Afraid an elderly loved one is being abused? Look for these signs

Sometimes the choices you make on behalf of an elderly loved one work out, and sometimes they go horribly wrong. You more than likely spent a considerable amount of time locating a nursing home or assisted living center that you felt would treat your aging family member with the same care you would, but when you visit, something seems amiss.

The potential for elder abuse exists throughout the nursing home industry regardless of how “posh” or “upscale” a particular home purports to be. The individuals who staff the home make the difference between the safety of your loved one and any of the following types of abuse:

  • Physical
  • Psychological or emotional
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Negligence

Identifying abuse of your elderly loved one often presents a challenge. A working understanding of the signs makes it easier to begin questioning the care he or she receives.

So how are you supposed to tell if abuse is happening?

You more than likely know your family member well enough to watch for the following behavioral and physical changes:

  • Confusion, excessive sleepiness or disorientation
  • Incontinence or skin irritations from adult diapers
  • Difficulty with or lack of mobility
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Frequent infections, bedsores or open wounds
  • Unexplained accidents or falls
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Agitation, embarrassment or fear

One or more of the following often causes each of these signs:

  • Medication errors
  • Lack of timely attention or help
  • Lack of assistance with physical activity
  • Rough handling by caregivers
  • Withholding of liquids and food
  • Improper care or medical attention
  • Lack of care or medical attention
  • Ignored calls for help
  • Bullying
  • Humiliation
  • Threats

Sadly, some staff members at nursing homes take advantage of elderly residents or otherwise fail to do their jobs simply because they lack empathy and believe their victims cannot stop them.

If I see any of these signs, what should I do?

First, take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your aging family member and report what you know to the management of the home. Thereafter, you might not know who else to inform or how to protect your loved one from further harm. In some cases, the actions of nursing home staff reach the level of criminality, and law enforcement intervention becomes necessary to protect your loved one along with the other residents.

Beyond any criminal action taken by authorities, seeking compensation through the civil courts might be possible. Simply moving your loved one often fails to alleviate the emotional, physical and financial fallout surrounding the harm done to him or her. You should discuss the matter with an attorney who deals with elder law issues and nursing home neglect on a regular basis. Understanding your legal options often helps to alleviate your fears, anger and feelings of helplessness.