Nursing home abuse is an unfortunate reality for many families in America. Nursing homes are reluctant to disclose it when it happens. In some cases, it is difficult to tell if the resident's injuries were due to abuse or simple mishap. According to ABC News, 30 percent of nursing homes were cited for abuse of all degrees between 1999 and 2001. In another study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 73 percent of nurses in Indiana had observed a resident being abused. It falls on families to look out for their loved ones by investigating potential injuries and medical neglect in the nursing home.
Is your loved one being abused?
Not every injury a resident may have is a result of abuse. Accidents can and do happen in nursing homes. In these cases, the staff should be transparent about what occurred and what they're doing to keep it from happening again.
The easiest way to detect abuse is by asking your loved one. However, some seniors do not have the mental faculties to explain what happened. In that case, you'll need to put the pieces together yourself.
Signs of physical abuse
1. Unexplained injuries, ranging from bruises to scrapes, cuts, welts, or even broken bones. Compare the nursing home's explanation to the injuries you see. Is the staff's story reasonable?
2. Repeated injuries, including chronic infections.
3. Injuries that do not heal in a reasonable period of time; for example persistent bed sores. This may indicate medical neglect.
4. Dehydration and signs of poor nutrition. Look out for a growling stomach, your loved one desperately drinking water that you bring, meal trays that sit untouched, mental confusion and weight loss.
5. Poor bathroom hygiene; for example, rashes between the legs or an incontinence product left unchanged.
6. Medication mixups, pills not given at all, and other forms of medical negligence.
7. Overall poor hygiene. This may include unwashed hair and body, persistent odor, untrimmed nails, bad breath or neglected dental care.
8. Caregivers that hover, refusing to leave the resident alone with you. This may also be a sign of psychological abuse.
Signs of psychological abuse
9. Personality and behavioral changes. This may range from poor sleeping patterns to out-of-character outbursts and mood swings or being quiet and not communicative. Look out for signs your loved one is afraid of nursing home staff.
10. A lack of mental stimulation, for example no magazines, TV remote left out of reach, or if the resident is not wheeled into the common area to socialize with others.
Nursing home abuse is a serious problem. When you entrust your loved one's care to a nursing home, you don't deserve or expect your loved one to have to endure abuse. If you suspect this is happening to someone you know, contact an experienced personal injury who can evaluate your situation and help you figure out what to do next.