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Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Fri 18 Nov, 2022 / by / Nursing Home Injury

Elder abuse is a silent problem. But just because it is not always in the news does not mean that it does not happen. Close to five million elder Americans are abused every year, according to the National Council on Aging. Abuse can take the forms of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or financial exploitation. Elder Americans are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of health issues, including cognitive impairment. Elder abuse is even more prevalent in nursing homes, especially in Illinois, as Illinois nursing homes are ranked among the worst. As many as one in three older adults have been victims of nursing home abuse. These numbers have only risen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While nursing home abuse is common, it can be hard to discern whether someone has been a victim of nursing home abuse. Here are some signs of nursing home abuse and what to do when you suspect it.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

One of the hardest things when pursuing a nursing home abuse case is to prove that abuse happened. This is because nursing home abuse victims might not be able to say that abuse happened, whether that is due to being overmedicated, having cognitive decline, or being too scared to tell the truth. This is why it is important that patients have advocates who can detect whether abuse may be happening. Here are some common signs of nursing home abuse.

  1.     Weight Loss

Older people tend to lose weight. But an alarming amount of weight loss should be investigated, as this could signal that the patient is not getting adequate nutrition. A nursing home patient may also lose weight due to stress arising from abuse going on in the home.

  1.     Increased Isolation

If the nursing home patient starts to withdraw, this could be a signal of depression. Although the person may simply be depressed because of the health issues that landed them in the nursing home, this behavior could be a consequence of suffering abuse. If they stop doing the activities that they enjoy or no longer want to associate with people they love, this could be a sign of abuse.

  1.     Odd Behavior

Sometimes, the only sign of nursing home abuse is odd behavior. Pay attention to behavior. Is the person acting really disoriented? Are they anxious? Or are they incredibly happy? This could be normal, but it could also be a symptom that medications are being used to adjust behavior, potentially so that the abuse is easier to perpetrate. Is there a change in the relationship between the patient and caregiver? This could be a sign of emotional abuse.

  1.     Issues Sleeping 

It can be difficult to sleep in a nursing home facility. But problems sleeping can signal something else. The patient might be unable to sleep due to injury or poor positioning in bed. He might also experience trouble sleeping if he is dealing with anxiety stemming from something happening in the nursing facility.

  1.     Bedsores 

Bedsores arise when the skin’s blood supply is cut off for a few hours. While the skin dies, the bedsore starts as red and then becomes purple. If the bedsore is untreated, it can open up and become infected. They can become incredibly deep, depending on how severe it is, and could take years to heal. Surgery may be required. Certain people—particularly those with diabetes and circulation issues—are at a greater risk for developing them. But bedsores also signal that a patient is not being turned and positioned correctly. 

  1.     Financial Situation Appears Unusual

One type of abuse that can occur in nursing homes is financial abuse. Be sure to check bank accounts often to see if the charges make sense. Review other financial documents, particularly those with beneficiaries. See if there are any unpaid bills, as this could signal that the money is going elsewhere. If possible, check signatures to make sure they are those of the patient.

  1.     Physical Injuries 

This may be the most obvious sign of nursing home abuse. These physical signs can range from minor scrapes to broken bones. Those lesser injuries may be easily explained by staff as being the result of thin skin or a result of being in the nursing home. Always ask for an explanation and do not settle for the first one provided. 

Increased Risk of Elder Abuse

Certain populations are at an increased risk of being abused in a nursing home.

  1.     Women

Female nursing home patients are more likely to face abuse, particularly sexual abuse. Women comprise two-thirds of sexual abuse cases.

  1.     Mentally Ill

Those who are mentally ill are also more likely to suffer from abuse. Depending on the mental illness, the patient may be less likely to be believed as they struggle to discern reality from fiction, making them perfect targets. 

  1.     Veterans

People who have served this country are sadly often more likely to be victims of nursing home abuse. This is because they tend to require more medical care, opening them up to more neglect and physical abuse. Additionally, veterans tend to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which can cause them to suffer abuse.

Proving Nursing Home Abuse

Showing that abuse is happening can be tricky. The best thing to do is to document everything immediately and often. Preserve evidence as much as possible. If you cannot preserve the evidence, take photos. This can show the progression of injury or abuse over time and can be used as evidence that those injuries were not just incidental. 

Additionally, if there is any evidence of inadequate care, this should be documented. If there are trip hazards present for a patient who is at high risk for falls, those should be photographed. Soiled bedding or a dirty room should also be photographed. Get as many details as possible, including dates, times, names, and descriptions. 

Bringing a Nursing Home Abuse Case? Get Help Today

Because of the nature of these cases, it is important to get an experienced attorney that has tried and won nursing home abuse cases before. Contact us at 309-237-0440 to discuss your case.