The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines elder abuse as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. Abuse encompasses all acts of neglect, violence, mental and psychological abuse (intimidation), sexual misconduct, and deceit or abuse of trust.
A nursing home creates an environment in which patients/residents are dependent upon staff members for a variety of basic needs, ranging from help getting in/out of chairs to assistance bathing and using the bathroom. Many nursing home residents are forced to rely on and trust their caregivers.
Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse can be as plain as physical violence or as indirect as psychological intimidation through threats of withholding food. Abuse can also result inadvertently, in the form of neglect or inadequate care taking, as a result of lack of knowledge/training in staff members, or insufficient pay.
Some obvious signs of abuse can include:
- Unusual Bruising, bleeding, marks or abrasions
- Undressed wounds or bed sores
- Burns or scrapes
- Sudden, unexplained weight gain or loss
- Soiling, scent of urine or feces in the air
- Poor hygiene, lack of: bathing, haircuts, fingernail/toenail trimming
- Skin infections, infected wounds
- Torn or stained (bloodied) clothing or bedding
Subtle less-obvious warning indicators may also present themselves:
- Listless or unresponsive demeanor
- Evasive, irritable, or unusually distressed during normal visits or conversations
- Infantile behavior or tantrums
- Physical or emotional withdrawal
- Disappearing/missing personal items
- Sudden, unusual or unplanned financial transactions (as applicable)
Signs of abuse can also surface from neglect. Don’t immediately assume direct abuse, as caretakers might be well-intentioned but understaffed. The nursing home may simply need more resources in order to effectively tend to all patients’ needs. However, addressing the needs or any single patient should never come at the expense or detriment of another’s care.
Some of today’s nursing home residents are the last remaining survivors of the WWII and Great Depression eras. That generation was raised and taught to “suck it up” and accept their problems. Many are not comfortable in voicing their concerns, even when their personal rights or well-being are jeopardized. Other residents with degenerative conditions may be incapable of communicating problems of neglect or abuse, but suffer nonetheless.
Taking Action and Reporting Suspected Abuse
Any of the signs listed here may be present, but excused or accounted for in some way. Still, additional red flags may be evident. Staff might refuse or delay access to the facility or certain areas during regular visiting hours. Also, a staff member may refuse to leave the room or immediate vicinity during a visit. These could be signs that something is being concealed.
It is important to discuss any questions or concerns with facility management. If speaking with management does not yield satisfactory results, file a complaint with the appropriate agency. Contacting an experienced nursing home abuse attorney may also prove to be an appropriate course of action if any suspicion of abuse or neglect is present.
Nursing Home Abuse Center – http://www.nursinghomeabusecenter.org/filing-a-complaint.html
Wikipedia – Elder Abuse – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elder_abuse