Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Common Nursing Home Abuse Signs

Elderly people are at risk of being abused at home, in the homes of relatives, and at nursing care facilities. Many of these cases of neglect go unnoticed or under-reported. If you believe that your loved one is dealing with a harmful or neglectful situation or is being financially exploited, there are a few things you need to do to ensure their safety and care going forward. 

There are several signs of abuse to the elderly that may aid you in uncovering what is happening to your loved ones. As older people become more frail, they are less likely to be able to stand up to bullying behaviors or to fight back if someone has verbally or physically attacked them. They may not be able to hear or see as well as they could, resulting in opportunities for others to take advantage of them.  Because elders often experience physical and mental limitations, they can be more difficult for caretakers to manage.

Elder abuse might not be taken seriously be family members, supervisors or other loved ones. They may believe the person has developed dementia or are not making any sense. While signs of abuse can overlap with mental deterioration, each case should be investigated — even if the patient is experiencing neglect.

General Evidence of Abuse (1)

You can assume that an elderly individual is being abused if there are changes in their behavior and personality, or frequent tension between the elder and their caregiver. If you suspect the elder is being abused, look for additional signs of abuse.

Physical Abuse

Signs and symptoms of physical abuse include the following:

  • Having unexplained broken bones, dislocations or sprains
  • Bruising, scars or welts seen on the body
  • Failing to take medications properly
  • Signs of restraint, such as rope marks on the elder’s wrist
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • The refusal of the caregiver to let you be alone with the elderly person

Emotional Abuse

Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse of the elderly include the following:

  • Unusual behavior in the elderly person that can resemble symptoms of dementia, including mumbling behaviors, sucking one’s thumb, or rocking behaviors.
  • Witnessing belittling, controlling or threatening behavior on the part of the caregiver.

Sexual Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse of the elderly include the following:

  • Unexplained STDs or other genital infections
  • Bruising near the genitals or around the breasts
  • Stained, bloody or torn underwear
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding unrelated to a medical condition

Caregiver Neglect

Caregiver neglect can manifest itself in the following ways:

  • Leaving the elderly personal alone at a public location
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as a lack of heat, faulty electrical wiring, fire hazards or lack of running water
  • Being unsuitably dressed for the weather
  • Not bathing the person or leaving them dirty
  • Living with soiled bed clothing, dirty clothes, bugs or dirty conditions
  • The presence of bed sores from not turning the patient regularly
  • Having an unusual loss of weight or dehydration

Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

The elderly person is particularly prone to financial exploitation. Signs of financial abuse include:

  • Changes in the elderly person’s financial situation
  • Unexplained withdrawals from the elderly person’s bank accounts
  • Changes in power of attorney, life insurance policies, property titles or wills
  • Missing cash from the elder’s home or room
  • Adding names to the signature card of the elder’s credit cards
  • ATM withdrawals when the senior is bedridden and couldn’t have done it themselves
  • Lack of medical care in spite of having money to afford it
  • Unusual goods, services or subscriptions the elder couldn’t have signed on for

Healthcare Fraud

This is usually perpetrated by healthcare personnel and include the following:

Risk Factors for Abuse of the Elderly

Some seniors are difficult to manage because they have a lot of needs, especially when the person is dependent on others for care or have many medical conditions. The demands versus the ability to meet these demands can cause problems that put the elderly person at risk.

Risk Factors Of Caregivers

While many spouses, friends, adult children and other relatives find that caring for their senior can be enriching and satisfying, this isn’t the case for everyone Risk factors for elder abuse from the caregiver include the following:  

  • Depression on the behalf of the caregiver
  • The caregiver perceives that caring for the senior has no psychological reward
  • The caregiver cannot cope with the stress of caring for the elder
  • Alcohol or drug use by the caregiver
  • Having no support from others to help care for the elder

Even if the caregiver is paid and works for a nursing facility, there can be stress involved that can lead to abuse of the elder. Staff of nursing facilities can be prone to abusing the elderly if they have too many jobs to do, lack appropriate training, work in poor environments or are unsuitable to care for the elderly.

 

References:

  1. Elder abuse and neglect. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/elder-abuse-and-neglect.htm. Accessed 3/16/2016.
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Dr. Christine Traxler

Christine Traxler, MD is a retired family practice physician, graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986, and freelance writer, having worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades. She has written several books on medical topics and currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she works as a freelance writer on medical topics.

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