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5 Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect (and What to Do)

Written by Teresa Te on January 4, 2018

The primary purpose of a nursing home facility is to care for elderly individuals who need extra help and assistance. Ideally, they are loving communities where individuals receive the level of care they need to continue living a comfortable life as long as possible.

Unfortunately, in the real world, this isn’t always the case. Nursing home abuse and neglect is much more common than it should be. According to research, more than two million cases of elder abuse are reported each year.

More than 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported abuse, while 90 percent say they, or another resident of the facility, have suffered neglect.

Five Signs to Be Aware Of

If you have a friend or loved one who’s living in a nursing home facility, it’s your duty to be aware of the situations they encounter. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Here are a few of the more common signs of elder abuse and neglect for which you should keep an eye out.

Poor Personal Hygiene and Care

When a nursing home resident is no longer able to care for his or her own hygiene needs — such as bathing, clipping nails, brushing teeth, combing hair, etc. — nurses and other staff members are supposed to step in and take care of those. If you notice your loved one exhibits poor personal hygiene, that could be a sign of neglect.

Unexplained Injuries

Does your loved one have cuts, bruises, broken bones, scratches, scabs, or other unexplained injuries? Are they frequent and common?

Slips and falls can happen to elderly individuals who lack coordination and balance, you should always check in with your loved one to make sure an injury didn’t have a more malicious cause.

Unsanitary Conditions

Not everyone is super clean — especially when mobility is limited — but if your loved one’s room is constantly in disarray and messy to the extent that it could pose a health hazard, this is a sign of neglect on the part of the nursing home staff.

Clean bathrooms, sanitary kitchen areas, fresh sheets, and proper disposal of trash are all reasonable expectations.

Unexplained Stress and Anxiety

Has your loved one become more stressed and anxious about things? Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect a person’s mind, but you shouldn’t automatically blame all emotional instability on aging. Unexplained stress and anxiety could be a signal of abuse or neglect.

Strange Financial Behavior

A common type of elder abuse or neglect takes the form of financial abuse. If you notice your loved one has gotten involved in strange financial transactions, it might be wise to have a conversation with her or him about it. The last thing you want is for the person’s finances to get wiped clean by someone who has taken advantage.

How to Respond to Possible Abuse

The first thing you have to remember is that not every sign or symptom of abuse and neglect means that something’s not right. The scratch on your mother’s face could have resulted from a fall in the shower.

Your grandfather’s crazy story might be the result of the dementia he’s suffering. Explore the situation further, and be mature and cautious about how you approach an allegation of potential abuse.

“If you suspect that a nursing home has mistreated your loved one, you can first raise your concerns with the nursing home’s administrator,” advises Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC. “You should submit your concerns in writing. You should also keep copies of any written response that you receive.”

If your inquiry gets ignored, or you don’t believe you’ve been given a satisfactory response, you may have to take more aggressive action. If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.

Otherwise, you can file a report with Adult Protect Services and/or contact an elder abuse attorney.