Signs That Your Loved One Has Suffered Abuse at a Nursing Home

Are you confident that your loved one is receiving the best care possible? We hope and trust that our elderly relatives are in a safe, nurturing environment in their old age. Unfortunately, mistreatment and abuse in long-term care facilities are more common than you've ever imagined.

Each year thousands of elderly and disabled individuals suffer abuse at the hands of a professional caregiver. But recent research has revealed that more than one in four nursing home abuse cases aren't reported.

With more than a million individuals residing in a long-term care facility in the U.S., quality of care is a growing concern. In some instances, poor care and treatment can go unnoticed for years. That's why it's important for you to be proactive. There are many different warning signs, but here are some significant red flags you can be on the lookout for.

Evidence of Physical Abuse

Of course, one of the biggest indicators of mistreatment are unexpected physical injuries:

  • Abrasions
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Black eyes
  • Injured ears
  • Pinch marks
  • Broken glasses
  • Pressure marks
  • Resistant marks on the ankles and/or wrists
  • Broken bones

Physical abuse can occur in the form of slapping, punching and rough handling during daily care activities. Failure to adequately explain how the injuries were sustained is a sign of foul play.

Indications of Emotional Abuse

Emotional mistreatment is a difficult form of abuse to detect, especially if it's hard for the patient to convey what has happened to them, perhaps due dementia or a disability. Signs of emotional abuse often include:

  • Withdrawal
  • Nervous or scared around the care provider
  • Forced isolation by a family member or caregiver
  • Depression.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

You don't want to think that it could ever happen to your loved one, but in many cases it does. Seniors and disabled individuals are vulnerable to this type of attack because they are perceived as powerless. Sexual abuse involves inappropriate touching or forcing a nursing home resident to participate in any kind of sexual activity without their consent. Signs of such abuse can include:

  • Rectal or vaginal tearing or bleeding
  • Cuts and bruises on the buttocks, breasts and other private areas of the body
  • Diagnosis of a sexually transmitted or genital disease
  • A caregiver who is too touchy or flirtatious.

Evidence of Neglect or Improper Care

Failure to provide even the most basic care to a nursing home resident is a form of abuse. Whether the nursing home staff intentionally or unintentionally doesn't provide the care that is owed to the resident, this is a clear disregard for the patient's health and safety. Neglect is often at the hands of a poorly trained caregiver or an overburdened staff. Here are the most common signs of neglect:

  • Bedsores
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration (visible chapped lips, sunken eyes)
  • Soiled bedding
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Medication mix-up or failure to administer medicine.

What Should I Do If I Suspect Nursing Home Abuse?

What should you do if you suspect that a family member or close friend is suffering from a form of nursing home abuse? Don't hesitate to speak up, because it can mean the difference between life and death. If you believe that the threat is immediate, you should contact your local adult protective services and the police if necessary.

Be aware that you have legal options, including civil actions, breach of contract claims, and criminal penalties, if your loved one is neglected or abused in a nursing home. 

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