Families send elderly loved ones to nursing homes to receive the proper round-the-clock care and personal attention the elderly need for their health. This practice is supposed to bring peace of mind. However, a third of nursing home residents suffer abuse. It can be difficult for the elderly to speak up and report it due to disability, fear, isolation or lack of outside support. Therefore, it's important that you know the signs of nursing home abuse so you can put an end to it before it leads to the wrongful death of your elderly loved one.
Most instances of abuse are due to neglect because nursing homes don't have enough staff, well-trained staff or both. Residents don't receive adequate food or hygienic care, which leads to unintentional but still harmful elderly abuse.
Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are one sign of neglect. These are injuries to the skin and tissue, usually over bony areas, from being in the same position for too long. The prolonged pressure restricts blood flow to the site. Bedsores come in different stages of severity. Friction and shear make the skin even more vulnerable to damage. Common places you can find bedsores on nursing home patients are the shoulders, hips, tailbone, heels and back of the head.
Another sign of neglect is change in weight, either loss or gain. Weight loss increases the risk of bedsores because there is not enough fatty tissue to act as a cushion between the body and bed. Likewise, malnutrition and dehydration are linked to bedsores, not only because of weight loss but also because they result in fragile skin. The health consequences of neglect are all interconnected, so the symptoms aggravate each other.
Active abuse is intentional bodily harm to a resident and can include hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking and other types of physical assault. These are some signs of active physical abuse to look for:
- Broken bones
- Indication of pain with or without outward sign of injury
- Anxiety and depression
- Social withdrawal
It's important to remember the emotional signs. They can be just as suggestive as physical ones, and even more so when the physical signs aren't obvious.
What to do if you find abuse
If you find these signs or your elderly loved one informs you of abuse, you need to hold the nursing home accountable to protect not only your loved one but also all current and future patients. Contact a personal injury attorney with experience in nursing home abuse and neglect to help you file a lawsuit.