When we make the decision to move loved ones into an assisted living facility or nursing home, we're doing so thinking that it's the best option for their health and safety. Most of today's facilities are well-equipped, positive environments for seniors that improve their quality of life. However, on the other side of the coin is the horrifying reality of elder abuse and neglect.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that surveys indicate upwards of 44% of nursing home and assisted living facility residents have experienced abuse. Even if you do your research to find a reputable facility, all it takes is one careless caregiver to create a serious problem. Adding to the issue is the fact that 50% of nursing home staff members have admitted to mistreating elderly residents.
It's a problem that the legal team at Bachus & Schanker LLC sees all too often. They help many families get justice after a loved one is abused by caregivers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It's a very emotional experience, but what's most important is that the abuse is properly reported and the abuser is held accountable.
Often seniors don't speak up about abuse, which means you need to know the warning signs.
12 of the Most Common Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect
Abuse can be physical, verbal, mental or emotional. Unfortunately, unless you witness the verbal mistreatment, there's often no way of knowing it's happening if your loved one doesn't let you know. But there are signs that indicate physical abuse, psychological abuse and/or neglect are occurring.
- Bruises or pressure marks - This is one of the most common outward signs of physical abuse that can occur if an elder is grabbed, shoved, pushed or hit.
- Broken bones or fractures - Often this sign is overlooked because older people do have fall risks, and their bones are more brittle. However, if there was no fall and the facility can't explain how it happened this is a serious red flag.
- Cuts and sores - Any type of injury, like cuts and sores, that can't be explained should be a cause for concern.
- Lack of hygiene - Poor hygiene is one of the biggest indicators of neglect.
- Dirty or inadequate clothing â€“ Caregivers should ensure that elders are dressed in clean clothes that provide adequate warmth and protection from the elements.
- Untreated Wounds â€“ Even if an injury isn't caused by a caregiver, if they don't treat the wounds that is neglect that can significantly impact an elder person's health.
- Bedsores â€“ Bedsores occur when a person sits or lies in a position for too long. If your loved one has bedsores, this suggests that the caregiver isn't making sure they are getting physical activity and attention.
- Unkempt Home or Room â€“ If your loved one's home or room is dirty, cluttered and disorganized it suggests that the caregivers are neglecting them.
- Missing medical aids â€“ If your loved is often without their cane, glasses, hearing aids, etc. neglect could be a problem.
- Unusual weight loss â€“ When a senior drops weight it could be an underlying health issue, but it could also be inadequate nutrition.
- Withdrawal or depressed behavior â€“ Anytime a loved one becomes withdrawn the cause needs to be addressed because this is a common sign of psychological abuse.
- Fearful or nervous behavior â€“ If an elder acts fearful or nervous around a caregiver this is a red flag that abuse is occurring.
The Dementia Factor
It's important to note that elders with dementia are at a much greater risk of being abused. Estimates indicate that a 47.3% of people with dementia have been abused or neglected by their caregiver. The majority of the time it's verbal abuse; however, five to 10% of reported cases involve physical abuse.
Abuse by Family Members
Dealing with elder abuse is difficult enough, but when the abuser is a family member the problem can be even harder to handle. The sad truth is that the vast majority of abuse cases involve a family member who provides at-home senior care. So, even if your loved one lives at home the signs above should not be ignored.
What to Do If You Suspect a Loved One Has Been Abused
Anytime you believe that an elder's life is at risk you should call 9-1-1. The authorities can take steps to ensure that your loved one is protected and remove them from any dangerous situation.
If you believe a loved one has been abused, it's important to contact the local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency immediately. There is an agency in every state, and they each have their own procedures for handling reports of elder abuse. Contacting the APS will get the incident on record, and it may also be required by your state laws.
When the abuse involves a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should also report it to your local long-term care ombudsman program. This program works to protect elders by resolving complaints and setting standards for facilities.
You may also need to contact a lawyer if you plan to take legal action against the abuser. An experienced attorney can inform you of your rights and what to expect during the legal process.