cuts, open wounds, or bed sores
- Fractures, broken bones, or scrapes
- Abrasions or burns
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Hair loss
- Stained, torn, or bloody bed sheets or clothes
- Broken personal belongings like eyeglasses, hearing aid, walking stick, etc.
- The onset of serious and additional infections
- Marks of ligature around neck, ankles, wrists, etc.
Caregivers and nursing home staff can use physical restraints to calm down highly aggressive patients, but for a limited time. Binding patients with ligatures for extended hours can deteriorate their health, causing reduced bone mass and muscle tone. It may lead to serious injuries and muscle disorders.
Emotional abuse is the most common type of nursing home abuse, as reported by WHO. It generally involves verbal abuse, and non-physical forms of torture such as threats, yelling, slurs, and harassment. Sometimes, it also targets residents’ dignity by depriving them of clean clothes and making personal choices and decisions. Your loved one may face intimidation or humiliation or receive “the silent treatment.”
Signs of emotional abuse are as follows:
- Social isolation
- Lack of interest in favorite or daily activities
- Physical or emotional withdrawal
- Onset of anxiety or depression
- Unwillingness to listen to others and open up or talk
- Nervousness or panic
- Infantile behavior such as biting, sucking, rocking, or strange behaviors particularly associated with dementia
- Disappearance of personal belongings
Unfortunately, despite its severe damage to physical and mental health, sexual abuse is a rampant form of abuse in nursing homes. A resident subjected to sexual abuse may be forced to watch pornography or sexual acts or be coerced into sexual activity. The non-consensual sexual act can deteriorate the already falling health of the residents. Undoubtedly, elders with aphasia, dementia, or similar medical conditions can never allow sexual activity.
Residents may show one or more of these signs of sexual abuse:
- Bruises or bleeding in private parts
- Tears or cuts around the genital areas
- Onset of unexplained STDs
- Bruises on breasts
- Genital infections or venereal disease
- Stained, torn, or bloody undergarments or bedding
- Emotional withdrawal
- Sudden anxiety or panic in the presence of a specific person
- Onset of depression
- Withdrawal from daily or favorite activities
- Sudden change in sleep pattern or behavior
- Unreasonable or increased fear or anxiety
Financial Abuse or Exploitation
Financial abuse or exploitation particularly refers to the misuse of funds, illegal taking of assets or belongings, etc. Caregivers and nursing home staff sometimes abuse the residents to take materials or for financial gains. Older adults suffering from cognitive illnesses or dementia are more prone to financial abuse.
Financial abuse or exploitation is the hardest to detect due to a lack of evidence and legal complications. However, you can still find out if your loved one is subjected to financial abuse by paying attention to the following warning signs:
- Exorbitant gifts and a hefty amount of cash to caregivers
- Unauthorized or unexplained transactions and purchases
- Unpaid bills
- Disappearance of valuables and cash from the resident’s room
- Fraudulent signatures on important financial documents
- Forging or tampering with financial documents such as power of attorney, will, etc.
- Shortage of funds to pay bills
- Constant and unexplained changes to bank accounts and other financial accounts
- Opening of new bank accounts or issuance of new credit cards in the name of the resident
If you have access to your loved one’s finances or financial information, stay vigilant and pay close attention to any change or unusual activity. It is possible to make errors in financial transactions, such as overdrawing from bank accounts or unpaid bills. However, you need to be careful if such mistakes become a practice. Find the culprit behind the financial exploitation of your loved one.
Nursing Home Neglect
You must pay attention to the intentional act of wrongdoing and abuse to ensure the safety of your loved one. In addition, you must not overlook the staff’s negligence while caring for the patient. It plays a crucial role in protecting the physical health and emotional well-being of your loved one. Several factors can lead to nursing home neglect. It may include a shortage of staff, lack of qualification, poor training, and staff monitoring. However, whatever the case may be, you must be aware of the warning signs of neglect and abuse to take firm action against nursing homes.
Nursing home neglect can show up in the form of the following warning signs:
- Constantly declining health conditions
- Untreated bed sores
- Poor hygiene (dirty clothes, bed sheets, or smelly room)
- Malnutrition and unexplained and constant weight loss
- Unsanitary and poor living conditions (Soiling, odor of urine and feces)
- Roaming around the nursing facility without supervision
- Negligence in the administration of medication
- Failure to provide medical aids like dentures, walkers, wheelchairs, hearing aids, or eyesight glasses
- Elopement (where a resident leaves the nursing home unbeknownst to the staff)
After admitting your loved one to a long-term care facility such as a nursing home, pay regular visits to keep a check on them. Although sometimes it becomes difficult to figure out what your loved ones are going through in these health care settings. Still, you can watch out for the above-mentioned signs of various abuse in nursing homes to protect your loved one from ruthless staff or caregivers. Don’t forget to take legal action against a nursing home if you find anything damaging to your loved one.