Matthew Minner | February 23, 2022 | Nursing Home Abuse
When you have a loved one in a nursing home, it can be hard to detect when abuse is happening. Distance often creates a barrier to close monitoring. Furthermore, declining health and old age are naturally accompanied by significant changes.
However, there are distinct signs of abuse you should keep in mind. Knowing the signs of abuse is the best way to proactively ensure that your loved one is receiving the end-of-life care they deserve.
Identifying Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse and neglect are tragically widespread. Studies have shown that as many as 81% of nursing home residents have witnessed or been victims of elderly abuse.
Common reasons for nursing home abuse include staffing shortages, a lack of proper facility protocols, poor employee training, and negligent or abusive staff members.
Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse happens for a number of reasons in nursing homes. Sometimes it’s intentionally inflicted by a single staff member. Other times it’s the more pervasive result of understaffing or poor training.
Physical abuse can also occur in nursing homes as part of care attempts, such as force-feeding. Signs that may indicate nursing home physical abuse or neglect include:
- Cuts, burns, bruises, or wounds
- Poor hygiene
- Soiled or dirty clothing or bedding
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Broken personal items
- Unclean living quarters
A nursing home facility should ensure that personal effects are cared for, basic hygiene needs are met, and living quarters are clean and tidy. If a family member exhibits unusual or recurring signs of physical harm, you should monitor them closely.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Tragically, nursing home residents are sometimes victims of sexual abuse. Perpetrators are most often staff members or other residents. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that sexual abuse is the least common type of nursing home abuse, but it is also the most underreported.
Signs of nursing home sexual abuse include:
- Vaginal bleeding or bruising
- Anal bleeding or bruising
- Development of STDs or vaginal infection
- Torn or bloody sheets or underwear
- Altered or withdrawn behavior
Sexual abuse also extends to forcing a resident to witness sexual behavior or pornography.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
The emotional abuse of a loved one in a nursing home can be the most difficult to identify. Declining age and health can naturally lead to altered behavior and reduced engagement.
However, there are certain signs you can watch for that indicate emotional or psychological abuse is occurring. These include:
- Complaints about staff treatment
- Complaints about other residents
- Withdrawal or isolation
- Altered level of communication
- Self-soothing or infantile behaviors
Keeping a close eye on any behavioral changes is the best way to watch for signs of emotional abuse. It also helps to visit regularly, call, and maintain open lines of communication.
What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
If you suspect that nursing home abuse is occurring, it’s important to file a report promptly. Different states have reporting procedures established through various government agencies.
Residents of Kentucky can call or file an online complaint with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Incidents can also be reported to Kentucky’s Adult Protective Services (APS).
Document all signs of abuse, including photographs of any evidence of abuse and a timeline of all incidents.
If abuse is severe or needs immediate attention, you should contact 911. You can also contact a nursing home abuse attorney to discuss taking legal action against a facility and suing for damages.
Nursing home abuse can be intentional or the result of negligence. When you have a loved one residing in a nursing home, it’s crucial to understand that this type of abuse occurs. Know the signs, and take action if you suspect your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse.