Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

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Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities. This harm can be intentional or unintentional but either way, it can result in trauma, medical emergencies and even death. Sadly, nursing home abuse is prevalent due to understaffing, improper training, and staff burnout.

Putting a loved one in a nursing home, under the care of someone else takes an enormous amount of trust. When nursing homes and their staff break that trust and break the rules, you need the experienced and dedicated California nursing home negligence lawyers of Duque Law to hold them accountable.

When a nursing home fails to provide proper care, residents can suffer significant physical and psychological damage. Knowing the signs of neglect can help to prevent or stop it before your loved one suffers greatly.


What is Elder Abuse and Neglect?

Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Many victims are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their most basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men, and may be family members, friends, or “trusted others.”

In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Nursing home abuse is a serious issue at facilities across the country, with neglect being considered one of the most common forms of abuse. Neglect occurs when a person does not receive the proper level of care he or she needs. This level can vary depending on the individual case, but for nursing home residents, it often includes basic hygiene, assistance with eating and help with mobility.


Who is Being Abused?

Most victims of abuse are women, but some are men. Likely targets are older adults who have no family or friends nearby and people with disabilities, memory problems, or dementia.

Abuse can happen to any older adult, but often affects those who depend on others for help with activities of everyday life — including bathing, dressing, and taking medicine. People who are frail may appear to be easy victims.


Types of Elder Abuse

Abuse of elders takes many different forms, some involving intimidation or threats against the elderly, some involving neglect, and others involving financial trickery.


The most common are:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse refers to any mistreatment by a long-term care employee that leads to physical pain, injury, or impairment. Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as hitting or shoving but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, or confinement. If nursing home staff members intentionally cause physical harm to a resident, they are committing physical nursing home abuse.

However, physical abuse does not necessarily have to lead to severe or noticeable physical pain. The signs of certain types of physical abuse, such as malnutrition and dehydration, can be subtle and often go unnoticed.


Warning Signs of Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

Some nursing home residents may lack the physical and mental capacity to identify or report physical abuse when it happens.

Some of these warning signs include:

  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Unexplained cuts and bruises
  • Substantial losses in weight
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Black eyes
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Insomnia and difficulties sleeping
  • Isolation from others and depression
  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Burns and scalds on the skin
  • Clumsiness
  • Unexplained falls
  • Bedsores and pressure ulcers
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone


Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when a resident suffers emotional pain or stress from deliberate acts of malicious and non-physical exploitation.

Emotional abuse does not leave visible scars. This makes forms of emotional abuse includes inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening. Subsequently, it makes emotional abuse one of the most common forms of mistreatment in nursing homes.

Some of the different types of emotional abuse include:

  • Isolation from other residents, family or activities
  • Ignoring the elderly person
  • Taking away walkers, canes, hearing aids, and glasses
  • Intimidation through yelling or threats
  • Taunting of patients
  • Humiliation and ridicule
  • Limiting resident freedoms such as their access to telephones and transportation
  • Giving a resident the “silent treatment”


Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

Like neglect, emotional abuse is difficult to recognize. It often takes a keen and concerned third party to identify the signs of emotional abuse in a senior.

Possible warning signs include:

  • Residents displaying signs of depression
  • Residents who are anxious
  • Residents losing interest in their favorite activities
  • Fearfulness upon visitor departure
  • Symptoms of PTSD
  • Extreme dislike of a particular caregiver
  • Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves
  • Residents who are upset or agitated
  • Withdrawal in previously outgoing seniors


General Neglect

General neglect includes failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation. This constitutes more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse. Some nursing home residents may be left unattended for extended periods, putting them in danger. Nursing home neglect can lead to dehydration, sepsis, and pressure ulcers, among other deadly situations.

General neglect is the refusal to provide a nursing care patient with basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, medication, and personal safety measures.

General neglect in a nursing home may involve the failure to:

  • Administer medication
  • Provide proper sanitation
  • Report infections or illnesses to nurses and doctors
  • Move residents with mobility issues
  • Keep the facility at favorable temperatures
  • Change a senior’s clothing regularly
  • Properly bathe a senior
  • Change the clothes of a senior who soils themselves
  • Protect vulnerable residents from accidental isolation
  • Acknowledge and act on complaints by residents about staff


Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect is often subtle, making it difficult for some people to recognize, exposing seniors to potential abuse.

Some of the warning signs that might identify neglect in nursing homes include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Dirty bedding and clothing
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Bedsores
  • Undiagnosed and untreated illnesses
  • Secondary infections and diseases
  • Missed medication and doses


Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse in nursing home includes any form of unwanted sexual activity. Contact with an elderly person without their consent. Such contact can involve physical sex acts, but activities such as showing an elderly person pornographic material, forcing the person to watch sex acts, or forcing the elder to undress are also considered sexual elder abuse.


Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

In most instances, sexual assault in nursing homes happens to vulnerable patients who are unable to stop advances or give consent.

Some of the observable warning signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Difficulty sitting and walking
  • Recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Emotional withdrawal


Financial Exploitation

Financial abuse involves taking advantage of someone else’s financial assets for one’s own gain, without that person understanding the consequences or implications of any financial transactions that are made.

Since the elderly may have physical or mental conditions that limit their cognitive abilities, they may not be able to understand when someone is taking advantage of them. Abuse can be committed by caregivers, family members, or any other individuals who have contact with the elderly person.

This type of abuse may take several people, working inside and outside, and a lot of time before the fraud is successful.

Some of the types of financial abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Forging a resident’s signature
  • Stealing or misusing a resident’s money or possessions
  • Manipulating a resident into signing any document
  • Misuse of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney
  • Identity theft
  • Scaring or threatening a senior into transferring assets
  • Using an elder’s cash or credit cards
  • Undue influence with the goal of changing a person’s last will and testament


Warning Signs of Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

There are a number of red flags that may indicate an elderly person is experiencing financial abuse while in a nursing home.

Some of the warning signs of financial abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Higher than usual credit card balances
  • Significant changes in spending habits
  • Unexplained bank withdrawals
  • Receipt of letters from collection agencies
  • Missing belongings or cash
  • Forgeries on legal documents and checks
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies
  • Addition of names to the senior’s signature card
  • Financial activity the senior couldn’t have undertaken, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden
  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions



What To Do If You Suspect Your Loved One is Experiencing Nursing Home Negligence

Elder abuse will not stop on its own. Someone else needs to step in and help. Many older adults are too ashamed to report mistreatment. Or, they are afraid if they make a report it will get back to the abuser and make the situation worse.

If you have concerns about nursing home abuse in Southern California, you should discuss your case with a nursing home abuse attorney immediately! At DuQue Law, our dynamic team has years of experience representing nursing home patients that have been harmed by abuse or neglect. We seek justice for patients and their families who have suffered from preventable injuries. Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.

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