We all want the absolute best care for our elders, and when we cannot provide that ourselves, we start looking into nursing home options. There are so many things to consider when browsing for a proper nursing home – location, cost, staff reviews, and more – but eventually you'll have to make a choice. The place looks nice, the staff seems friendly, and your elder appears to be content. You made the right decision. Right?
The terrifying possibility of elder abuse in a nursing home is always out there, and oftentimes, no one ever sees it coming. While abuse is most frequently reported in poorly funded nursing homes in economically starved areas, virtually any nursing home can have one malevolent employee or standards that are slipping due to negligence. And abuse doesn't necessarily mean physical harm, as it can also constitute emotional damage, malnutrition, or even exploitation, such as theft or coercion.
Recognize the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
It is estimated that for every elder that speaks out about abuse or neglect, there may be another five that do not have the courage to report it, fearing further bullying or harm that may come out of retaliation. Worse yet, if your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer's or just a general loss of awareness due to senility, he or she may not have the capacity to say anything about it. For this reason and so many more, it is so important for you to be able to recognize signs of abuse on your own, as you may have to be the one who reports it.
Some of the most recognizable signs of nursing home abuse may include:
- Bed injuries or bed sores: If your elder speaks of constant aches due to lying in bed all day, this could be a serious sign of neglect from the nursing staff.
- Unsanitary conditions: Should you notice that public areas of a nursing home are unclean and in general disarray, this could be indicative of greater problems of neglect.
- Hesitation around staff members: If your loved one tends to be hushed or stops talking around a particular staff member, this could suggest an abusive or exploitative relationship between them.
- Unexplained injuries: The frailty of our elders may typically cause more bruising and scrapes from average, day-to-day occurrences but a multitude of bruises or cuts that they can't or won't explain could point to the more serious problem of nursing home abuse.
- Sudden changes in emotions: You will know your elder better than anyone at the nursing home, and if he or she has unexpected mood swings or alterations in personality, this is largely indicative of some sort of emotional abuse taking place.
What should I do if I suspect my elder is being abused?
If you are afraid that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home – whether physically, emotionally, or financially – the first thing you need to do is talk to them directly, if possible. Some scenarios may be misunderstandings but it is not worth the risk to leave them undiscussed. If you still have reasonable suspicion of abuse, you should consider speaking to a supervisor or manager at the nursing home. You may even want to record the conversation with the manager, letting them know ahead of time that you intend to do so.
Lastly, if you are certain of nursing home abuse, you should call the proper authorities immediately and retain an experienced lawyer. Most nursing homes will likely have an attorney of their own to defend them from such accusations and it may be impossible to get restitution for your elder's abuse without professional counsel from an elder law or personal injury lawyer. At D'alessandro & Wright, LLC, we take each case of nursing home abuse personally and will fight for your elder's rights. Please contact our office in Providence today – your loved one's wellbeing could depend on it.