Recognizing the signs of nursing home neglect and abuse

People with elderly loved ones should know the signs of physical abuse, mental abuse and neglect, since elderly adults may fail to report mistreatment.

Most people in Bryan hope that their elderly loved ones will receive the highest level of care and respect when they are admitted into supervised care. Sadly, though, nursing home abuse and neglect occur all too frequently today. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, research suggests that up to one-tenth of elderly adults have experienced abuse in the past year. Mistreatment may occur even more frequently among certain at-risk adults, including those who suffer from disabilities.

With the elderly population growing, nursing home abuse has the potential to harm an increasing number of older adults. This makes it crucial for most families to understand how to recognize the warning signs of elder abuse.

Monitoring physical or emotional changes

The Administration on Aging explains that elder abuse may be physical or emotional in nature. Physical abuse may include attacks, unnecessary use of restraints and other actions that result in physical injury or pain. Actions that cause an elderly person to feel threatened or humiliated, meanwhile, may represent emotional abuse.

Family members should be familiar with common signs of both forms of abuse. Unexplained injuries or other physical symptoms, such as bruises and pressure marks, may signify physical abuse. Depression, apathy and changes in alertness may be indications of emotional abuse. Family members also should monitor the relationships between elderly loved ones and their caretakers. Threats, arguments and other signs of a strained relationship may reveal that abuse is occurring.

Understanding common signs of neglect

In addition to outright abuse, many elderly adults may endure negligent care in nursing homes and similar care facilities. This mistreatment can result in various health complications and, in severe cases, negligent or wrongful death. Family members should recognize all of the following developments as potential signs of neglect:

  • Dehydration or weight loss
  • Bedsores or skin rashes
  • Poor personal hygiene

Inadequate supervision or infrequent medical treatment may also represent neglect. Family members should keep in mind that, whether neglect is intentional or not, it may constitute negligence on the part of a caretaker.

Waiting for elders to report abuse

Finally, it's important for family members to understand that many elderly adults fail to report abuse, and some may even deny that it is occurring. The NCEA explains that some victims may fear harmful repercussions for calling attention to their mistreatment. Others may lack the physical or mental ability to tell others what is happening. Sadly, one study has estimated that as many as 13 out of 14 cases of elder abuse are never reported to authorities.

Taking action in cases of abuse

Given these facts, it is critical for family members to note signs of abuse and alert authorities if they believe that abuse is occurring. In Texas, families should contact the Texas Department of State Health Services to report suspicions of elder abuse. If abuse poses an immediate threat to an elderly adult's safety, family members should contact local law enforcement authorities.

In cases when abuse or neglect has left a loved one with serious injuries or health complications, family members may also want to consider seeking legal recourse. A personal injury attorney may be able to help family members understand their rights and pursue appropriate recompense.