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“Don’t Be Fooled By Nursing Home Abuse, Part 1: Know What to Look For”
It may be too horrible for many of us to even consider, but the hard fact is that nursing home abuse and neglect happen all too frequently across the country. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it will be very important that you stay alert to the signs that a problem may be occurring.
Physical Nursing Home Abuse
There are many forms of physical nursing home abuse, including striking with or without an object, pushing, shaking, slapping, choking, burning, kicking and many others. It could also include improper use of physical restraints, force-feeding, inappropriate use of medications and more.
Signs of physical abuse are typically fairly easy to spot. These include:
- Open wounds
- Black eyes
- Bite marks
- Odd markings or patterns on the body, suggesting the use of an instrument such as an electrical cord or a belt buckle
There are behavioral indicators of physical nursing home abuse as well. For example, your loved one could exhibit fear of a particular staff member or another resident. He or she may offer either an inconsistent or implausible explanation of an injury. There could be signs of extreme behavior as well, such as aggression, depression or withdrawal.
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect is the failure to provide basic necessities such as the proper medical attention, hygienic support, shelter, food, clothing and water. The signs of neglect can be more difficult to see unless you know what to look for. Indicators of neglect include:
- Signs of dehydration, such as sunken eyes, confusion, dizziness or trouble walking
- Diaper rash, body odor, lice, scabies or other signs of poor hygiene
- Unsanitary conditions, including soiled bedding, fecal and/or urine odors and dirt in the room
Talking to Your Loved One About Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
It can be more difficult than you may think to get an elderly loved one to tell you he or she has been abused. The person might be afraid of being moved to another facility and losing his or her friends. Or, your loved one may worry that the next facility would be even worse. But you’ll have to get to the truth in order to make things right if you suspect a problem is occurring.
First, listen carefully to your loved one without being judgmental or interrupting. You could possibly miss extremely important details if you interrupt with statements of anger or pity. Encourage your loved one to be as forthcoming as possible and to seek help – there is no place for elderly abuse, and no one should ever have to put up with it.
Reporting Abuse or Neglect
Once you find out your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or neglect, your next step will be to report it to the proper authority. Many of the indicators of abuse are time sensitive so you’ll need to act as quickly as you can.
The National Center on Elder Abuse lists the numbers you can call in each state to report abuse. Call 911 immediately if the situation is particularly severe or you have any reason whatsoever to fear for your elderly loved one’s life.