You just visited your loved one in a nursing home, and you went away with the unsettling feeling that something was just not right. You do not want to make unfounded accusations, but you cannot stand the thought that someone might be abusing your vulnerable loved one. It would help if you knew the top 3 indicators that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home.
People who live in nursing homes can suffer physical, mental, sexual and financial abuse. There are three primary warning signs that someone is abusing your loved one in a nursing home.
- Changes in physical appearance. Scratches, bruises, dislocations, bedsores and other unexplained injuries can be signs that someone is physically abusing your loved one. While aging adults bruise easily, there should always be an explanation for a bruise or other injury.
If your loved one is losing weight, appears to be weak or in declining health, she might not be getting enough to eat or might be getting poor quality food choices. She may not be getting the help she needs with feeding. These factors can cause malnutrition.
Dry mouth, cracked lips, weakness, and disorientation can indicate that your loved one is not getting enough water or other liquids. Dehydration can lead to rapid health decline.
If you notice your loved one is wearing soiled clothes or has dirty bed linens, he might be suffering from abuse or neglect in sanitation. If he smells bad, has dirty skin or hair or poor dental care, he could be the victim of neglect or abuse related to hygiene.
- Unusual mood or behavior. If your loved one is behaving out of character, she may be enduring abuse but is too embarrassed or afraid to talk about it. Unusual mood or behavior can happen with mental abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or financial abuse. Depression, anxiety, and fear frequently appear with abuse. Some abuse victims can instead respond with anger.
These mood or behavior changes are understandable. Your loved one has worked hard for a lifetime, raised a family, paid taxes and now feels trapped in a place where people abuse him. It is enough to make anyone angry, depressed, afraid or anxious.
- Missing money or property. Financial abuse can take several forms in a nursing home. Someone may be stealing personal items or valuables from your loved one’s room. Do not assume that she is paranoid, if she tells you some of her possessions have gone missing. Track them down and find out what happened to the items. She may have forgotten that she gave them away, but it is also possible that a worker, visitor, or another resident stole or misappropriated them. Some may falsely claim they were gifts from your loved one.
Financial exploitation in a nursing home can affect money, financial accounts and legal documents. Investigate the situation, if you notice that your loved one is missing cash or has unexplained bank account activity, unexpected charges on credit cards, or unanticipated changes in legal documents, such as his will, trust or power of attorney.
The laws that protect seniors are different in every state. Please talk with an elder law attorney in your area to protect your aging loved one.
Care Pathways. “10 Warning Signs of Elderly Neglect or Abuse in a Nursing Home.” (accessed August 2, 2017) https://www.carepathways.com/articles/signs-of-elderly-neglect-or-abuse-in-nursing-home.cfm
Nursing Home Abuse Center. “5 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse.” (accessed August 2, 2017) http://www.nursinghomeabusecenter.org/news/5-signs-of-nursing-home-abuse/
AARP. “How to Advocate for Patients in Nursing Homes.” (accessed August 2, 2017) http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-04-2012/caregiving-resource-center-advocate-nursing-home.html