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Identifying The Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

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It’s estimated that nearly one out of every 10 nursing home residents is a victim of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many nursing home abuse and neglect cases go unreported, so this number could be even higher. Victims may be too scared to report the abuse or neglect, or they may be physically unable to seek help. Because of this, it’s often a concerned family member who takes action after noticing signs of trouble.

If you have a family member who is in a nursing home, it’s imperative that you learn how to spot the signs of abuse and neglect so you can protect your loved one.

The Difference Between Abuse and Neglect

Nursing home abuse and neglect are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually two separate types of mistreatment. A victim who is being abused is being intentionally targeted by someone, while a victim who is being neglected is not. Neglect typically results from sub-standard care or carelessness, but the person who is neglecting the victim may not be motivated by the desire to harm the victim.

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse occurs when someone physically harms a nursing home resident by kicking, punching, slapping, hitting, or restraining him. If you believe your loved one is being physically abused, look for marks on his body, including burns, scratches, and bruises. Your loved one may try to hide these marks from you, so pay close attention to his movements to see if he is trying to shield certain parts of his body from you. If he has bandages covering the marks on his body, ask him what happened.

Emotional Abuse

It’s much easier to spot the signs of physical abuse than it is to spot the signs of emotional abuse. This type of abuse can include isolating, demeaning, humiliating, or intimidating a nursing home resident. If your loved one is being emotionally abused, she may begin to exhibit changes in her normal behavior. She may avoid eye contact, fail to engage in conversation, or become nervous when a staff member comes in the room. Emotional abuse victims may also begin to withdraw and avoid making contact with other residents in the facility. They may even stop taking care of themselves, which can result in sudden weight loss or gain. All of these signs indicate that your loved one is experiencing severe emotional distress.

Financial Abuse

A nursing home resident is financially abused when someone improperly or illegally uses her funds or assets. For example, if a staff member steals a resident’s jewelry or forges her signature on a check, these are both forms of financial abuse. Some victims may be aware of the abuse, while others may not. As a family member, it’s up to you to keep an eye on you loved one’s finances so you can look for the signs of financial abuse.

Review your loved one’s financial statements on a regular basis to look for unexplained transfers or withdrawals of money. Take a look at the checks that have been cashed to see who they are written to and if the signature is valid. You should also advise your loved one to keep her valuables hidden, and frequently check to make sure everything is still there.

Sexual Abuse

Victims of sexual abuse are forced to engage in sexual conduct. Sadly, sexual abusers often target victims who have memory loss or trouble communicating so they cannot report the abuse. Women are six times more likely to be targeted by abusers than men, but anyone could be a victim. Fortunately, there are ways for you to spot signs of trouble.

If your loved one has been sexually abused, you may notice that she is having trouble walking or sitting down comfortably. She could have bruises around the lower part of her body, especially on her inner thighs, and she may also experience bleeding or genital pain. Sexual abuse victims often have torn or bloody undergarments, so this is another sign that you should be looking for. If the victim is aware of the abuse, she could experience mood swings or panic attacks.

Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect occurs when a nursing home resident is ignored or left alone for extended periods of time. This type of abuse typically is caused by an understaffed nursing home facility. If your loved one is being emotionally neglected, she may withdraw from social activities, experience emotional outbursts, or become uncomfortable around members of the staff.

Personal Hygiene Neglect

A nursing home resident is a victim of personal hygiene neglect when the staff fails to help her bathe, brush her teeth, or take care of herself in any other way. This may be the easiest type of neglect to spot, because the signs are fairly obvious. If your loved one looks and smells like she has not bathed or is not wearing clean clothes, she may be a victim of this type of neglect.

Basic Needs Neglect

As its name suggests, basic needs neglect occurs when a nursing home resident is not provided with food, water, or a clean environment. Look for signs of dehydration or malnutrition to determine if your loved one is suffering from this type of neglect. You should also inspect her living conditions to determine if the area has been cleaned.

Medical Neglect

One of the most common forms of neglect is medical, which occurs when a staff member fails to treat a patient’s health condition or provide her with medications. This often results in bed sores, infections, pain, and cognitive changes. If you spot any of these signs, take action quickly so your loved one’s condition does not worsen.

If you or a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will help you seek justice against the negligent parties and recover the compensation that you deserve.

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Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".